Princeton College Essay Topics

2017-2018 Princeton Admissions Prompts

Noticeably absent from the 2017-2018 Princeton admissions essay prompts is any reference to Woodrow Wilson.

The 2017-2018 Princeton admissions prompts have been released by the university. Interestingly, Princeton’s essays for this admissions cycle make no reference to one Woodrow Wilson. As regular readers of our college admissions blog know well, Princeton has been removing many references to the former United States president from the university after so many of its students, faculty, and alumni brought to light that Princeton was honoring a man who exhibited clear racism.

So what’s been removed from Princeton’s admissions essay prompts? The nation’s service essay, one that read, “‘Princeton in the Nation’s Service’ was the title of a speech given by Woodrow Wilson on the 150th anniversary of the University. It became the unofficial Princeton motto and was expanded in 2016 to ‘Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity.’ – Woodrow Wilson, Princeton Class of 1879, served on the faculty and was Princeton’s president from 1902–1910.”

Woodrow Wilson no longer makes an appearance in Princeton University’s essays for admission. No surprise there.

The 2017-2018 Princeton essays read as follows: (1) Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences that was particularly meaningful to you. (Response required in about 150 words.) (2) 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.) (3) 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

And then there’s a fourth, long prompt that read as follows: “In addition to the essay you have written for the Common Application or the Universal College 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 Common Application or Universal College Application.

  1. Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way.
  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 and co-founder of Blackplanet.com. This quote is taken from Professor Wasow’s January 2014 speech at the Martin Luther King Day celebration at Princeton University.
  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 director of the Behrman Undergraduate Society of Fellows, Princeton University.
  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.”

Engineering applicants will also be required to respond to a 300-500 word essay prompt “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.”

This prompt is only required for applicants interested in receiving a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and those who mark it as one of their possible degrees of study on their application.

 

Given the word limit and subject matter, a strong approach to this essay is to perhaps begin with a short anecdote or a few sentences that interestingly convey to the reader your interest in engineering, and perhaps what ignited your curiosity.

 

After that, you should discuss practical experiences in the field and how they shaped your interests. When discussing your exposure to engineering, it can be easy to fall into the trap of simply going through your resume and listing experiences or activities. Instead, you should make sure that your discussion of your experiences with engineering have a cohesive flow to them, as opposed to simply being unlinked events in conjunction.

 

Finally, they give you a chance to speak to “why Princeton Engineering,” specifically, what programs, organizations, opportunities, classes, research projects, etc. pique your interest. This is a chance for you to convince the admissions committee and Engineering department that not only would you thrive in Princeton’s Engineering department and take advantage of their resources, but also that you would be an asset to the field.

 

This section of your essay can be enhanced by discussing opportunities that are highly specialized to your interests and experiences; perhaps there is a professor who is conducting research in a highly specific area that suits your interests. On the other hand, discussing very common engineering opportunities (such as the ACM club) could be detrimental to the entire essay, as it fails to demonstrate why Princeton, specifically, is a strong fit for you.

 

Overall, this is likely intended to be less of a creative essay, and more of a prompt designed to simply tell Princeton why you are particularly interested in engineering, and why Princeton’s departments are suited for these interests.

 

Hopefully, after reading this guide, you feel much more confident and prepared to craft a compelling supplemental application to Princeton University that will distinguish you from your peers.

 

Want help on your Princeton application or essays? Learn about our College Apps Program and Essay Editing Program.

 

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