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Last updated March 8, 2023

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How to Use the Princeton Common Data Set

Key Takeaway

Princeton's sub-5% acceptance rate means that it's a super-reach for pretty much every applicant. At minimum, you'll probably need a 3.75+ GPA and strong course rigor to get in. But the Princeton Common Data Set also tells us that using your essays and extracurriculars to highlight your talent and character can help you stand out from the crowd.

The Princeton Common Data Set reports on all kinds of institutional data, but the admissions data in particular can be most helpful for prospective applicants.

In this data deep-dive, I’ll go through the Princeton Common Data Set so you don’t have to. I’ll show you the most important data that can help your Princeton application stand out.

Here we go.

How Princeton Evaluates Applicants — based on CDS data

As you can probably imagine, Princeton’s application review process hinges on those key aspects of your application: your academic achievement, extracurricular impact, and personal talent and character. A strong GPA alone isn’t enough to get you into Princeton, and neither is a national championship in debate or a commitment to helping your community. You have to be the whole package.

That’s why the list of application factors Princeton considers very important is so comprehensive.

In the “considered” column, you’ll notice factors like admission interview, personal background, and out-of-the-classroom work experiences. Think of these factors like frosting on a cake. They don’t make up the bulk of the cake, but they can add important context and interest that can push your application over the edge and into the admit pile.

Very important Important Considered Not considered
Rigor   Interview State residency
Class rank   First generation Religious affiliation
GPA   Alumni/ae relation Level of applicant interest
Test scores   Geographical residence  
Essay   Racial/ethnic status  
Recommendations   Volunteer work  
Extracurriculars   Work experience  
Character/personal qualities      

Does Princeton track demonstrated interest?

No, Princeton does not track demonstrated interest. Don’t make demonstrating your interest in Princeton an extracurricular in and of itself—it won’t matter at all for your application. If you want your application to stand out, spend more time focusing on factors listed as “very important.”

Does Princeton care about standardized test scores?

Yes. Standardized test scores are one of the main factors Princeton admissions officers use when evaluating applicants. Of the students who enrolled as first-years in 2021, 56% submitted SAT scores, and 35% submitted ACT scores. That’s about in line with test submission rates at other Ivy League schools.

Does Princeton care about essays?

Yes, Princeton cares a lot about essays. They are very important to the Princeton admissions process because they give insight into who you are. In fact, your essays are one of the main ways you can stand out as an applicant in a highly-competitive pool like Princeton’s. You’ll want to write the best personal statement and supplementals possible. When you’re ready to get started on those essays, we have a Princeton supplemental essay guide that will walk you through each of Princeton’s tricky prompts.

What GPA do I need to get into Princeton?

Princeton doesn’t provide any class rank information in their Common Data Set, but we do get a GPA breakdown for enrolled first-year students. As you can see, just over 60% of the class had a perfect 4.0, followed by 30% who had a 3.75-3.99 GPA. The reality may be harsh, but it’s there. If you want to join Princeton’s next incoming class, your GPA should

GPA % of Enrolled Students
4.0 60.9
3.75-3.99 30.26
3.50-3.74 5.55
3.25-3.49 2.26
3.00-3.24 .63
2.50-2.99 .31
below 1.0 0

Princeton Acceptance Rate

Princeton admitted 1,647 students of the 37, 601 applications they received. That’s a measly acceptance rate of 4.38%—nearly a whole percent lower than Yale’s and just 0.2% higher than MIT’s. It’s no surprise, of course, since Princeton is in the Ivy League. But 4.38% is about as low as they come.

And it’s also no surprise that the vast majority of the students admitted to Princeton choose to attend: 1,290 of admitted students enrolled as first-years.

Princeton Early Decision Acceptance Rate

Princeton University has a Single-Choice Early Action application plan that allows students to submit non-binding early applications, but they do not have an Early Decision application plan.

What’s the right application option for you?

Choosing whether or not to submit your application early is in many ways a personal choice rather than a strategic one. While Early Decision acceptance rates can be quite a bit higher than Regular Decision ones, the difference between Early Action and Regular Decision isn’t usually as high.

So when deciding whether to apply to Princeton EA or RD, you should take a few things into consideration: How high is Princeton on your list? How much time do you have to prepare your application materials? Do you have your work selected for the Princeton graded paper?

If you’re more eager and prepared to apply, then applying early could be the better option. But if you have more pressing applications for places that you’re more likely to be admitted to, then applying RD to Princeton may be smarter.

Most popular majors at Princeton

Princeton has a fairly balanced mix of STEM and non-STEM popular majors.

The data in the chart below come from Princeton’s Common Data Set reports about the number of degrees conferred in each academic field. From this data, we can see what Princeton students most commonly major in.

20% of awarded degrees were in the social sciences, and 16% went to engineering majors. The third most popular major was computer and information science, and the fourth was public administration and social services.

Major Percent of Degrees Conferred
Social sciences 20
Engineering 16
Computer and information sciences 13
Public administration and social services 11
Biological/life sciences 10
Physical sciences 6
History 5
Foreign languages, literatures, and linguistics 4
Mathematics and statistics 4
Area, ethnic, and gender studies 3

Looking at this degree breakdown can give you a sense of what majors Princeton is most known for. Applying to a social sciences major? You can expect that the program is likely a good one. But also know that the more popular a major is, the more applicants are likely applying with that major in mind. That means there are more people whose applications have similar goals as yours, so the easier it will be for yours to get lost in the crowd.

Because the social sciences encompass a range of majors, this issue of competition is probably less of a problem. But for other disciplines like engineering or computer science, you should keep popularity in mind.

What should you do with all this information?

Getting into Princeton isn’t easy. In fact, with a 4.38% acceptance rate, it’s near impossible for most students. If you want to get in, you have to have good application strategy.

The Princeton Common Data Set can help you figure out what your strategy should be by looking at how your application strengths stack up against the criteria with which Princeton admissions officers evaluate applications. Your strategy will also depend on what application plan you’re choosing and what major you’re interested in studying.

Now that you’ve got the data down, it’s time to start talking strategy. If you want to learn more about how to increase your chances of getting into Princeton, continue on to our How to Get into Princeton guide.

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