Institution Profile: Princeton University

Jun 2024

7 Minute Read

Tagged as: Applying to Elite Universities, Ivy League, Choosing a School/Program

A general overview of Princeton, admissions stats (2016), trivia, and admissions requirements

Princeton University in New Jersey is one of the eight schools that make up the Ivy League. Founded in 1746, it is the seventh-oldest university in the United States and the fourth to be granted a charter.

It is also home to one of the most prolific and respected academic publishing agencies in the world, Princeton University Press. Aside from its academic reputation, the campus has been used as the set for over a dozen films. It was also one of the inspirations (along with Harvard, UC Berkeley, and MIT for the design of the campus of Disney-Pixar’s animated film "Monsters University."


  • Average freshman retention (2021): 96%
  • Average graduation rate (2021): 98%

Popular undergraduate programs:

  • Computer Engineering
  • Public Policy Analysis
  • Operations Research
  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Political Science

Notable graduate programs:

  • Religion
  • Aerospace / Aeronautical Engineering
  • Public Affairs

Notable Alumni:

  • Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the United States
  • Alan Turing, British computer scientist and mathematician known for decrypting the German Enigma code during World War II.

Academic Life

Undergraduate study at Princeton is very interdisciplinary. Bachelor’s degree candidates pursue their majors in one of two paths: A.B. (for the humanities, arts, mathematics and social sciences, among others) or BSE (engineering and applied sciences).

The A.B. path, which most students pursue, involves two intensive years of general requirements and academic exploration before entering a department in their junior year. This path also lets students earn certificates of proficiency in other areas to supplement their main research. Princeton’s certificate programs are similar to minors at other universities.

The BSE path follows a much stricter set of course requirements. All students must take four semesters of calculus and linear algebra, two semesters of physics, and one semester of chemistry. Some of these requirements can be satisfied with Advanced Placement (AP). BSE students must also take seven humanities and social science courses, and complete an intensive research project before graduating.

Three pieces of trivia about Princeton

  1. Princeton’s freshmen and sophomores once had an annual snowball fight. It was so popular it even got covered by the New York Times on a few occasions. However, because many students sustained injuries year after year, the tradition was eventually stopped.
  2. A Princeton flag has been to the moon. In 1969, astronaut and Princeton graduate Pete Conrad planted an American flag on the lunar surface. He was also carrying a black and orange Princeton flag with him. Today, that flag bears Conrad’s autograph and is on display in the university archives.
  3. The main gate of the university campus is called the FitzRandolph Gate. An old campus legend says that if you pass through it before you graduate, you won’t see your graduation day. What that means is left up to the imagination. All graduates pass through the FitzRandolph gate to pay homage to this legend as part of the ceremony.

Student Life

Princeton has been the #1 ranked national university by US News and World Report several times and has the lowest tuition rate out of the Ivy League schools. It also boasts a number of nationally-known student organizations, like the musical-comedy Triangle Club and several other tiger-themed musical ensembles. In addition, the Princeton University Art Museum houses some famous pieces, including Claude Monet’s "Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge."

Admissions Statistics (2021):

  • 37,601 applicants
  • 3.98% admitted

How to apply to Princeton:

  • The Common Application plus Princeton Supplement
  • Transcript
  • A graded written paper, preferably from an English or history class
  • School Report
  • Guidance Counselor Recommendation
  • 2 Teacher Recommendations
  • Midyear school report
  • SAT with Essay or ACT with Writing (must be in by January 1)
  • TOEFL, IELTS Academic or PTE Academic (necessary for non-native speakers of English without 3 years of language experience)
  • Optional: Alumni interview

Note: Princeton has waived their testing requirements for the 2022-23 application cycle.

Application Deadlines:

  • November 1 (Single-Choice Early Action)
  • January 1 (Regular Decision)

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