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How to Write the Princeton University Supplemental Essay

Extracurricular Activity and Work Experience

Briefly elaborate on an activity, organization, work experience, or hobby that has been particularly meaningful to you. (Please respond in about 150 words)*

Look back on the activities list you created on the Common Application to get an idea of what extracurriculars you can choose from. You can also think back to your work and volunteer experiences. Which activity did you most look forward to? Why was this particular experience meaningful to you? What did you learn from it, and how did you see yourself grow or change for the better?

If you have activities that you didn’t get to list as part of your 10 Common App Activities, you can write about one of them here. The more unique, the better! Show admissions a new layer of you or write about a side of you that you may want them to know more about.

Your Voice

Please respond to each question in an essay of about 250 words.

At Princeton, we value diverse perspectives and the ability to have respectful dialogue about difficult issues. Share a time when you had a conversation with a person or a group of people about a difficult topic. What insight did you gain, and how would you incorporate that knowledge into your thinking in the future?*

Think about a time when you discussed or engaged in a thoughtful and/or hard conversation with an individual or group of people. Princeton values people who are willing to learn from those around them, so be sure to show them how you embody this through an anecdote.

We encourage you to focus the majority of this essay on your reflection. What did this experience teach you? How will you use it to be a better student, leader, friend, family member, or college student over the next few years? If you end up writing about something that wasn’t very transformative, go back to the drawing board! Make sure it is connected to a social, political, and cultural issue as opposed to something more surface level.

Princeton has a longstanding commitment to service and civic engagement. Tell us how your story intersects (or will intersect) with these ideals.*

Princeton values educating students who use their education to serve the world’s communities. So, think deeply about how you may also share these values and SHOW them through an experience or experiences you have had in your life. The key here is to talk about how you have contributed to your community and why this is important to you. Focus on one specific issue, and remember to tell a story rather than write a long list of all of your volunteer experiences! The strongest essays will also tie this story into Princeton’s academic and extracurricular offerings, so include resources at Princeton that align with your interests and values!

More About You

Please respond to each question in 50 words or fewer. There are no right or wrong answers. Be yourself!

  1. What is a new skill you would like to learn in college?*
  2. What brings you joy? *
  3. What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment?*

Have fun with these questions. The more honest, funny, real, unique, and genuine you can be, the better! Princeton is giving you the opportunity to share more about yourself on a personal level. For the skill question, write not only about yourself and what you hope to learn but how you plan to learn it. For the joy question, think about what you would share with a friend or person getting to know you for the first time. What makes you truly joyful? Give as much detail as possible! For the song question, avoid using cliches, such as writing about the pandemic or another universal experience. The more granular, mysterious, fun and quirky you are able to be, the more your responses will stand out.

As a research institution that also prides itself on its liberal arts curriculum, Princeton allows students to explore areas across the humanities and the arts, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. What academic areas most pique your curiosity, and how do the programs offered at Princeton suit your particular interests? (Please respond in about 250 words)


Please describe why you are interested in studying engineering at Princeton. Include any of your experiences in, or exposure to engineering, and how you think the programs offered at the University suit your particular interests. (Please respond in about 250 words)

These will require doing some research on Princeton’s website! What do you hope to learn and pursue academically at Princeton? Looking into classes, professors, resources, research, etc. and choose the top 2-3 that you would like to explore and explain WHY. Remember to demonstrate your goals and how these resources will help you achieve your goals in both the short and long term.

Princeton requires you to submit a graded written paper as part of your application. You may submit this material now or any time before the application deadline. If you choose not to upload the required paper at this time, you may mail, e-mail, or upload your paper through the applicant portal. Detailed instructions for our graded paper requirement can be found here.