Yale vs. Princeton: Which College to Choose?

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Updated:
December 4, 2023
7 min read
Contents

”Mary

Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 12/4/23

Are you trying to decide between Yale vs Princeton? It’s a tough choice, but we're here to provide insights into what each university offers. Let’s get into it. 

Yale University and Princeton University both have long histories that have laid the foundation for their solid academic reputations. Yale's origins date back to the 1640s, making it one of the oldest universities in the United States. 

On the other hand, Princeton, initially named the College of New Jersey, was established in 1746 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. These institutions play a key role in shaping the academic landscape of the United States. In this article, we'll help you navigate the challenging decision of which university is the right fit for you.

Yale vs. Princeton: Overview

Understanding the requirements and statistics for Princeton and Yale is crucial when deciding where to apply. Let's break down the key factors for both universities to help you make an informed decision.

Yale Princeton
Location New Haven, Connecticut Princeton, New Jersey
US News Ranking #5 #1
Undergraduate Enrollment 6,590 5,590
No. of International Students 2,780 9402
Student-to-Faculty Ratio 6:1 5:1
No. of Applicants (Freshman) 52,250 27,836
Acceptance Rate 4.35% 6%
Mid-50% SAT/ACT Scores of admitted students SAT Scores
Math: 730-790
Reading/ Writing: 720-770
ACT Score Composite: 33-35
SAT Scores
Math: 760-800
Reading/Writing: 730-780
ACT Score Composite: 33-35
Average Tuition (Undergraduate Studies) $64,700 $59,710

Yale vs. Princeton: Admissions Requirements

Before you start on your journey to Yale or Princeton, let's take a closer look at their admissions requirements to ensure you're well-prepared for the application process.

Yale Admission Requirements

Exploring the admission requirements for Yale University is the first step toward understanding what it takes to join the ranks of this prestigious institution.

Yale University

GPA and Completed Courses

Yale University has a flexible and fair approach to admitting students. They don't require a specific minimum GPA because they know that high schools have different grading systems. They look at your whole high school record, not just your GPA, to understand how well you did compared to your classmates. 

Yale also values challenging courses and likes to see that students have pushed themselves academically. They don't demand specific high school courses or prerequisites, so you can follow your interests. 

This applies to choosing a major, too—they don't require specific high school courses for any major. In short, Yale considers the full picture of who you are as a student and doesn't rely solely on GPA.

Essay and Short Answers

​​Yale University requires applicants to complete both short answer questions and an essay as part of their application. Here are the questions you need to respond to:

Short Answer Questions for All Applicants (Coalition, Common, and QuestBridge Applications)
  1. “Students at Yale have time to explore their academic interests before committing to one or more major fields of study. Many students either modify their original academic direction or change their minds entirely. As of this moment, what academic areas seem to fit your interests or goals most comfortably? Please indicate up to three from the list provided.”
  2. “Tell us about a topic or idea that excites you and is related to one or more academic areas you selected above. Why are you drawn to it? (200 words or fewer)”
  3. “What is it about Yale that has led you to apply? (125 words or fewer)”
Additional Short Answer Questions for Coalition and Common Application Submissions (35 words or fewer for each)
  1. “What inspires you?”
  2. “If you could teach any college course, write a book, or create an original piece of art of any kind, what would it be?”
  3. “Other than a family member, who is someone who has had a significant influence on you? What has been the impact of their influence?”
  4. “What is something about you that is not included anywhere else in your application?”
Essay Questions for Coalition and Common Application Submissions (400 words or fewer, choose one of the following)
  1. “Reflect on a time you discussed an issue important to you with someone holding an opposing view. Why did you find the experience meaningful?”
  2. “Reflect on your membership in a community to which you feel connected. Why is this community meaningful to you? You may define community however you like.”
  3. “Reflect on an element of your personal experience that you feel will enrich your college. How has it shaped you?”

These essay and short answer questions allow applicants to showcase their passions, experiences, and alignment with Yale's values beyond grades, providing insight into their perspectives on diverse ideas and communities.

Letter of Recommendations

So, when you're applying to Yale, you'll need to get recommendation letters. Here's how it works:

Two Letters from Teachers

You should aim to get two letters of recommendation from your teachers. These teachers should ideally have instructed you in subjects such as English, Math, Science, or Social Studies. 

It's even better if they are familiar with you and can provide insights into both your academic abilities and your personality. While it's beneficial if one of these teachers taught you during your junior or senior year, it is not mandatory.

One Letter from Your Counselor

You'll also need a letter from your school counselor. They can provide a more general perspective about your high school experience and your school's academic programs. Even if your counselor doesn't know you on a personal level, their letter can still be useful.

Yale doesn't require extra recommendation letters, so stick to these three. They help Yale understand how you perform academically and how you fit with their university.

In short, three recommendation letters—two from teachers and one from your counselor—are what you need to apply to Yale. Keep it focused and follow their guidelines.

Additional Application Items

Yale allows applicants to submit supplementary materials in addition to the required application items. However, it's important to remember that the admissions committee gives the most weight to the required documents. 

If you have a unique talent that can't be showcased adequately through your standard application, you can consider submitting supplementary materials such as art portfolios, music recordings, research papers, or creative writing samples.

Yale Interviews

Yale offers interviews for first-year applicants as a way to provide more insights into the admissions committee. These interviews, whether conducted by alumni or current Yale seniors, are part of the evaluation process alongside your application materials. 

While Yale interviews aren't mandatory, they can be valuable. The university tends to prioritize interviews for applicants where additional information can make a difference. If you receive an interview invitation, it's a chance to have a conversation with Yale representatives. 

However, you can't request an interview yourself; interviewers will get in touch with you. It's worth noting that interviews are no longer held on campus, and you can't schedule one during a campus visit.

Princeton Admission Requirements

If you're considering applying to Princeton University, it's important to familiarize yourself with the admission requirements and understand the application process. Let’s break it down.

Princeton University

GPA and Completed Courses

Princeton University doesn't have an official GPA requirement, but a strong applicant typically has a GPA between 3.8 and 4.0, with most admitted students having at least a 3.75. They recommend completing specific high school courses, like four years of English and math, two years of lab science, and a language. 

Challenging yourself with honors or AP courses is encouraged. Princeton understands that not all schools offer the same opportunities, so they consider your circumstances. They also value the arts and suggest consulting your school adviser to plan your academic path. 

Remember, Princeton takes a holistic view of your application, so it's not just about GPA and courses; your essays, recommendations, and extracurriculars matter, too.

Personal Insight Questions

Princeton University's personal insight questions for the 2023-24 application cycle are designed to understand applicants better. These essays vary based on the degree applicants wish to pursue (AB, BSE, or undecided).

AB Degree Applicants or Undecided

“As a research institution that also prides itself on its liberal arts curriculum, Princeton allows students to explore areas across the humanities and the arts, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. What academic areas most pique your curiosity, and how do the programs offered at Princeton suit your particular interests? (Please respond in 250 words or fewer.)”

For BSE Degree Applicants

“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 250 words or fewer.)”

Getting to Know You
  1. “Princeton values community and encourages students, faculty, staff and leadership to engage in respectful conversations that can expand their perspectives and challenge their ideas and beliefs. As a prospective member of this community, reflect on how your lived experiences will impact the conversations you will have in the classroom, the dining hall or other campus spaces. What lessons have you learned in life thus far? What will your classmates learn from you? In short, how has your lived experience shaped you? (Please respond in 500 words or fewer.)”
  2. “Princeton has a longstanding commitment to understanding our responsibility to society through service and civic engagement. How does your own story intersect with these ideals? (Please respond in 250 words or fewer.)”
Additional Questions

Princeton asks applicants to answer each of the following questions in 50 words or fewer. They encourage you to express your individuality. 

  1. “What is a new skill you would like to learn in college?”
  2. “What brings you joy?”
  3. “What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment?”

Letter of Recommendation

When applying to Princeton University, you'll need to gather three letters of recommendation. These letters should be written in English and should come from people who know you well academically, such as faculty members or individuals familiar with your academic work. 

If you're applying to the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs MPA and MPP programs, you'll need one professional letter in addition to an academic reference. The third letter should be from a faculty member, administrator, or professional who can speak to your dedication to public service. 

For Master in Finance applicants, three letters of recommendation are required. You can include one letter from a current or former employer, while the other two should come from individuals who can provide insights into your academic abilities and potential.

Additional Application Items

Princeton University offers two optional application components:

Arts Supplement

If you excel in arts-related fields like architecture, creative writing, dance, music, theater, or visual arts, you can submit an Arts Supplement. Be sure to check the specific submission deadlines for your application type.

Indicate your intent to submit the supplement in your application and use the Princeton Applicant Status Portal for submission. Note that QuestBridge National College Match participants cannot submit an Arts Supplement due to time constraints.

Alumni Interview

Princeton offers optional alumni interviews for applicants. Opting out won't impact your admission chances. If you choose not to opt out, you may receive an invitation for a 30-45 minute conversation with a Princeton alumni member. 

Not all applicants will be interviewed, and that won't harm your application. Interviews are not recorded, and on-campus interviews aren't available. QuestBridge National College Match participants can't participate due to timing constraints. 

Yale or Princeton? Factors to Consider

When it comes to choosing between Yale or Princeton, it's essential to weigh various factors to determine which university aligns best with your academic and personal preferences.

Academics

It’s important to take into account their academic offerings and the undergraduate experience they provide. While both institutions prioritize academic excellence, they approach education differently.

male professor giving lecture

Yale's Academic Environment

Yale University offers a tight-knit learning environment centered around liberal arts and sciences. Yale encourages students to explore their interests, nurture curiosity, and cultivate a well-rounded intellect. 

The university's mission is to equip graduates with the knowledge and values necessary for meaningful work and lifelong learning. Yale provides access to various majors, extensive research resources, global learning opportunities, and specialized academic programs. 

It's worth noting that Yale has a highly competitive admission process, with an acceptance rate of just 4.35%.

Princeton's Academic Experience

Princeton University is deeply committed to undergraduate education. It grants access to the resources of a top-tier research institution while maintaining a low student-to-faculty ratio, facilitating close interactions with professors. Princeton's curriculum spans a wide range of disciplines, emphasizing learning, creativity, innovation, and collaboration. 

Students have the freedom to explore multiple fields and gain expertise in their chosen area of concentration. Independent research is a fundamental aspect of a Princeton education, supported by seminars, research assistance, writing support, and programs to enhance academic skills. 

Princeton's acceptance rate, although still competitive at 6%, reflects the university's dedication to academic excellence and a diverse student body.

Both universities offer distinctive undergraduate education approaches. However, it's important to recognize that Yale and Princeton have exceptionally low acceptance rates, indicating intense competition for admission. 

Your choice should align not only with your academic interests but also with your readiness to navigate the highly competitive admissions processes at these esteemed institutions.

Class Profile

These are the most recently published class profiles for Yale and Princeton, offering valuable insights into the composition and characteristics of their student bodies.

Male and female student studying on campus lawn

Yale College Class of 2025

  • Enrolled first-years: 1,789
  • Gender distribution: 45% male, 55% female
  • Students identifying as students of color (US citizens and Permanent Residents): 51%
  • First-year applicants: 46,905
  • Pell Grant recipients: 17%
  • Students receiving Yale need-based financial aid: 51%
  • First-generation students: 16%
  • Average need-based scholarship for financial aid recipients: $61,500
  • High schools represented: 1,221
  • Legacy affiliation: 14%
  • States represented in the US: 48
  • Countries represented: 68
  • Students speaking a language other than English at home or as a first language: 44%

Princeton University Class of 2026

  • Total enrolled: 1,500
  • Gender distribution: 51% female, 49% male
  • First-generation college students: 17%
  • Students qualifying for financial aid: 61%
  • Eligible for need-based Federal Pell Grants: 21%
  • Types of secondary schools attended: Public (60%), Independent Day (17%), Religiously Affiliated (13%), Non-US Schools (14%), Independent Boarding (9%)
  • Diversity: Asian American (25%), International Citizens (15%), Black or African American (9%), Hispanic or Latino/a/x (8%), Multiracial (7%), Native American, Hawaiian American, or Pacific Islander (<1%)
  • Students from various U.S. states and territories
  • International students from 76 different countries

Comparing these class profiles, we can observe several differences and similarities between Yale and Princeton. Both institutions demonstrate a commitment to diversity, with significant percentages of students identifying as students of color and coming from various backgrounds.

Yale and Princeton have similar percentages of first-generation college students, and both prioritize financial aid accessibility for their students. In terms of international representation, Yale has students from 68 countries, while Princeton includes students from 76 different countries, indicating a global student body.

These profiles offer valuable information for prospective students, highlighting the differences and similarities in the student bodies at Yale and Princeton. As you consider your college options, these class profiles can help you assess which university aligns better with your preferences and goals.

Costs

When deciding between Yale and Princeton, it's essential to factor in the costs associated with attending each school.

100 dollar USD bills

Yale College Tuition and Fees for 2023-2024

  • Tuition: $64,700
  • Room: $10,900
  • Board: $8,280
  • Total: $83,880

Yale College students may also incur optional charges, such as Yale Health Hospitalization & Specialty Care Insurance, Student Activities Fee, and Senior Class Dues, each with specific costs and deadlines for waiving.

The total cost of attendance includes direct educational expenses (tuition, fees, housing, and food) and indirect costs, covering various items like books, course materials, supplies, transportation, personal expenses, loan fees, and professional licensure or certification if needed.

Princeton University Student Budget for 2023-2024

  • Tuition: $59,710
  • Housing: $11,400
  • Food: $7,980
  • Estimated Miscellaneous Expenses: $4,050

Princeton's budget includes standard housing and food costs, along with other estimated expenses covering activities fees and class dues. Transportation costs, ranging from $300 to $5,000, are not included in this estimate, and students without family health insurance coverage must consider purchasing Student Health Plan coverage.

As you weigh your options between Yale and Princeton, it's crucial to evaluate the financial aspects to determine which institution aligns better with your budget and financial plans.

Financial Aid

When deciding between Yale and Princeton, considering what they offer in terms of financial aid is key. 

Princeton's Financial Aid Program

Princeton University is committed to making education accessible and affordable. They practice need-blind admission, meet 100% of demonstrated financial need with grants, and have a renowned no-loan policy. The Princeton Financial Aid Application (PFAA) is free and user-friendly for all applicants, ensuring affordability for every student.

Yale's Financial Aid Program

Yale University offers financial aid through the Yale Scholarship, merit-based scholarships, entitlement grants, and term-time jobs. Yale meets 100% of demonstrated need without loans and allows for education loans. Financial circumstances are reviewed annually, and international students may have tax implications related to financial aid.

Both Yale and Princeton are committed to making their education accessible and affordable. However, it's essential to carefully review each institution's financial aid program to determine which best suits your financial needs and goals.

Sports and Extracurriculars

When comparing Yale and Princeton, it's crucial to consider the sports and extracurricular activities they offer. 

Close up of basketball on court

Yale

Yale has a solid Athletics & Recreation program featuring over 30 varsity teams, a wide array of co-ed club sports, and comprehensive intramural programs. The campus itself provides access to various athletic facilities, including golf courses, tennis centers, polo fields, sailing areas, and more. 

Yale also promotes fitness and wellness through its fitness classes and recreational programs, ensuring a 24/7 operation for students. Additionally, the Greater New Haven area offers 2,200 acres of parks and recreational programs for individuals of all ages.

Princeton

Princeton takes a different approach with its Sports Clubs program, which is made up of 39 options open to all students, regardless of their skill level. 

These clubs prioritize participation, skill development, and student leadership, creating a welcoming environment for those interested in competitive sports and recreation. The emphasis is on fostering camaraderie and a sense of community among participants.

Whether you're interested in varsity sports, club activities, or intramurals, both Yale and Princeton offer diverse opportunities for students to engage in sports and extracurricular activities that align with their interests and passions. Your choice may ultimately depend on the specific sports and activities that resonate with you.

Choosing Between Yale and Princeton: How to Decide

Choosing between Yale and Princeton is a big decision. Here's a guide to help you out:

  • Consider Your Academic Goals 
  • Check Your Finances
  • See What Financial Aid Is Available
  • Reflect on Campus Culture
  • Consider Class Profiles
  • Understand Their Academic Styles
  • Explore Extracurriculars
  • Get Advice From Others
  • Consider Your Personal Preferences
  • Create a Pros and Cons List
  • Attend Events or Tours
  • Trust Your Gut Feelings

Remember, it's your future—choose what feels right for you!

FAQs: Yale Vs. Princeton

Let's delve into frequently asked questions that can help you decide between Yale vs. Princeton.

1. Is It Harder to Get Into Yale or Princeton?

Yale is slightly more competitive to get into than Princeton, with an acceptance rate of 4.35% compared to Princeton's 6%. Both schools have highly competitive admission processes.

2. Which College Is Considered More Prestigious?

Princeton is generally considered more prestigious. However, it's important to note that both Yale and Princeton are widely recognized as highly prestigious institutions.

3. What Are the Most Important Factors to Consider Before Choosing the Right College for You?

When choosing the right college, focus on academic fit, location, size, cost, reputation, extracurriculars, internships, diversity, class size, support services, study abroad, alumni network, financial stability, and campus culture. 

These factors will impact your college experience, so research and visit campuses to make an informed choice that matches your goals.

Final Thoughts

The decision between Yale vs. Princeton is undoubtedly challenging, but it's also an opportunity to shape your academic journey according to your unique goals and preferences. We've provided insights into both institutions to help you make an informed choice. 

Now, armed with knowledge and consideration, you can confidently embark on the path that best suits your aspirations. Whether you choose Yale or Princeton, remember that your decision is a stepping stone toward a bright future.

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