How to Get Into Princeton: Acceptance Rate & Strategies

June 1, 2023

Tom Cruise’s iconic Princeton University interview in the ’80s classic Risky Business leads his character, Joel Goodson, to receive an against-all-odds letter of acceptance. Back in 1983 when the film debuted, the Princeton University acceptance rate was a comparatively unintimidating 20%. Today, the acceptance rate is roughly one-fifth that figure, rendering brash, profanity-laced alumni interviews in the middle of a high school party even less likely to lead to a real-life Princeton acceptance letter. The matter of how to get into Princeton does not hold a simple answer.

In 2023-24, every wanna-be Tiger boasts amazing academic credentials (candidates with a perfect unweighted 4.0 are historically only accepted at an 8.0% clip) and often equally impressive achievements outside of the classroom. So, what separates those that get in from those that get rejected? The intent of this article is to give those considering applying to Princeton University an understanding of:

  • Where is Princeton University?
  • Princeton acceptance rate
  • SAT, ACT, GPA, and class rank of accepted Princeton applicants
  • Admissions trends
  • How to stand out on your Princeton application
  • Princeton’s system for rating applicants
  • A look at the demographics of current Princeton undergraduates
  • The percentage of accepted students that attend Princeton (yield rate)
  • Tips for applying to Princeton
  • How to approach the Princeton supplemental essays
  • How to assess whether applying to Princeton is even worth the $70 application fee (for you)

Many students applying to Princeton may also find the following blogs to be of interest:

How to Get Into:

Where is Princeton University?

Princeton University is located in the town of Princeton, a quiet suburban town in central New Jersey.  The town of Princeton is part of Mercer County and the University has been a presence since 1746, making it the 4th oldest college in the country.

Princeton Acceptance Rate 

Princeton has decided to withhold admissions data for the Class of 2027 at this time. They have yet to even publicly state the total number of applicants. However, it is believed that the Princeton acceptance rate is somewhere in the neighborhood of 5% to 6%.

There were 38,019 applications submitted for a place in the 2022-23 freshman class; 2,167 were accepted. This means that the Princeton acceptance rate was 5.7%. Historical Princeton University acceptance rates are as follows:

  • Class of 2025: 4%
  • Class of 2024: 6%
  • 2023: 6%

The last time that Princeton’s acceptance rate was in the double digits was for the Class of 2009 (11%).

Princeton Admissions – SAT, GPA, and Class Rank

According to the most recent statistics available (Class of 2026), the mid-50% SAT range for enrolled freshmen was approximately 1490-1580; on the ACT, the range was 33-35. In recent years, over 90% of enrolled students placed in the top 10% of their high school class, and the average unweighted GPA was 3.9+.

Admissions Trends & Notes 

  • The percentage of members of the class whose parents went to Princeton (legacies) has been around 10% in recent years.
  • The students come from all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • International students from 76 countries were part of the Class of 2027.
  • 61% of students qualified for financial aid.
  • Lastly, 17% of those in the Class of 2026 are first-generation students.

How to stand out on my Princeton application

In effect, Princeton is looking for young people who are among the best, or, have the potential to be among the very best at something in the world. They also place a great emphasis on diversity across ethnic and socioeconomic lines. In their own words, the admissions staff is seeking a “variety of talents, personal qualities, experiences and points of view in each incoming class. There are some qualities we hope all Princeton students share: integrity, a deep interest in learning, and a devotion to both academic and non-academic pursuits. Many students also bring distinctive academic and extracurricular talents and achievements.”

Princeton University Acceptance Rate (Continued)

Just look at the list of notable Tiger alumni and you’ll get a sense of what the university is looking for: the next generation of politicians (Ralph Nadar, Woodrow Wilson—a subject of current controversy on campus), award-winning writers (Michael Lewis, Jennifer Weiner) entrepreneurs (Jeff Bezos, Steve Forbes) actors/actresses/filmmakers (Jimmy Stewart, Ethan Cohen, Brooke Shields) whose contributions greatly influence the world in which we live.

Additionally, recruited athletes enjoy a huge edge. This is because Princeton takes great pride in their 38 NCAA Division I sports teams and athletes comprise 20% of the student body.

For advice about how to stand out on the extracurricular front, check out our previous blog entitled How Many Extracurricular Activities Do I Need for College?

How Princeton Rates Applicants

Princeton considers nine factors as “very important” to the admissions process: rigor of high school courseload, class rank. GPA, SAT/ACT scores, essays, recommendation letters, extracurricular activities, talent/ability, and character/personal qualities. Items that are “considered” as part of the admissions process are: interview, first generation, legacy status, geographical location, ethnicity, volunteer work, and paid work experience.

Princeton is looking for genuine excellence in one or more activities. For example, you won a well-regarded physics, chemistry, or math competition, you are one of the top cellists in the United States, you conducted original scientific research with a university professor, or you started a charitable organization that made a significant local, national, or global impact.

Who Actually Gets Into Princeton?

Geographically, the Class of 2026 was comprised of the greatest numbers of students from the following U.S. states:

  • New Jersey: 225
  • New York: 166
  • California: 149
  • Massachusetts: 63
  • Texas: 52
  • Florida: 56
  • Illinois: 55
  • Pennsylvania: 51
  • Connecticut: 41
  • Georgia: 41
  • Maryland: 41

The fewest number of students came from the following U.S. states:

  • Vermont: 2
  • Alaska: 0
  • North Dakota: 1
  • South Dakota: 1
  • Montana: 2
  • Wyoming: 1
  • West Virginia: 3
  • Idaho: 2
  • Mississippi: 1
  • Alabama: 1

Competition is stiffest among those hailing from states with endless streams of qualified applicants (the entire Northeast & the West Coast). Additionally, if you hail from the Deep South like Alabama or Mississippi or a less-populated state like Wyoming or North Dakota, your location is more likely to provide a boost to your admissions chances at Princeton.

Princeton University Acceptance Rate (Continued)

Looking next at ethnic identity, the breakdown of the Class of 2025 was as follows:

  • Asian American: 25%
  • Hispanic: 8%
  • African American: 9%
  • Multiracial (non-Hispanic): 7%
  • American Indian: <1%
  • International Citizens: 15%

Looking at the type of school attended, the majority of 2021-22 freshmen at Princeton hailed from public high schools. The breakdown was as follows:

  • Public: 60%
  • Independent Day: 17%
  • Religiously Affiliated: 13%
  • Independent Boarding: 9%
  • Home Schooled: <1%
  • Military: <1%
  • Non-US Schools: 14%

Yield Rate

Princeton’s yield rate was an astoundingly high 82%. However, that fell to 69% for the Class of 2022. In a normal year, they are similar only to schools like MIT, Harvard, and Stanford in this regard. For comparison, elite schools such as Georgetown, Pomona, Bowdoin, Barnard, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, and Duke all have yield rates at or under the 60% mark. The bottom line is that Princeton is the first choice of the vast majority who apply.

Tips for Applying to Princeton

If you plan on joining the 38,000+ Princeton hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:

  • Princeton does invite some qualified applicants to participate in an alumni interview. While this is not a required component of one’s application, students should avail themselves of the opportunity if an interview can be arranged in their geographic area.  For advice on what types of questions you should be prepared to answer/ask visit our blog—College Interview Tips.
  • Next, Princeton does not consider “demonstrated interest” so you will not be judged on whether or not you made a campus visit, contacted an admissions officer, etc.

Princeton University Acceptance Rate (Continued)

  • Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essays and short answers required by Princeton. In the 2022-23 cycle, they were as follows:

Princeton Essay Prompts

1) Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences that was particularly meaningful to you. (Response required in about 150 words.)

2) At Princeton, we value diverse perspectives and the ability to have respectful dialogue about difficult issues. Share a time when you had a conversation with a person or a group of people about a difficult topic. What insight did you gain, and how would you incorporate that knowledge into your thinking in the future? (About 250 words).

3) Princeton has a longstanding commitment to service and civic engagement. Tell us how your story intersects (or will intersect) with these ideals. (About 250 words).

4) What is a new skill you would like to learn in college? (50 words or fewer).

5) What brings you joy? 

6) What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment? (50 words or fewer).

7) Princeton requires you to submit a graded written paper as part of your application. You may submit this material now or any time before the application deadline. If you choose not to upload the required paper at this time, you may mail, e-mail, or upload your paper through the applicant portal.

For a detailed look at how to tackle these essays, visit our blog entitled: Princeton Supplemental Essay Prompts and Tips.

Princeton University Acceptance Rate – Final Thoughts

Those with SAT/ACT scores within the mid-50% mark for Princeton who are also at the very top of their respective high school class are absolutely viable candidates to Princeton. As such, it is worth any star student’s time and $70 to submit an application. Whether or not you will be among the less than 4% who are offered admission will come down to many of the factors mentioned throughout this blog. Of course, it goes without saying that all teens applying to this or any other Ivy need to also have a proper mix of “target” and “safety” schools on their college list. More on creating a balanced college list can be found here.