Princeton values community and encourages students, faculty, staff and leadership to engage in respectful conversations that can expand their perspectives and challenge their ideas and beliefs. As a prospective member of this community, reflect on how your lived experiences will impact the conversations you will have in the classroom, the dining hall or other campus spaces. What lessons have you learned in life thus far? What will your classmates learn from you? In short, how has your lived experience shaped you? (Please respond in 500 words or fewer.)
This is clearly an important personal statement to Princeton, considering the maximum length is 500 words. Although it can be daunting to write such a long essay, on the plus side, you can share more about yourself – more details, more stories, more of your voice!
What are, in fact, your lived experiences? You might want to talk about where you grew up: Was it a rural community or a big city? Or did you move every other year and thus had to adapt to new schools, people and surroundings? What about your family dynamic? Did you babysit younger siblings while your parents were working? Or were you an only child?
Now let’s dive into the lessons learned. Were these lessons learned from your teachers or siblings or grandparents? Or did you learn lessons from classmates? Did you make a mistake and learn, grow and change from that mistake? Did you apologize? If so, was your apology accepted?
There is no right or wrong answer. Your lived experience is your own; the admissions committee will find your story more memorable if you are vulnerable and willing to share more about yourself.
Princeton has a longstanding commitment to understanding our responsibility to society through service and civic engagement. How does your own story intersect with these ideals? (Please respond in 250 words or fewer.)
One tenet of Princeton University is service to others. Have you given to others in some capacity? Perhaps this is through volunteer work at a local school, or coordinating an effort to clean up a park, or organizing a group of students at your school to work with the local Board of Education for a cause you believe in. Maybe you convinced all the 18 year olds in your community to register to vote, or you founded a tutoring program for underserved students, or helped collect canned goods for a local homeless shelter.
Civic engagement can take many forms. The university wants to know what you have done to help others, and why this was important to you. You also should let Princeton know the types of activities that you might continue at the university and beyond.
More About You
Please respond to each question in 50 words or fewer. There are no right or wrong answers. Be yourself!
What is a new skill you would like to learn in college?
You only get 50 words, so just a few sentences will suffice. Be honest, be yourself – let the admissions committee know what sorts of things you might like to learn, whether it is quilting or stand-up comedy, riding a unicycle or ceramics, mountain climbing or canoeing. There is no wrong answer, really.
What brings you joy?
Feel free to talk about something simple and basic – it could be jogging with your dog, or teaching a concept in physics using simple materials, or watching your favorite sitcom. There’s not a lot of room, but whatever you write gives admissions officers some insights into who you are, how you act, how you think or perhaps how you treat others.
What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment?
This is a fun question – so have fun with the answer! Your song choice will certainly tell the admissions officers about the style of music you like – and that gives some insight into who you are. Are you an old soul? Do you like the classics? Or are you following the latest artists? And the song title should also give some insight into who you are and how you are feeling – and perhaps your outlook on life!
Stephen is the co-founder and COO of AcceptU. He received a BA from Cornell University, an MA from Columbia University Teachers College, and a Ph.D. from Rice University. Prior to founding AcceptU, Stephen was an Assistant Dean of admissions at Cornell for four years and an Associate Dean of graduate admissions at Princeton University for six years. Stephen is an IECA Associate Member.