How to Write the Princeton Supplemental Essaysy


Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences that was particularly meaningful to you. (Response required 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 experiences working or volunteering. Which activity did you most look forward to? Why was this particular experience meaningful? What did you learn from it, and how did you see yourself grow or change for the better? Has this experience inspired you or prompted you to grow? If so, how?

If you have activities that you didn’t get to list on 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 expand on a side of you that you may want them to know more about.


Please tell us how you have spent the last two summers (or vacations between school years), including any jobs you have held. (Response required in about 150 words.)

This is a space where you can elaborate on the highlights of your recent summers and what made them meaningful or special. Your description doesn’t have to include all the high-achieving, “title-worthy” accomplishments; you can talk about why the past summer was so meaningful because of the time you spent with family. Were you able to do something this past summer that you weren’t able to do in summers past? What did you learn these past summers that was particularly special?

With a 150 word limit, you don’t have a lot of room here, so think less about impressing more about showing what you do in your out of school time academically, professionally, and personally.

A Few Details

  • Your favorite book and its author
  • Your favorite website
  • Your favorite recording
  • Your favorite source of inspiration
  • Your favorite line from a movie or book and its title
  • Your favorite movie
  • Two adjectives your friends would use to describe you
  • Your favorite keepsake or memento
  • Your favorite word

Have fun with answering these questions – this is where admissions officers can better learn about who you are, your interests, hobbies, and your amazing quirks! Students always struggle so much with these, but don’t overthink it! Be genuine– often the answer that first comes to mind is a good one! If you are philosophical or funny or witty, make sure that comes across through your writing.

Essay: Your Voice

In addition to the essay you have written for the Coalition Application or Common Application, please write an essay of about 500 words (no more than 650 words and no fewer than 250 words). Using one of the themes below as a starting point, write about a person, event or experience that helped you define one of your values or in some way changed how you approach the world. Please do not repeat, in full or in part, the essay you wrote for the Coalition Application or the Common Application.

1. Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way.

You may think of a teacher, family member, friend, coach, or someone you’ve met in your life who has inspired you or changed you for the better. Remember to show, not tell. Bring the readers into your world. What were your conversations like with this person? What was the “turning point” that prompted you to change? Although this is an essay about another person, remember that admissions officers need to learn about YOU, and the prompt is really asking you to write about yourself and how this person has helped and inspired you to become a better, more mindful person.

2. “One of the great challenges of our time is that the disparities we face today have more complex causes and point less straightforwardly to solutions.” Omar Wasow, assistant professor of politics, Princeton University. This quote is taken from Professor Wasow’s January 2014 speech at the Martin Luther King Day celebration at Princeton University.

In response to these prompts, you must think about a person, event or experience that is related to this quote’s theme. Professor Wasow’s quote highlights how today’s challenges are not black and white, and that finding their solutions requires critical, complex, and unique thinking. Have you encountered a situation, event or challenge that prompted you to think outside the box? If so, how? What was the main takeaway from this experience and how has it impacted the way you approach problems and solutions?

3. “Culture is what presents us with the kinds of valuable things that can fill a life. And insofar as we can recognize the value in those things and make them part of our lives, our lives are meaningful.” Gideon Rosen, Stuart Professor of Philosophy and chair, Department of Philosophy, Princeton University.

Professor Rosen’s quote prompts us to think about what culture is, and how we see culture intertwined in our lives. You may explore the different facets of your identity and your experiences, and how you see the culture around you – in your school, your community, with your family and friends – bring value and meaning into your life. Remember, the readers want to learn about you, your values and how you would fit into the Princeton community. You can also look at the different ways that Princeton’s community engages with different cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds through their student organizations and the various academic departments, and perhaps explain how you would bring meaning and value to Princeton’s campus through your own culture.

4. Using a favorite quotation from an essay or book you have read in the last three years as a starting point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world. Please write the quotation, title and author at the beginning of your essay.

The first step in answering this question comes down to thinking about some of the most important and significant events and experiences. What was so memorable about these experiences, and how have they shifted the way you think or value certain ideals? Then, what quotes or sayings fall inline with these stories and have left a lasting impression on you. This event and experience does not have to be a huge milestone in your life, rather it must be an experience that has significantly impacted the way you think and move through the world. You must relate this event to the quote you have chosen. Remember, this prompt must connect the two elements: the quote and the experience or event.

Engineering Essay*

If you are interested in pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree, please write a 300-500 word essay describing why you are interested in studying engineering, any experiences in or exposure to engineering you have had and how you think the programs in engineering offered at Princeton suit your particular interests.

For students who are applying to the B.S. in Engineering, you must connect how your previous experiences and interests tie into what you can explore at Princeton. What was your first encounter with engineering, and what fascinated you about it? How have you explored this interest through school, the different organizations you’ve been a part of, and through your extracurriculars. You can talk about a project you’ve worked on or a community that you’ve been a part of that have helped you solidify your interests in engineering. The School of Engineering would like to know how you will contribute to their community, given your different interests and passions.