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Last updated March 9, 2023

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How to Write the Princeton Supplemental Essays

Key Takeaway

Princeton has a more complex supplemental process, with a few discreet sections. One resembles a more traditional extracurricular section, one asks you to share your voice, and the third consists of short answers. Competition is, obviously, extremely stiff so you'll need to spend a good chunk of time on these essays. 

Princeton breaks up their supplementals into three categories: extracurricular and work experience, your voice, and more about you. In total, you’ll be writing three essays and three short answer questions.

In this post, I’ll walk you through all of them. Let’s get to it!

Princeton Extracurricular Activity and Work Experience Prompt

Prompt #1: Briefly elaborate on an activity, organization, work experience, or hobby that has been particularly meaningful to you. (Please respond in 150 words or fewer)

For your first Princeton supplemental, you’ll be writing an extracurricular activities essay. In this kind of supplemental essay, you’ve got two goals: 1) show your magnitude, impact, and reach, and 2) describe how and why the activity has been meaningful to you. Extracurricular essays are the perfect way for you to help your admissions officer get to know you a little better while also humble bragging about your perspective and accomplishments.

Of course, you’ll want to pick the activity that is most meaningful to you—whether it’s meaningful because of your accomplishments, how much you impacted someone, or how much you grew personally is up to you. As you write, be sure to emphasize the magnitude, impact, and overall meaning of your activity.

Princeton "Voice" Prompts

For each of the following two prompts, you’ll have 250 words maximum.

Prompt #2: 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?

This prompt is a kind of diversity essay. You’ll need to choose a genuinely challenging conversation to write about—a simple sibling disagreement or argument with your friend probably won’t do. The purpose of this prompt is to show an ability to interact with people who are different from you and to reflect on your own beliefs. You want to show maturity, self-reflection, and a strong sense of personal values.

Think about the difficult conversations or disagreements you’ve had, and pick the one that shows something you want your Princeton admissions officer to know about you. It might be a time when you stood up for something you believe in, a confrontation that made you question your own beliefs, or a conflict where you both had to grow alongside each other. When writing this essay, it’s also easy to forget those last few questions of the prompt. Remember to write about what you learned and how you moved forward with that new knowledge.

Prompt #3: Princeton has a longstanding commitment to service and civic engagement. Tell us how your story intersects (or will intersect) with these ideals.

This prompt is a mix of a few different supplemental essay prompt types. But at its core, the prompt asks you to identify with two of Princeton’s main institutional values. If you can write about how you’ve already shown commitment to service or civic engagement, then great—write about that. But if not, don’t worry. The prompt also allows you to write about how you see service and civic engagement playing out in your life in the future.

As you’re writing, remember that your goal is to show value alignment. And the most convincing way to do so is through actions. Whatever you write about, consider focusing on action steps you’ve taken (or plan to take) and using specific examples of who you’ve impacted (or will impact). Finally, don’t forget to cover the “why” behind your commitment to service and civic engagement. By the end of your essay, it should be clear why both are personally meaningful to you.

The Princeton "More About You" Supplemental Section

In this section, you have three short answer questions to respond to. You’ll have to keep your responses under 50 words. Princeton provides some straightforward, simple guidance for these: “There are no right or wrong answers. Be yourself!”

Here are the three questions:

  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?

With Princeton’s advice in mind, don’t feel like you have to “game” the system. The whole reason Princeton includes these questions is so admissions officers can get to know the real you a little better. Simply answering the questions in an authentic and thoughtful way is enough.

Thoughtful answers will take into consideration the values and strengths that exist throughout the rest of your application narrative. Are you an aspiring playwright? Then maybe your answer to #3 is a song from your favorite musical. Have you presented yourself as an avid environmentalist? Then maybe your answer to #2 is Listening to robins and breathing in Douglas Firs. Be real, authentic, and creative.

And with that, you’re ready to get started on your Princeton supplementals! If you haven't already be sure to read through our Princeton Common Data Set and How to Get into Princeton posts for more application tips.

Looking for a little more guidance before you get to writing? Check out the Essay Academy, our digital course that teaches you all the ins and outs of every kind of college essay.