Princeton University Guide

The Ivy Scholars guide to Princeton University’s culture, admissions, and other essential information for prospective students and their families.

Location: Princeton, NJ

Mascot: The Tiger

Type: Private Research Institution

Population: 8,500 (5,500 undergrads)

About Princeton University

Princeton was founded in 1746 in Princeton, New Jersey, to train ministers. It is the fourth-oldest institution in the United States and one of nine colonial colleges founded before the American Revolution. It’s located one hour from both New York City and Philadelphia. Independent work is a hallmark of Princeton’s undergraduate education.

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Princeton University Statistics

Year Founded: 1746

4 Year Graduation Rate: 97%

Gender Distribution: 51% male, 49% female

Acceptance Rate: 4%

Residency: 10% in state, 67% out of state, 23% international

Location Type: Suburban

Schedule System: Semesters

Student/Faculty Ratio: 5:1

Average Class Size: 20

Demographics: 44% Caucasian, 25% Asian, 10% Other, 9% Black

National Rankings

US News Rankings:

  • #1 National University
  • #1 Best Undergraduate Teaching
  • #1 Best Value Schools
  • #1 Senior Capstone 
  • #2 Undergraduate Research/Creative Projects
  • #3 Writing in the Disciplines

Independent Rankings:

  • #1 Best College Value for Private Universities per Kiplinger
  • #1 Best Value for Your Tuition Dollar per Money
  • #1 Best Colleges for LGBTQ Students per Bestcolleges.com
  • #2 Colleges that Pay You Back per The Princeton Review
  • #5 Research University per Forbes
  • #6 Safest College Towns in America per Safewise

Princeton University Admissions Statistics

Application Deadlines:

  • Early Decision: November 1st
  • Regular Decision: January 1st
  • Transfer Deadline: Fall March 1st, Spring-Rolling

Notification Dates:

  • ED: December 12th
  • RD: March 26

Acceptance Rates:

  • ED: 19% 
  • RD: 5%
  • Transfer: 1%

Average Applicant Pool: 32,800

Average Number of Applicants Accepted: 1,900

Average Number Enrolled: 1,300

Application Systems: Common App or Coalition App + Princeton Supplement

Average GPA: 3.9 weighted

Comprehensive Breakdown

SAT Scores: 25th percentile – 1505, 75th percentile – 1570

ACT Scores: 25th percentile – 33, 75th percentile – 35


Subject Test Requirements: No Subject tests are required, but it is recommended that a student submit two SAT Subject Tests. No preference on the subject chosen.

Demonstrated Interest: Princeton does not consider demonstrated interest.

Recommendation Letter Policies:

  • SR Report submitted by school counselor or another school official
  • 2 teacher recommendation letters, teachers of upper-level courses in different academic areas in core subject areas preferred

Princeton University Essay Prompts for 2020:

Common App Personal Statement (650 words)

    • Choose one: (650 words)
      • Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way. 
      • “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. 
      • “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. 
      • 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.

Princeton University Essay Writing Tips

Special Notes:

Students are required to submit a graded written paper as part of their application with the following guidelines:

  • The paper should be writing done for an academic course, preferably an English, social studies or history course, during the last three years of secondary school, including senior year.
  • You may send a paper, essay, research paper, or essay exam.  We are interested in seeing expository writing only, not creative writing.
  • One to two pages in length is sufficient.
  • The paper should include the course instructor’s grade and comments if your instructor provided any.

Engineering Essay required for applicants interested in pursuing a BS in Engineering.

Mid-year school report required

Optional Arts Supplement

Please click here for college application help from Ivy Scholars.

Princeton University Academics


Core Requirements:

  • A.B. Students:  Writing Seminar, Foreign Language (one to four terms), Epistemology and Cognition, Ethical Thought and Moral Values, Historical Analysis, Literature and the Arts, Quantitative Reasoning, Science and Technology (two courses), one science and technology course with laboratory, Social Analysis (two courses)
  • B.S.E. Students: Four terms of mathematics including multivariable calculus and linear algebra, two terms of physics, and one term each of chemistry and computer science, a first-year writing seminar, seven courses in the humanities and social sciences to include four of the six areas listed here: Epistemology and Cognition, Ethical Thought and Moral Values, Foreign Language (107/108 level or above), Historical Analysis, Literature and the Arts, Social Analysis.
  • Comprehensive Degree Requirement Information

What Majors Does Princeton University Offer?

  • 36 Majors Offered 
  • Double majors are not offered. Students are allowed to pursue multiple interests and earn interdepartmental certificates.
  • Popular majors include Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, and Public Administration and Social Services.

What Minors Does Princeton University Offer? 

Princeton University AP Credit Policy:

  • Princeton accepts AP scores of 5 (and rarely 4) for course credit. These requirements vary by department. AP credits can’t replace mandatory distribution requirements.
  • Comprehensive AP Credit Information

Honors Programs:

Research Availability:

Princeton offers every undergraduate student the opportunity to do research. The mandatory senior thesis requires the completion of an original research project.

Study Abroad: 

Business Options: 

  • Princeton is one of two Ivy League schools that do not have business schools.

Pre-Med Options:

  • Princeton is the only Ivy League that does not have a medical school.
  • While there are no “pre-med” majors, students from all concentrations have gone on to pursue medicine. ⅓ of students that go to medical school are non-science majors.
  • Health-Related Student Organizations

Pre-Law Options:

Additional Specialty Programs: 

Student Life at Princeton University

  • School Motto:  Under God’s Power She Flourishes

Mission and Values:

  • Mission: “The value of service is central to the mission of Princeton as a liberal arts university. It infuses the passions and pursuits of our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and is essential to how Princetonians serve the public good.”
  • Values: Excellence, Imagination, Craftsmanship, Cosmopolitanism, Boldness
  • Additional Information
  • Student Testimonials (Niche, Unigo, Cappex )

Princeton’s Residential College System:

Princeton University’s residential college system is at the center of undergraduate student life and offers close-knit communities where students live, eat, study, and socialize. It is mandatory for both freshmen and sophomores to live in a residential college. Each of the six residential colleges has a faculty head, dean, director of studies, and director of student life. Academic counseling for freshmen and sophomores is based in the colleges.

Housing Statistics:

  • Guaranteed housing for students all four years
  • 94% of undergraduates live in on-campus housing for the entirety of their stay

Campus & Surrounding Area:  


  • The TigerTransit shuttle system is free and open to the public and operates on a fixed route schedule throughout the Princeton campus and surrounding area.
  • Freshmen and sophomores are not permitted to have vehicles on campus.
  • Member of Zipcar Program


FitzRandolph Gates folklore says that any student who walks through them prior to graduation will not graduate.

Cane Spree is a tradition that has changed throughout the years, but still brings freshmen and sophomores together to battle for top class.

Big Three Bonfire is held sporadically but is said to be magical when it happens, usually prior to a sports championship against a rival school.

Cheers and chants are an important part of student camaraderie. 

Student-Run Organizations: 


Greek Life:

  • Princeton does not recognize fraternities or sororities, and it prohibits freshmen from participating in them. Unofficially, there are ten fraternities and three sororities.
  • Official Statement


  • Social life is centered around Eating Clubs on the “street,” which hold weekly (Thursday and Saturday) parties that are more or less open to the entire campus.
  • Football game tailgating occurs all around campus on game-days.
  • A Cappella groups are cherished and accompany many events.
  • Performances by dance groups of various genres often sell out.
  • The social scene is primarily on campus due to the presence of only a few local bars that strictly card for underage drinkers.
  • Guide to Nightlife in Princeton

Financial Information

Yearly Cost of Attending Princeton University in 2020:

  • Total: $75,210
  • Tuition: $53,890
  • Room & Board: $7340
  • Books & Personal Expenses: $3500
  • Health insurance: $1900

Financial Aid:


  • Like every Ivy League school, Princeton does not offer merit scholarships. They do, however, help connect students with outside scholarships.

Fun Facts

  • More than a dozen movies were shot at Princeton, including A Beautiful Mind (winner of four Oscars), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and Admission.
  • The majority of upperclassmen take their meals in eating clubs.
  • 75% of Alumni marry a fellow Princeton graduate.
  • The Princeton Tigers played the first-ever intercollegiate football game against Rutgers University in 1869. They lost 6-4!
  • Nassau Hall, home to the Office of the President and other senior administrators, served as the nation’s capital for four months and eight days in 1783, when it played host to meetings of the Continental Congress.
  • The American Whig-Cliosophic Society is the oldest college literary and debating club in the United States. Whig-Clio graduates include two U.S. presidents, two U.S. vice presidents and four U.S. Supreme Court justices.
  • The use of the word “campus” (Latin for “field”), to mean the grounds of a college, originated at Princeton.
  • Charles “Pete” Conrad, a 1953 alumnus, NASA astronaut and the commander of the Apollo 12 mission, took a Princeton flag to the moon in November 1969.
  • The Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library houses more than 60,000 senior theses, including those of Sonia Sotomayor ’76, Ethan Coen ’79, David Duchovny ’82, Michelle Obama ’85, Brooke Shields ’87, Ted Cruz ’92 and Ellie Kemper ’02.
Wendy Y.
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