I'm just wondering what kind of school Princeton is, from the student perspective and not the historical/other perspective you find online at their website and in the news etc. What kind of students does the university look for, and what should one do if he or she wants to get into Princeton? Thank you guys!
Do I have a chance?
I'm currently a sophomore with a 3.67 unweighted GPA. This will be 3.83 by senior year. I scored 2000 on the PSAT (600 reading 600 writing 800 math) and expect to receive 2250-2300 on the SAT. I took the SAT Math IIC and got an 800 on my first try. I plan on majoring in either engineering (possibly mechanical) or mathematics (to become an actuary? truthfully not sure yet). I'm playing no sports this year, but will next year. I ran cross country, track, played tennis, and wrestled last year. I will most likely attend Harvard's SSP Summer Program this summer and Oxford's Summer Program next summer. I'm attending the HOBY leadership conference this summer and plan on attending West Point's Leadership Seminar and Boys State next summer.
This year's classes: Chem Honors, World History Honors, Precalc Honors, English 2, Leadership, Korean 4, Leadership
Next year's classes: Physics AP, Calc AB AP, English 3 Honors, US History AP, Korean 5, XC/Track, Leadership
Who I Am: Vice-President of Sophomore Class, Vice-President of church Student Council, Secretary of District's Youth & Government [state-wide club that is recognized by the government (the governor of CA comes to our last convention)], Short-term missionary (I went to Kenya for a month for missions), Music Volunteer for Kaiser Permanente (200+ hours), Snowboarder (started when I was 7 years old)
I don't have a ton of leadership positions yet, but in the next two years I plan on being...
Junior Year: Junior Class President, CSF Secretary, Youth & Government Secretary/President
Senior Year: Student Council President, Youth & Government President, Officer in Civil Air Patrol, CSF President/Vice-President
Please tell me what I need to work on. I'm trying to be as well rounded as possible.
Haha well, I'm going to be Youth & Government President for sure. I'm the secretary of the club for next year, and will be the only Junior on upper board. The chances of becoming president are extremely high.
I'm currently the Sophomore Vice-President at my school. Usually, the Sophomore President and Vice-President run for Junior President and Vice-President. Kevin (Sophomore President) however might not run next year. If he does, he is willing to give me the President position.
The most difficult position to get out of the three is CSF President. Elections for next year's CSF lower board have not yet taken place, but I am pretty confident that I will be a historian or secretary. Only students that have been on lower board for one year can be president or vice-president. My competition would therefore be limited to 2-3 people.
Oh and becoming Civil Air Patrol Officer simply required time and dedication. I have to take a 12 week program to become an airman. After that, I can promote ranks every two months.
Honestly module9, admission to Princeton is a complete roll of the dice. There are so many equally well qualified students applying, you never know how they decide. I had many of the same credentials as you; first in my class, 1520 on the SATs, various clubs, varsity sports, extensive HOBY involvement (board of trustees for my area, ambassador to WLC from my area), community service, and state awards for essays and such and I was rejected today. Good luck, but don't get your hopes up too much.
everyone that i know that got in had one or two special talents that they were really good at. they didn't have laundry lists of ECs, just a few that they really really excelled at. Of course you need the grades, but you also need to give specific reasons for Princeton to take you amongst 22,000 applicants.
i don't think it's a roll of the dice...simply having good grades doesn't cut it anymore.
Donatejimmyfund: I think you hit the nail on the head. I'm with you -- everyone I know that got in had one or two unique aspects of their application.
module9: Even if you're GOOD at math and snowboarding, make sure you really love whatever it is you decide to start doing. But it does sound like you really like both those things. Hmm...ideas for you. How about doing an independent study (if your school offers those) with your physics teacher about the physics/math of snowboarding. How are snowboards made? Why are some thinner or thicker than others? How would you build "the perfect snowboard"?
Or what about starting a winter snowboarding club for middle school students in the inner-city? You and some other high school students at your school could teach them for free, raise the money to rent the gear and get the lift tickets, and figure out how to bus them all out to the slopes every weekend (not sure how far you are from the mountains).
When I was a sophomore, I was involved in everything: newspaper, church youth group, government/debate club, volunteering at a free clinic, tutoring, tennis, lacrosse, rock-climbing, camping...you name it, I did it. But during my junior year I realized that I didn't love ALL those things. So at the end of my junior year, I quit everything I didn't love (newspaper, lacrosse, rock-climbing team), cut back to smaller roles in my other ECs, and focused on ONE thing: an independent study of my own design. The subject of my IP was something I was really, really interested in, and almost all my activities revolved around it. I won't go into specifics here, but if you really want to know about it, PM me. (P.S. Sorry I haven't gotten around to responding to your most recent PM...)
Again, this is just one example, this was not intended to be step-by-step instructions for getting into Princeton. My main advice, in the words of Life is Good, is "Do what you like, and like what you do." That's it. Your passion will speak for itself. Get good grades, get good scores, don't obsess, and don't overextend yourself. Pick one or two things you really love, and pour your heart into them. That doesn't mean go crazy trying to be THE best; it just means do YOUR best.
BTW, for all those who are freaked out about their GPAs, Rapelye said that Princeton is "less concerned" about rank.
Here's an excerpt from a 2004 article:
"We could have filled this class four or five times over, given the caliber of the applicants," said the dean of admissions, Janet L. Rapelye.
But Rapelye cautioned that class rank alone does not guarantee one of Princeton's coveted seats. Almost all applicants boast impressive portfolios showing off extracurricular activities, community service, athletics, or musical and artistic talent.
Many variables come into play, Rapelye said. For instance, "we go out of our way to consider students who would be the first in their family to go to college," she said.
Student essays are given great weight. "We care a lot about their writing," the dean said. "What we're looking for is intellectual curiosity. We're less concerned about rank."
Rapelye said there was no particular formula for assembling a class. "We're looking for independent thinkers at Princeton," she said.
From what I've seen, ceebee's quote shows what Princeton truly does look for. While your scores and extracurriculars are impressive, there needs to be a special reason. They're not just interested in nice pampered lists of ECs: they want to see unique hobbies and passions, a deep motivation for you to pursue something intellectual or fulfilling that your school does not offer. If you score an 800 on the Sat Math II on your first try (fantastic job, by the way!), I can easily see you excelling at a very high level at math competitions. Have you ever thought of that? Since you're good at snowboarding, I might add, I feel you should include that in your application, as these schools tend to want to know what you enjoy doing on a personal level. I think ceebee's recommendation is fantastic: something like that shows an intellectual initiative toward something you're passionate about.
Almost everyone at Princeton either has a very unique or highly refined special talent or ability, or they do remarkably well given their family background and what their environment offers them. If your environment offers you more, you're expected to do even more: it's all a matter of how far beyond the typical maximum curriculum you're willing to go.
I might add that a ton of clubs doesn't help. They prefer to see a couple of things you're deeply devoted to than a list (though I'd imagine being president does show dedication!) I had a similar experience to ceebee, though I did not try nearly as many clubs: my senior year I practically quit everything, including National Honor Society, and as such my ECs seemed rather bare compared to many other people, yet I felt that each EC on my list I explained very fully why it was so significant to me as a person. After thinking about my application, the EC section, for the most part, simply came down to music and tutoring.
Good luck! (And with a school like Princeton, luck tends to unfortunately be a factor, I believe!)
Great post by Joe. And for all those considering fancy, expensive summer programs out there: ask yourself, is this really the best way to spend my time and money? Is there a better way to stretch myself academically, a better way to serve my community, a better way to explore my real passions? Taking a bunch of expensive classes, even -- do I dare say it? -- classes you are interested in, is not necessarily the best thing to do. Here's why:
Student A: Reads brochures for Oxbridge, CTY Princeton, Duke TIP, and Harvard SSP. Finds classes that are interesting and in line with his interests. Gets a great grade and maybe a nice rec from the teacher.
Student B: Realizes that many of these programs cost $4000. Tries to think what else he could do with that money to follow a passion. (E.g. Maybe with your passion for snowboarding, you also don't want the beautiful Alaskan glaciers to melt.) Starts a campaign using the $4000 (or a grant or even loan) called "Bros for Snow: Snowboarders Against Global Warming" or something. Uses $2000 to travel to Alaska to film short documentary about the melting glaciers. Uses $1000 to publicize campaign at major ski resorts through web sites and posters. Designs own website and posts documentary on website. Ultimately, raises maybe $10,000 to contribute to climate change research and prevention, and also gains a priceless experience.
Sure, the example of Student B sounds a little out there. But people do things like this! They design their own courses, plan their own summers, start campaigns they actually believe in... As Rapelye said, Princeton is looking for independent thinkers, not people who necessarily want to sit in the classroom all summer.**
** This is not to say that you won't get in if you do the summer course. I did one of those courses, actually. But ultimately I really think you'll get more out of a summer you designed yourself...
I actually like your ideas ceebee. If I could show passion for anything, it would definitely be snowboarding. The reason I want to go to Harvard is so that I can get ahead in my classes. I want to take 'Intro to Physics' and 'Calculus I' so that I can take Physics AP and Calc BC (or Calculus II) next year. I completely understand where you're coming from though. I agree that I should follow my passion and show it through my actions. I'll definitely look into the 'technical aspects' of snowboarding. Thanks so much ceebee! Nobody else has given me so much useful information
BTW, I don't believe that global warming is in our hands. The earth has in fact been hotter at times in the past and I believe that (in this case) what goes up, must come down I did a research paper on global warming and have come to the conclusion that we simply can't lower the temperature of the earth :]
Just as a tangent, module9, we may not be able to lower the temperature of the Earth, but there is major evidence that we are the main cause behind the recent temperature spike. It is true that the Earth has hotter in the past - indeed, this is one of the cooler periods of Earth's history - but quick temperature spikes are often cause of...not good things. See Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum and Permian Mass Extinction.
Point of info for Princeton admissions seekers. Admissions counselor who talked at local high school says its rare in that Admissions office to see a summer job other than camp counselor or a winter part time job on an application. It sets you apart if you go out and find work.
Well, there are two places of interest that I have in terms of extra curriculars. Music (I've played the drums and guitar for about 5 years now - discovered my passion for music when I was about 12) and I'm also actively involved in charity work. However, this is just one charity organization. I'm going to be appointed head of the charity group at school next year, and will also have the opportunity to go to Africa for a month to help build an orphanage. It's something I'm passionate about, and I've also had a lot of first hand experience witnessing and helping in some of the poorer areas of India. Perhaps it would be something to write about in an essay?
Would it be risky to cut down to only these two ECs (although I am also eager to join the student council)? Also, there's nothing particular that distinguishes my passion for music from others because I haven't won any awards (haven't really had any opportunities), but would be really anxious to perform wherever and whenever possible. Have you any suggestions for what I could do?
BTW, Princeton isn't the only university I'm interested in. I'm an international student, so I haven't visited any of the universities. But I wanted to ask here because the topic of ECs had been raised.