The Ivy Coach Daily

August 23, 2023

2023-2024 Princeton University Supplemental Essay Prompts

A brick building covered with ivy beyond a walking path is featured at Princeton University.
The essay prompts are out for applicants to Princeton’s Class of 2028.

Princeton University has released its 2023-2024 admissions essays. Some might add alas since Princeton was a little slower to the party than its peers in publishing this year’s admissions essay prompts. Nonetheless, they’re now out, so applicants to Princeton’s Class of 2028 can get started with their responses. So what are this year’s Princeton supplemental essays? Let’s dive in! 

2023-2024 Princeton Essay Topics & Questions

Princeton applicants must first decide if they’re applying for an A.B. degree/undecided (an A.B. degree is a Princeton fancy term for a B.A.) or if they’re applying for a B.S.E. degree (a Bachelor of Science in Engineering). Their decision will determine which of the first two essay prompts they’ll need to answer. For both essays, applicants must respond in 250 words or fewer.

A.B. Degree Applicants or Those Undecided

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?

This essay prompt is a hybrid question: Why Major and Why College. As such, students should share an origin story — as high schoolers rather than as children — for their interest in their intended major, which is also ideally reflected in their activities.

Students should then transition to the unique programs, institutes, research, lecture series, activities, and more related only to Princeton. Concerning the Why College component of the essay, if a sentence can apply to a school other than Princeton, an applicant should delete it. The game is all about specifics!

B.S.E. Degree Applicants

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.

Just like for the A.B./undecided prompt, this question is a hybrid: Why Major and Why College. Applicants should thus include an origin story of their interest in engineering (as high schoolers) and then transition to specifics about Princeton’s engineering program that only apply to Princeton. And no, name-dropping professors and classes do not count as genuine specifics about Princeton. Professors leave and classes change. It’s about capturing the enduring specifics of a school to show an applicant has done their homework!

Your Voice Essays

Princeton then asks two essay questions of all applicants — A.B./undecided applicants as well as B.S.E. applicants. The questions, which should be answered in 500 words or fewer and 250 words or fewer, respectively, are as follows:

1. Princeton values community and encourages students, faculty, staff and leadership to engage in respectful conversations that can expand their perspectives and challenge their ideas and beliefs. As a prospective member of this community, reflect on how your lived experiences will impact the conversations you will have in the classroom, the dining hall or other campus spaces. What lessons have you learned in life thus far? What will your classmates learn from you? In short, how has your lived experience shaped you? 

This prompt is Princeton’s response to the Supreme Court’s outlawing of Affirmative Action. As Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion striking down Affirmative Action, “At the same time, as all parties agree, nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.”

This essay prompt is such an opportunity. And, no, students do not need to be underrepresented minorities to answer this prompt compellingly. Princeton admissions officers want to see that an applicant will appreciate their diverse community and contribute a meaningful, fresh perspective to the campus.

2. Princeton has a longstanding commitment to understanding our responsibility to society through service and civic engagement. How does your own story intersect with these ideals?

Princeton’s admissions committee has long asked a version of this question of its applicants. Former Princeton and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, whose name no longer appears on Princeton’s nation’s service essay prompt due to his deeply problematic comments on race during his lifetime, spoke of Princeton students being in the nation’s service in his inaugural address as Princeton’s leader.

This essay marks a chance for applicants to showcase how they will contribute to the world — ideally through their singular hook, which always beats well-roundedness in elite college admissions — in one small but profoundly meaningful way.

Short Answers

Princeton then asks three short-answer prompts, which students are asked to respond to in 50 words or fewer.

1. What is a new skill you would like to learn in college?

Too many applicants write something silly here. Even in a short answer, it needs to highlight a student’s intellectual curiosity.

2. What brings you joy? 

Again, too many students write something silly, like Legos. That’s a wasted opportunity. This prompt is also an opportunity for a student to showcase how they think. Even if it’s a task that doesn’t relate to a student’s hook that brings them joy, admissions officers want to understand who they are and what makes them tick.

3. What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment?

Applicants should briefly explain why the song is meaningful to them right now. And ideally, the song choice will also showcase how a student wishes to leave their mark on the world.

Graded Paper

In addition to the aforementioned essay prompts, applicants must submit a graded paper to Princeton.

Students should make sure their thoughts are clearly articulated in the paper. The ideas and the quality of a student’s writing are ultimately much more important than the teacher’s grade. So applicants shouldn’t just submit a paper because they got an A. And it’s ok if the teacher offers constructive criticism in their comments! Doing so can even make you more human and, thus, more likable.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Princeton Essays

If you’re interested in optimizing your case for admission to Princeton University’s Class of 2028, fill out Ivy Coach’s consultation form, indicate you’re a senior applying to Princeton, and we’ll be in touch to outline our college counseling services.

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