Should I go for Princeton SCEA?

Junior here - Princeton is definitely my top choice, but I’ve heard that SCEA might not be worth it. Am I a competitive enough applicant to apply SCEA? Does it provide any sort of boost? I’m not really interested in any of the ED schools.


  • US domestic
  • State/Location of residency: Texas
  • Type of high school: Large, public high school (600 kids per class)
  • Gender/Race/Ethnicity: Asian Male :confused:
  • Other special factors: N/A

Intended Major(s)
GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 4.0/4.0
  • Weighted HS GPA (incl. weighting system): 5.88/6.0 (about a 99 average)
  • Class Rank: 1/600
  • ACT/SAT Scores: 1580 SAT, 1500 PSAT


APs: Physics 1, Physics 2, Calc AB, Calc BC, Lang, HuG, US History, US Gov, Macro, CSA, CSP, Stats, Seminar, Env Sci - have gotten/expecting 4s and 5s on all

Senior year APS: Lit, Phys C (both), maybe a dual enrollment? not sure yet

Highest level of math reached, will reach honors French 3 by the end of senior year. Couldn’t take a language this year due to scheduling conflicts.

Awards (I know CommonApp only allows 5, but I’ll find a way to squeeze in the extras into my EC descriptions).

  • Recognition from TX govt for research I conducted independently, received a grant from TX govt and a foreign nation for this research
  • 25k grant with another research group at a university
  • AIME qual/AMC honor roll (6 on AIME)
  • TEDx Talk about STEM concept
  • 2x Texas State Finalist in DECA, 2x ICDC Qualifier
  • BPA Texas State Champion for my event, NLC Qualifier, NLC Finalist/Top placement
  • Projected National Merit Semi
  • DECA Scholarship Winner
  • Hugh O’ Brian Nominated Delegate + Scholarship Recipient
  • Random robotics awards ?!?!?

I’d like for my spike here to be focused on humanitarian engineering/STEM efforts, but then again, not sure if that comes across well enough on my app

  1. FRC Robotics - 20 hrs a week. This is by far my greatest time commitment. My robotics team is ranked in the top 10 in the world, we’ve won worlds multiple times, lots of accolades from my robotics team
  2. Engineering research - Work with grad students and professors to research and developed solutions to a problem that ails disabled people. (25k grant in my awards)
  3. Independent engineering research - Work with a local Boeing engineer to research and develop a solution for a local environmental problem (this is the recognition from TX govt + grants)
  4. Coaching a local middle school math team, mentoring elementary school VEX teams
  5. Started an initiative to address financial illiteracy in kids using STEM and coding
  6. President of SNHS, VP of MNHS - set up meetings, host competitions, invite guest speakers, etc. Typical club stuff.
  7. DECA/BPA - president of my school’s DECA chapter, competitor in both. I do research and even though both of these are more business related, both of my events are more related to STEM.
  8. Volunteering at a local hospital
  9. Piano? I’ve gotten a few meaningful awards

I would ideally like to also find some sort of activity that combines writing and my passion for engineering - I’ve heard that Princeton appreciates writing and humanities in every applicant.


  • I would predict my essays to be reasonably strong? Not sure

  • My LORs from teachers won’t be stellar, but they’ll be sufficiently strong. Supporting LORs will be really good (not from teachers)

Cost Constraints / Budget

  • N/A, parents are willing to go full pay and I’m willing to take out loans


  • Safety: A&M (EA, auto-admit)
  • Likely: UT Austin (EA, auto-admit)
  • Match: Rice (RD)
  • Reach: Princeton (SCEA) ( i lov u pton ), Stanford (RD), MIT (RD), Harvard (RD), Yale (RD), UPenn (RD), Oxford (Early)

I just need advice on whether or not to apply to Princeton SCEA. I’d be happy going to UT Austin, but ultimately, my dream school is Pton

Thanks in advance!

You are definitely in range, but you know, especially as an Asian male with STEM background, Princeton is going to be a high reach; I think SCEA makes sense if it is your number 1 choice, especially if you would be happy at UT as a fall back. (You should also have a decent chance at Rice in RD, so it might not come to that.)

For context, my non-Asian kid with 10 on AIME (4x AIME qualifier, but just missed USAMO), identical SATs, also number 1 but at a private school, more advanced math and APs but somewhat lesser ECs, was accepted Princeton RD in this past cycle (also a few other schools on your reach list, but also turned down or waitlisted at a few).

Looking back on the results, I feel the essays made a big difference. The Princeton application really lends itself to “customization” and if I could offer any other advice it would be to highlight any service opportunities that you have engaged in, and try to have the recommendations tie into those if possible.

Congratulations on a tremendous record, and btw Rice was also a favorite at our house (but did not apply because of a different R/SCEA acceptance).


Great - thank you so much on your advice and insight. Congrats on your kid for making it into Princeton!

I think over the summer, I’ll focus on opportunities and experiences that’ll separate me from the rest of the pack. There’s not much stuff that I’ve done that other top applicants haven’t. I still have 2-3 spaces left for ECs on the CommonApp, so those will likely go towards some sort of humanities/writing ventures with a STEM twist. It’s a bit hard doing things like this without diminishing a spike or seeming too well-rounded. Again, thanks!

@shenanigan You have a lot on your EC list already. I would develop what is there instead of adding new things. Less is more.

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Thank you for your advice. I was thinking that as well, but I’m not too sure how I can develop what is there even more - it feels as if I already have. I’ve received some sort of accolade for most of my ECs that quantify what I’ve done and I expect to continue contributing to these ECs, so I thought that adding more would be a little more helpful in giving my application more depth.

You could write an article about your research or the financial illiteracy project, for example.


Yes I think you certainly have a chance. Especially for engineering. The SCEA does give a boost, but not has much as schools with binding ED. Good luck

The real question is, since you do not want to apply ED anywhere, do you want to apply EA to any schools that Princeton SCEA would exclude (i.e. private schools in the US)? If so, then you must choose between applying Princeton SCEA and applying EA at those other private schools in the US.

Looks like the only schools where Princeton SCEA would disqualify EA applications to are Stanford, MIT, Harvard, and Yale. All except MIT have SCEA/REA (MIT has unrestricted EA). So you can pick at most one out of these five to apply EA to. It does not seem like you have a compelling reason to apply EA to any of the others over Princeton SCEA. In that case, applying to Princeton SCEA gives the possibility of having a decision from Princeton early, which can be advantageous in some ways.

Automatic admission to Texas public universities does not necessarily include automatic admission to the desired major, if the major is a more competitive one. Evaluate chances based on the major if that is the case.