If you have dreams of conquering the Ivy League, you can do no better than Princeton University.
League tables regularly name Princeton the No. 1 college in the U.S., and if you take a look at the school’s lengthy list of superstar alumni, it’s not hard to see why.
Presidents, first ladies, captains of industry, Hollywood actors, iconic inventors, literary giants, famous engineers, and genius scientists all studied and developed their skills at Princeton.
With a reputation like that, you can believe the university has the faculty, programs, and campus to match. But because it’s such an extraordinary Ivy League school, you’ll be unsurprised to find out that getting into Princeton can be incredibly challenging.
This guide explains everything you need to know about Princeton. Read on to learn about what GPA and standardized test scores you need to get into Princeton, the Princeton application process, Princeton’s acceptance rate, and more.
About Princeton University
Before we break down how to get into Princeton, let’s talk more about the university’s history and offerings.
Princeton was chartered in 1746, which makes it the fourth-oldest college in the U.S. Over that time, Princeton has been led by 20 presidents — and its stunning 600-acre campus in Princeton, New Jersey features over 200 buildings and ten libraries.
Since its inception, the staff and academics at Princeton have accumulated 27 Nobel prizes.
But Princeton isn’t all about academics. The school has 37 varsity intercollegiate sports teams, which have produced 112 Olympians and 206 national championships.
In terms of available degrees, students are able to specialize in an incredibly wide range of subjects.
Princeton organizes all of its majors into four distinct areas: humanities, engineering, natural sciences, and social sciences.
At the undergraduate level, Princeton University offers two different types of bachelor’s degrees: a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE). There are 91 different departments and interdepartmental programs that offer these degrees.
At the graduate level, Princeton offers Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees across 42 concentrations.
The university also offers pre-professional degrees like a Master in Finance (MFin), a Master of Science in Engineering (MSE), and more.
Upon enrollment, all new students at Princeton are automatically assigned one of six residential colleges. Those colleges are Butler, First, Forbes, Mathey, Rockefeller, and Whitman.
Every freshman and sophomore has to live and dine in their assigned residential college.
At this point, you’ve probably gathered that Princeton is the ‘creme de la creme’ of the Ivy League. So, let’s explore Princeton’s application requirements.
Undergraduate application requirements
Princeton is one of the best schools in the world, so it’s hardly surprising that its admissions department is incredibly selective.
As a result, you’re going to have to fulfill a number of prerequisites and requirements if you’d like to be eligible to gain entry.
In terms of prerequisites for incoming high schoolers, Princeton’s admissions team does acknowledge that not every high school offers certain courses.
That being said, they generally expect applicants to have completed four years of English, four years of math, four years of a foreign language, at least two years of lab science, and at least two years of history.
Most of the applicants who get accepted also have classes in visual or performing arts and Advanced Placement (AP) courses on their transcripts.
From there, the school will look at your GPA, standardized test scores, and extracurriculars before they decide on your application.
What is Princeton’s acceptance rate?
Universities like Princeton calculate their acceptance rates by dividing the number of accepted students that enrolled by the total number that applied.
Princeton’s 2020 admissions figures for the “Class of 2024” show that 32,835 students applied to Princeton in 2020.
Of that applicant pool, just 1,848 students were admitted — and only 1,155 of the accepted applicants ultimately enrolled. That equates to an admission rate of 5.6% for 2020.
It’s also worth delving into the figures a bit more to look at the types of students that ultimately got into Princeton.
Of all the students accepted in 2020, 11.3% were the children of Princeton alumni. 16% of those admitted into the class of 2024 were the first people in their families to attend college.
In terms of financial aid and background, it’s also important to note that 19.3% of those admitted in 2020 qualified for a Pell Grant.
Considering Princeton’s acceptance rate, it’s an incredibly competitive application process. That’s why you should do everything you can to ensure that your application shines.
What GPA do you need to get into Princeton?
Your grade point average (GPA) is a number that tells admissions officers how well you did in your previous schoolwork on average.
As far as the GPA requirement for admissions is concerned, Princeton is very competitive — but it’s important to note that there’s no formal GPA requirement.
The school expects students to have outstanding academic and GPA scores. The average high school GPA of the applicants who get into Princeton is 3.9.
Translation: while Princeton doesn’t have an official GPA requirement, it’s plain to see that the school is very competitive. As a result, it’s important that you try to earn the highest GPA you can.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t apply if you have a low GPA. But, you’ll definitely need to compensate for that low GPA in other areas (like standardized testing). So, let’s talk about test score requirements.
What SAT score is needed for Princeton?
If you want to get into Princeton as an undergraduate student, you’ll need to take at least one standardized test. The most commonly accepted options students choose from are the SAT or the ACT.
According to Princeton’s 2020 admissions data from the class of 2024, the average SAT scores were between 740–800 for math and between 710–800 for evidence-based reading and writing.
Princeton doesn’t require that you take SAT subject tests, but it’s highly recommended that you do.
Princeton hasn’t required students to submit SAT or ACT scores for the 2021–22 academic year because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. But after that, you’ll be required to submit proof of standardized testing just like you would in any other normal year.
What ACT score is needed for Princeton?
If you choose to take the ACT rather than the SAT (or opt for both), the same guidance applies in terms of your required score. Princeton doesn’t publish a cutoff score that you must achieve in order to have your application considered.
But according to Princeton’s 2020 admissions data, the average ACT composite score for Princeton’s most recently accepted cohort was between 32–36.
Again, Princeton chose not to require ACT scores for the 2021–22 academic year due to a lack of testing sites. But in future years, you should plan on submitting ACT or SAT scores.
How do you apply to Princeton’s undergraduate programs?
Once you’ve had a good look at Princeton’s offerings and put in the work to gain entry, it’s time to apply. It’s critical that you make sure you have a firm grasp of the application deadlines before you get started, as well as the process.
If you’re applying to Princeton as an undergraduate, the school accepts both the Coalition Application and the Common Application. Princeton treats both applications equally, so it doesn’t matter which application type you use.
You can submit either application online — but no matter which one you choose, you also need to include the “Princeton Supplement.” The Princeton Supplement is a set of questions and short essays unique to Princeton that you’ll need to answer.
Once you’ve completed everything in the application of your choice and the Princeton Supplement, you can submit your application.
You’ll need to include your completed application, the supplement, and a graded written paper. The paper you include can be literally any piece of non-creative writing you’ve done in the last three years of high school that’s been marked by a teacher.
As part of your application, you also need to submit your high school transcript, school report, one letter from a school counselor, and two written teacher recommendations.
In terms of reporting your composite scores for standardized tests, you’ll also have submission deadlines to consider.
Princeton advises that you take the SAT or ACT by its December date — and you can save time and have your scores sent directly to Princeton. When registering for the SAT, include code 2672. For the ACT, enter code 2588.
Again, Princeton doesn’t require SAT subject tests. But if you want to submit your scores anyway, it’s encouraged.
Is English not your first language? If this is the case, you’ll need to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), International English Language Testing System Academic (IELTS Academic), or the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic).
You don’t have to take any of these tests if English is your native tongue or if you’re spent three years at a secondary school where classes are taught in English. Just like the SAT and ACT, scores should be sent directly to Princeton by entering code 2672 upon registration.
When do you apply to Princeton?
If you’re applying as a “Single-Choice Early Action” student, you need to send in your application by November 1. If you go this route, your financial aid application will then be due on November 9.
If you’re applying as a regular decision applicant, you must apply by January 1. Financial aid applications are then due on February 1.
Graduate application requirements
We’ve covered how to get into Princeton as an aspiring undergraduate student. But if you want to join the Princeton University Graduate School as a master’s or Ph.D. student, there is an entirely different application process.
We’ll quickly break down the graduate application process, as well as the different schools within Princeton that students attend to gain their degrees.
How do you apply to Princeton’s graduate programs?
If you want to apply to Princeton as a graduate student, this can all be done online.
To apply, you’ll need to send in Princeton University’s online application form, a statement of academic purpose, your resume (or CV), and transcripts from all of the other colleges or universities you’ve attended.
In addition, you must submit three letters of recommendation, the fall semester grades at the university you went to most recently, and a statement of financial resources.
Some departments also require a writing sample, but this varies based on the program.
Finally, you need to submit your Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) test results.
GRE requirements vary by department. But if you’re applying to Princeton’s Department of Finance, you’ll be required to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT).
If English is not your first language, you’ll need to submit either TOEFL or IELTS results as part of your application.
At Princeton, you can choose from 37 different concentrations across four areas: Humanities, Engineering, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences. Many of these courses are considered interdisciplinary or sit within certain departments.
That being said, there are three large schools within Princeton that attract a huge amount of students.
The School of Architecture
The Princeton School of Architecture (SoA) is the university’s center for architectural design, theory, and history. It offers a number of degrees at the undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral levels.
In terms of its graduate cohort, the School of Architecture enrolls around 80 graduate students every year. It admits about the same number of undergraduates.
Both graduate and undergraduate programs within the school share teachers, courses, and facilities.
In terms of applying, prospective Princeton students don’t apply to a particular school or department. They must directly apply to the grad school — but the SoA does have its own additional requirements applicants must fulfill. For example, MArch students must submit a portfolio alongside the application materials we’ve already covered.
You should make sure you contact Princeton to double-check the precise application requirements for the program you’re interested in before applying.
The School of Engineering and Applied Science
Princeton’s School of Engineering is an internationally recognized institution that is home to six departments and four research centers.
At the graduate level, the School of Engineering and Applied Science offers two different types of master’s programs. You can choose from a Master of Science in Engineering (MSE) or a Master of Engineering (MEng).
The MSE is available across all departments apart from electrical engineering. The MEng is available across all departments apart from computer science, operations research, and financial engineering.
Just like the SoA, all engineering applications need to be sent to the Princeton University Graduate School rather than the School of Engineering and Applied Science itself.
Princeton School of Public and International Affairs
Founded in 1930, the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs brings together a huge range of subjects. This includes everything from economics and politics to sociology, psychology, history, and more.
The school has a pretty impressive list of alumni, too. Graduates include a secretary of state, secretary of the treasury, senators, governors, a chair of the Federal Reserve Board, ambassadors, U.S. representatives, and loads of other policymakers and industry leaders.
The school was named the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs until 2020.
The school’s name changed because the Princeton University Board of Trustees ruled that Wilson’s “racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school or college whose scholars, students, and alumni must stand firmly against racism in all its forms.”
Just like Princeton’s School of Architecture and the School of Engineering and Applied Science, graduate students don’t apply directly to the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. You apply directly to the Graduate School instead.
At the end of the day, we shouldn’t have to sell Princeton. The New Jersey-based university is one of the oldest schools in the U.S. and one of the best colleges in the Ivy League — not to mention the entire world.
But because it’s such an extraordinary Ivy League school, it goes without saying that getting into Princeton isn’t easy. You have to work incredibly hard to get into Princeton at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
That includes nailing your standardized tests, working hard to attain superior marks in high school or college, getting some gleaming recommendations, and more.
Just don’t let all of that put you off. If you put in the work, it is possible to get into Princeton — and a degree from Princeton University will open up a whole lot of doors.
Want to learn more about getting into Princeton? You’ve come to the right place.
Check out The GradCafe for real acceptance results from applications as well as Princeton application tips, tricks, and more.