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Four Steps to a Compelling Why Princeton Engineering Essay

School Supplements
Bex Ehrmann
Bex Ehrmann

    If you want to join the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at Princeton, you’ll need to write the Why Princeton engineering essay. This essay is required in addition to the Princeton supplement and the Common Application, Coalition Application, or Universal College Application. Let’s start by taking a look at the prompt:

    Please describe why you are interested in studying engineering at Princeton. Include any of your experiences in, or exposure to engineering, and how you think the programs offered at the University suit your particular interests. (Please respond in about 250 words)

    This prompt asks you to cover quite a lot of ground in a relatively small space. But don’t worry! In this guide, we’ll show you how to write a Why Princeton engineering essay that will knock the reader’s socks off.


    Step One: List Your Past Experiences

    Begin by making a list of your past experiences in engineering, focusing primarily on the last four years. These experiences can be anything ranging from engineering classes to extracurricular activities to conversations with family friends who are engineers!

    After you’ve made your list, reflect on your memories. What preconceived notions about engineering did you bring with you into each experience? What did you learn? How did each experience contribute to your passion for engineering?


    Step Two: Chart a Course

    Your Why Princeton engineering essay is a great opportunity to show the reader how your personal values align with Princeton’s institutional values. In her letter to prospective students and collaborators, Dean Emily A. Carter writes, “As engineers and applied scientists, we start from a deep foundation in fundamental science and then apply those principles to make a positive difference in the world.”

    How have your prior experiences in engineering inspired you to make a positive difference in the world? How do you see yourself building on your existing knowledge in order to effect change through science? Your answers to these questions will form the “guiding message” of your essay, linking your past experiences to your values and goals for the future.

    Here’s an example of a guiding message:

    • I am driven to study computer science because I believe that machine learning and artificial intelligence can make medical treatment recommendations more precise, thus changing patient care for the better.


    Step Three: Explore Resources

    Finally, comb through Princeton’s website to learn about the resources, classes, professors, and extracurricular activities that can help you further your goals as an engineer and civic-minded leader. Look for resources that are unique to SEAS and also specific to your personal mission!


    Step Four: Write!

    The only thing left to do is write your essay! Make sure to emphasize your guiding message in your introduction and conclusion to make a strong case for why you belong at SEAS, then use your body paragraphs to present more detailed evidence. In no time, you’ll have a compelling essay!


    A note on word length. The Common Application will allow you to enter 350 words into this space, but you should still try to keep your essay at about 250 words! If your essay is 257 words long, that's fine, but if you go significantly higher than 250, you'll want to think really carefully about the importance of the information. It's always best to follow instructions and keep things concise!



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