Application Pro Tip - Supplemental Essay

Nov 25 2018
Graduate Admissions Office

“We all come from somewhere and it shapes us - both in who we become and what we value. Tell us your story and what shaped you.”

At the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, we take community very seriously. With such small cohorts – about 70 MPAs and 20 MPPs and 6-8 PhDs per year – people don’t get lost in the crowd here. Rather, we come to know each other quite well – much deeper than simple pleasantries and passings in the hallways. Whether it’s salsa dancing at the Graduate College, putting something together for the annual Skit Night, attending a donut tasting, or playing in a pick-up football game, we come together just as much outside the classroom as inside. We care about one another, and we stay in touch even after we graduate.

The School's Graduate Admissions committee looks for students who are excited to engage this vibrant community. Our students are open to learning from one another as well as sharing their own knowledge with others. As such, when we review files, we are going beyond the surface. Our process isn’t about box checking, and each person is integral to the class. We aim to see you in full. To that end, we altered our supplemental essay prompt this year with the hope of discovering more about what makes you you.

The prompt reads, “We want to get to know you on a more personal and individual basis. Please submit a concise, one-page, double-spaced statement based on the following: We all come from somewhere and it shapes us - both in who we become and what we value. Tell us your story and what shaped you.”

This essay is different than the Statement of Academic Purpose (aka the personal statement or statement of purpose). In the personal statement, the focus is more on your academic/policy interests and commitment to service. For that, we want to know how those interests and your commitment developed, how you see the School fitting into your path, and what you aspire to after the School and in the long term. The supplemental essay instead seeks to get a little more at the heart of who you are and what you value.

Yes, the prompt is broad, and purposely so. We want you to have the flexibility to respond in a way that is true to you. Remember, we aren’t looking for clichés. We are looking for people. Embrace who you are and share your story. Everyone has one, and yet each one is unique. So tell us about yourself and what has made you who you are today. We realize this might feel like a trick question, but it’s not. We genuinely want to learn more about you. So don’t overthink it and just write. We look forward to reading your stories.