Princeton University is one of the most well-known and prestigious private universities, and one of only eight Ivy League schools in the United States. It is consistently recognized as one of the top universities for excellence in research and academics. Adding to its acclaim, Princeton employs an educational approach that emphasizes the importance of independent study.
Princeton University offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and engineering.
At the undergraduate level, Princeton offers a large selection of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science Degrees. Undergraduates approaching their fourth year are required to perform an independent research project within the scope of their chosen major. Depending on a student’s chosen field of study, research projects can vary from scientific research to a liberal arts study.
While Princeton does not have a medical school, law school, business school or school of divinity like other Ivy League Universities, it does provide professional degrees through the Princeton University School of Engineering and Applied science, the School of Architecture and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
If you’re looking for an accredited graduate studies program, Princeton offers a variety of choices. At Princeton you’ll find a large selection of master’s degrees, Ph.D. programs and continuing education options designed to meet the needs of a diverse student body. The graduate study program does not employ a traditional, credit-based system and graduate advisors work with students to develop a suitable curriculum.
Princeton is one of the more expensive colleges in the nation, but provides its students with a variety of financial assistance options. Princeton provides qualifying students several need-based financial aid programs that don’t ever have to be repaid. If you’re set on attending Princeton, don’t let the high price tag get in the way.
Undergraduates at Princeton are required to fulfill various general education and elective course requirements. In preparation for a Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) or Bachelor of Science in Engineering Degree (B.S.E.), undergraduate students must also select a departmental concentration and complete a specified amount of independent study.
Princeton offers master’s degrees in engineering, architecture, finance, public policy and public affairs. The university also offers doctorate programs in a variety of subject areas including social sciences, humanities, engineering and natural sciences. Graduate programs at Princeton emphasize original thought and independent scholarship.
In an effort to use new technology to enhance the educational experience for students, and enable faculty to extend their teaching beyond the classroom, Princeton is exploring the development of online class materials. However, to date, Princeton University does not offer any of its courses, classes or degree programs exclusively online. Students who attend Princeton’s campus-based programs will have access to online materials as they become available.
To search for colleges and universities that offer online degree program you can perform a search using the “College Degree Finder” feature located in the upper right hand corner of this page.
Courses offered in most undergraduate programs at Princeton are conducted in a traditional seminar or lecture style two to three times a week. Courses also include a weekly discussion seminar known as a “precept.” In order to graduate, undergraduate students are required to complete a thesis during their senior year as well as conduct an independent research project typically started during their junior year. In some undergraduate programs students must complete “independent projects”, which differ from research papers. Students pursuing a Bachelor of Arts have foreign language and distribution requirements which typically take three or four semesters to complete. In total, A.B. candidates must complete about 31 classes.
Curriculum for undergraduate students pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Degree (B.S.E.) is similar to that for A.B. candidates but varies slightly. B.S.E. programs in general incorporate more science and math courses than A.B. programs. B.S.E. programs also have a computer science requirement, independent research requirement and a senior thesis (which is optional). One of the biggest differences between the B.S.E. and A.B. tracks is that the B.S.E. track requires the completion of 36 classes and offers much less flexibility in course selection than the A.B. track.
All Princeton students, upon admission, agree to adhere to a strict Honor Code. The Honor Code governs such issues as plagiarism, cheating and violations of other college rules. The Honor Code is an integral part of students’ academic experience at Princeton.
Unlike other research universities, Princeton does not have a medical school, business school or law school. It does, however, offer several post-graduate research degrees in various fields in such areas as engineering, natural sciences, humanities and social sciences. Many of the university’s graduate-level degree programs are offered through the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (Princeton’s most well-known professional school). Originally named the School of Public and International Affairs, the school was renamed in 1948 in honor of the university’s president and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.
Princeton’s Grade Deflation Policy
In 2004, Princeton introduced a new grade deflation policy aimed at limiting the number of “A” grades that could be given in any one undergraduate class. Since then the policy has been seen as quite controversial. Many students have even suggested the policy has thwarted their ability to apply to graduate school and put them at a disadvantage when applying for jobs. The argument for the continued implementation of the grade deflation policy is that an A grade was no longer worth as much, as more and more Princeton students were receiving them (a phenomena occurring in many other universities across the United States). Notwithstanding, proponents of the grade deflation policy contend that the policy makes their GPA look low in comparison to that of students from comparable universities. In reality, undergraduate student GPAs have only seen a decrease from 3.46 to 3.39 since the policy was put into effect.
Admissions and Financial Aid
On average Princeton admits about 8% of undergraduate applicants. In the 2011-12 admissions cycle only 7.8% of applicants were accepted. The undergraduate program at Princeton is very selective. In 2006, the university ended its “early decision” program and applicants for the 2012 class were considered in a single pool, a first for the university. However, in 2011 Princeton introduced an “early action” program (a type of early admission process) following closely on the heels of Harvard University and the University of Virginia who recently had reinstated their early admissions programs. According to the Business Journal, Princeton University is one the most selective, if not the most selective, colleges in the Eastern United States.
In 2001, for those students who qualified for financial aid, Princeton eliminated traditional student loan repayment programs. For qualifying students, their educational financial obligations were met by a combination of work-study programs, on-campus jobs and grants. Princeton was the first college in the United States to implement such a program and other universities followed suit soon after. According to the U.S.News & World Report, Princeton has the lowest number of students who graduate with debt. The average debt of a Princeton student upon graduation is roughly $4,957 (only one-fifth of the average debt of college graduates nationwide).
Among national universities, U.S. News & World Report has ranked Princeton, based on the number of its students who receive Pell Grants, as the university with the smallest amount of economic diversity.
For nearly ten years (2001 through 2010), Princeton University held the No. 1 or No. 2 spot in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of national universities. For eight of those years Princeton was ranked No. 1. Among world universities Princeton has been ranked No. 8 by Shanghai Jiao Tong University and No. 5 in the nation for Natural Sciences by Times Higher Education World University Rankings. In 2011, QS World University Rankings ranked Princeton No. 13 in the world. The university’s top globally ranked programs include Arts and Humanities (No. 6), Natural Sciences (No. 7) and Social Sciences (No. 11).
In 2008, Princeton was ranked No. 8 among all U.S. colleges and universities in “America’s Best Colleges” rankings produced by Forbes. Unlike other college ranking institutions, Forbes considers several factors including the awards and recognitions that students and faculty have received, as well as how many alumni appear in the Who’s Who in America” register.
Princeton also ranks prominently in other “non-academic” based university rankings, including the “Students Happy with Financial Aid” and “Happiest Students” lists, where it ranked first and third respectively (outranked only by Brown University and Clemson).
In addition to its overall rankings, Princeton’s individual academic departments also rank competitively within their respective subject areas. Princeton’s Behavioral and Neuroscience program has been ranked No. 6, its Social Psychology program No. 7 and its Department of Psychology No. 5 in the nation. Currently, the University’s Department of History is ranked No. 1 in the world.
Student Life and Culture at Princeton
All undergraduate students at Princeton are guaranteed housing for the four years required to complete their undergraduate A.B. or B.S.E. degree. Almost all undergraduate students (98%) live in dormitories that are located on campus. Both freshmen and sophomores are required to live in residential colleges, and upperclassmen (juniors and seniors) live in designated dormitories. Residence colleges have their own dining halls, where dormitories do not. Juniors and seniors now have the option of remaining in their residential colleges for all four years of college or living off-campus, but most tend to stay due to the high cost of renting an apartment off-campus and the social life that revolves around Princeton’s residential colleges and eating clubs (sponsored by juniors and seniors). Eating clubs, while not directly affiliated with the college, serve as dining halls for juniors and seniors and forums for social activities and events that are held throughout the year.
Many of the social events and activities that take place at Princeton are hosted by one of the university’s six residential colleges. Events include dances, parties, dinners, various activities, guest speakers and trips. Some of the more popular trips include outings to New York to see sporting events, Broadway shows and operas. Eating clubs are typically reserved to juniors and seniors but host many of the same events and activities as residential colleges.
Each Year Princeton hosts the PMUNC and PICSim, two Model United Nations Conferences for high school students. The PMUNC is typically held in the fall and the PICSim every spring. Princeton also hosts the renowned Princeton Invitational Speech and Debate Tournament and Model Congress in November. The Model Congress is a 4-day event that gathers high school students from across the nation as participants.
Over the years Princeton students and faculty have developed and embraced a number of traditions that keep student life fun, interesting and exciting. The following are just a few.
- Bonfire – The Bonfire, as it has come to be known, takes place if and when Princeton beats both Harvard University and Yale University in football during the same season. The event is held in Cannon Green near Nassau Hall. For the first time in twelve years, a Bonfire was lit November 17, 2006.
- Arch Sings – These free late-night concerts are sponsored by one of Princeton’s several undergraduate cappella groups. They are usually held in one of the school’s large arches on campus. The most popular locations where Arch Sings are held include Blair Arch and Class of 1879 Arch.
- Bicker – A process by which eating clubs select and initiate new members (“bickerees”). During a Bicker, current club members require prospective members to perform various activities and tasks.
- Communiversity – A street fair held each year that includes arts and crafts, various performances and other activities. The purpose of communiversity is to foster a deeper sense of community between the university and local residents.
- Class Jackets (Beer Jackets) – An annual event where graduating class members design a Class Jacket using artwork, school colors, and motifs featuring the class year.
- Cane Spree – A cane wrestling competition held in the fall between freshman and sophomore students. The event revolves around freshmen and sophomores grappling for control of a cane. This event is held each year in commemoration of a freshmen uprising against a long-standing university tradition that only upperclassmen could carry canes on campus.
- Dean’s Date – The Dean’s Date occurs at the end of each semester on a Tuesday. It represents the end of reading periods and the start of final exams. At 5 p.m. undergraduate students gather outside McCosh Hall to applaud and cheer on students who have procrastinated finishing their work until the very end.
- The Clapper – The Clapper, also know as the Clapper Theft, involves students scaling the roof of Nassau Hall to steal the bell clapper. The bell used to ring each year to signal the beginning of classes but due to safety concerns the clapper has been permanently removed.
- Gilding the Lily – The Gilding the Lily ceremony is held at 25th class reunions where University alumnae (aka “Tiger Lilies”) court male classmates while singing and drinking.
- Houseparties – When eating clubs hold formal parties simultaneously at the end of each spring term.
- Lawnparties – Parties held by eating clubs at the beginning and end of each academic year. These parties feature live bands, food and fun.
- Holder Howl – Students from Holder Hall and several other residential colleges and dormitories meet the midnight before Dean’s Date in the Holder Courtyard and simultaneously scream to express their frustration from studying and relief that it’s over.
- Newman’s Day – On April 24th Princeton students try and drink 24 beers during the 24 hours in the day. This tradition is named after the apocryphal quote by Paul Newman, “’24 beers in a case, 24 hours in a day. Coincidence? I think not.” However, Paul Newman never condoned the event, and actually spoke out against it.
- P-rade – A traditional parade through campus that includes alumni and their families arranged by class year.
- Nude Olympics – As suggested by its name, the nude olympics was a nude, or partially nude, athletic event held each year in Holder Courtyard during winter’s first snow. The event started in the early 1970s and was banned in 2000 due to the notoriety it was creating for the school.
- Prospect 11 – This is said to occur when a beer is consumed at all eleven eating clubs in a single evening.
- Ivy Stones – These are class memorial stones that students and alumni place on the walls of academic buildings across Princeton’s campus.
- FitzRandolph Gates – Upon graduation students file through FitzRandolph Gateway (the main gate of the university) as a symbol of leaving college. Superstition has it that if a student leaves campus by way of the FitzRandolph Gateway before they actually graduate that they won’t graduate with their class.
Athletics is an integral part of Princeton’s history and student life. Athletics provide ongoing recreation, physical education and entertainment for university students and members of the community. Princeton supports three levels of athletic organization: varsity intercollegiate, club intercollegiate, and intramural. Most undergraduate students at Princeton are involved in the school’s athletic programs in one way or another. Student athletes at Princeton are collectively known as the Tigers and the school’s mascot is the tiger.
Princeton University plays NCAA Division I sports and is a member of the Ivy League athletic conference. The University sponsors a total of 38 men’s and women’s varsity sports, with its most popular sport being rowing. There are nearly 150 student athletes on Princeton’s rowing team.
Another popular varsity intercollegiate sport at Princeton is football. The University is a member of the Football Championship Subdivision of NCAA Division I and has won 26 national championships, more than any other college football team in the nation.
Princeton also has a renowned basketball program with a long history of success. Under the direction of Pete Carril, the team’s coach from 1967-1996, the University racked up 13 Ivy League titles and over 10 NCAA tournament appearances. Princeton is well-known for the Princeton offense, an offensive strategy introduced by Carril that has since been adopted by several college and professional basketball teams.
Several other sports, including men’s water polo and lacrosse, where Princeton has historically dominated, continue to be popular among the university’s athletes and students.
Club and Intramural Sports
At Princeton, athletics isn’t just for the athletes – it’s for everyone! Princeton has nearly as many club and intramural sports organizations (35) as it does intercollegiate varsity teams (38). Currently, there are over 300 intramural sports teams at Princeton. Intramural sports are open to all students, faculty and staff members.
Princeton University, originally called the College of New Jersey, was founded by the New Light Presbyterians in 1746 as a school designed to train ministers. Ten years later the college was moved to Princeton, New Jersey. John Witherspoon, Princeton’s fifth President, changed the college’s focus from a strictly religious university that trained ministers, to a more secular school designed to prepare a new generation of American leaders.
Princeton University’s sole campus structure was Nassau Hall until 1803 when it undertook the construction of an additional hall, Stanhope Hall. In 1803 the role of Nassau Hall shifted from an all-purpose building to its present role as the administrative building for the University.
In 1868 James McCosh was appointed president of Princeton University. During his twenty years of service, he helped lift the institution out of a low period, brought on by the American Civil War, by overhauling the school’s curriculum, expanding its educational offerings into the sciences, and overseeing the addition of numerous buildings to the school’s campus. McCosh Hall is named after James McCosh.
In 1896 the school officially changed its name from the College of New Jersey to Princeton University in honor of the city where it was located. During 1896 the college became an actual university and underwent a massive expansion program.
Princeton, NJ 08544-0430
Fax: (609) 258-6743
Contact: Janet Rapelye
Dean of Admission
Princeton, NJ 08542
Total undergrads: 4,981
First-time degree-seeking freshmen: 1,243
Degree-seeking undergrads: 4,878
Graduate enrollment: 2,516
Large town (10,000 – 49,999)
College has an application fee: Yes
Regular application fee: $60
Online application fee: $60
Percent applicants admitted: 46%
Percent of students who return for sophomore year: 88%
Secondary school GPA: Recommended
Secondary school rank: Recommended
Secondary school record: Required
Completion of College-prep programs: Recommended
Formal demonstration of competencies: Recommended
Admission test scores (SAT/ACT): Required
Undergraduate Admissions Fall 2011
Number of Applicants: 27,189
Percent Admitted: 8%
Percented Admitted Who Enrolled: 57%
Test Scores: Fall 2011
SAT Critical Reading
Undergraduate Attendance Status
Undergraduate Student Gender
Undergraduate Student Age
Undergraduate Student Residence
Graduate Attendance Status
Retention and Graduation Rates
Retention Rates for First-Time Students Pursuing Bachelor’s Degrees
Overall Graduation and Transfer-Out Rates for Students
Graduation Rates for Students Pursuing Bachelor’s Degrees
6-Year Graduation Rate by Gender for Students Pursuing Bachelor’s Degrees
6-Year Graduation Rate by Race/Ethnicity for Students Pursuing Bachelor’s Degrees
Tuition & Fees
|Estimated Annual Expenses||2008-’09||2009-’10||2010-’11||2011-’12||% change 2010-’12|
|Tuition and fees||$33,000||$34,290||$35,340||$36,640||+3.68%|
|Books and Supplies||$1,145||$1,200||$1,260||$1,200||-4.76%|
|Living Arrangement – On Campus|
|Room and Board||$10,980||$11,405||$11,680||$11,940||+2.23%|
|Living Arrangement – Off Campus|
|Room and Board||$0||$0||$0||$0||0.00%|
|Total Expenses||2008-’09||2009-’10||2010-’11||2011-’12||% change 2010-’12|
|In-state On Campus||$47,975||$49,830||$51,260||$52,715||+2.84%|
|In-state Off Campus||$34,145||$35,490||$36,600||$37,840||+3.39%|
|In-state with Family||$34,145||$35,490||$36,600||$37,840||+3.39%|
|Average Graduate Student Tuition & Fees|
|Tuition for In-state Students||$36,640|
|In-state Student Fees||$1,450|
|Tuition for Out-of-state Students||$36,640|
|Type of Aid||Students||Percent||Amount||Average Per Student|
|All students financial aid||716||58%|
|Grant or scholarship aid||713||57%||$23,136,189||$32,449|
|• Federal grants||124||10%||$743,405||$5,995|
|• Pell grants||122||10%||$392,530||$3,217|
|• Other federal grants||120||10%||$350,875||$2,924|
|State/local government grant or scholarships||18||1%||$47,844||$2,658|
|Institutional grants or scholarships||713||57%||$22,344,940||$31,339|
|Student loan aid||146||12%||$478,342||$3,276|
|• Federal student loans||51||4%||$200,999||$3,941|
|• Other student loans||107||9%||$277,343||$2,592|
All Degrees and Programs
|Total of All Education Programs||1113||491||291||–||–|
|Architecture and Related Services||15||29||–||–||–|
|Area, Gender, Cultural, Ethnic, and Group Studies||23||9||10||–||–|
|East Asian Studies||10||–||5||–||–|
|Near and Middle Eastern Studies||13||9||5||–||–|
|Biology and Biomedical Sciences||93||38||20||–||–|
|Business, Administration, Management, Marketing, etc.||–||28||–||–||–|
|Electrical and Electronics Engineering||31||34||28||–||–|
|English Language, Composition and Literature/Letters||58||2||4||–||–|
|English Language and Literature||58||2||4||–||–|
|Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics||73||28||20||–||–|
|Classics and Classical Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics||16||5||7||–||–|
|French Language and Literature||10||1||3||–||–|
|German Language and Literature||5||4||3||–||–|
|Romance Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics||–||–||–||–||–|
|Slavic Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics||8||2||2||–||–|
|Spanish Language and Literature||8||12||1||–||–|
|Public Policy Analysis||76||96||10||–||–|
|Mathematics and Statistics||31||11||22||–||–|
|Multi-/Interdisciplinary Studies, Other||2||–||–||–||–|
|Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology||–||3||3||–||–|
|Geological and Earth Sciences/Geosciences, Other||4||13||5||–||–|
|Demography and Population Studies||–||–||–||–||–|
|Political Science and Government||102||13||15||–||–|
|Visual and Performing Arts||32||15||5||–||–|
|Art History, Criticism and Conservation||25||9||5||–||–|
Architecture & Related Programs
Area, Ethnic, Cultural, & Gender Studies
East Asian Studies B
Near/Middle Eastern Studies B
Arts, Visual & Performing
Art History/Criticism/Conservation B
Music – General B
Biological & Biomedical Sciences
Molecular Biology B
Chemical Engineering B
Civil Engineering B
Computer Engineering – General B
Electrical/Communications Engineering B
Mechanical Engineering B
Operations Research B
English Language & Literature
English Language & Literature – General B
Foreign Language & Literature
Comparative Literature B
History – General B
Mathematics – General B
Philosophy & Religion
Religion/Religious Studies B
Psychology – General B
Public Administration & Services
Public Administration B
Political Science/Government B
Degree levels for each major are designated by the following letters:
B = Bachelor’s degree
C = Certificate or diploma
*CollegeAtlas.org does not guarantee the accuracy of the information included in the college profile above. All information is subject to change. Please confirm all information with a college admissions officer.