While not the first school to ask for graded papers, Princeton University is the first to require them across a very large applicant pool—over 35,000 applied for just over 1,900 seats in the Class of 2022—for every applicant. These are required in addition to standardized tests. the Coalition Application, Common Application or the Universal College Application and supplemental essays. The graded paper is required in place of the Writing section on the ACT or the SAT.
This requirement favors students who come from schools where teachers have more time to comment on written work. I’m quite confident that the better endowed private and parochial schools have the right student/faculty ratio to help students to produce well-organized, well-written and throughly reviewed papers in these subjects. But when I consider that, with the exception of my Honors History course junior year, my public high school had no English or History class with fewer than 30 students. I have my doubts when it comes to public schools where that ratio is greater than 30 to 1.
Princeton University hires part-time readers to help review applications for admission, and no doubt the university will develop a process to evaluate graded work. It will probably be easy for applicants, or their school counselor, to attach the paper to their application as a PDF. My concerns test more with the students—who will need to consider which paper to submit.
It is unknown as to how much the written paper will count towards admissions. If it were up to me, it would count more heavily when the paper related to a prospective major that the student selected on the application, if the paper was poorly written (even if it raised thought-provoking ideas), or if the quality of the writing was inconsistent with the quality of the essays in the rest of the application package.
Suppose that you make a competitive application to Princeton this fall. What should you do to prepare to address this requirement during the summer?
Princeton University will be providing more information on the graded paper requirement between now and the date that the admissions office will begin to receive and review applications. But the time to seek and discuss this requirement with the right teachers is now.
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