Princeton Vs Yale – Which School Is Better?

It’s a match-up between the tigers and the bulldogs! Both Ivy League schools, Princeton and Yale were some of the earliest private higher learning institutions in America. 

Established in 1701, Yale University enrolls 6,536 undergraduate students in the small college town of New Haven, Connecticut. 

Founded 45 years later, Princeton currently enrolls a slightly lower number of undergraduate students (5,296) on a 600-acre campus in Princeton, New Jersey. 

Both schools boast decent sports teams and a highly successful list of notable alumni. On the one hand, Princeton has nurtured over 40 Nobel Prize winners, five recipients of the National Humanities Medal, and 17 winners of the National Medal of Science. 

The school is a pioneer among research universities and has educated prominent public figures like Jeff Bezos and Michelle Obama.

Five United States presidents got their start at Yale, including George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. 

Yale was also home to Pinterest co-founder Ben Silbermann, news reporter Anderson Cooper, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The school has matriculated 20 Nobel Prize winners and 35 Pulitzer Prize recipients.

An education at either Yale or Princeton will undoubtedly serve as the bedrock for a lucrative future career. 

World leaders, entertainers, scientists, and inventors alike developed ground-breaking ideas within the halls of these institutions – will you be the next one to do so? 

Read ahead to learn about the admission requirements, acceptance rates, rankings, and other assets of Princeton and Yale – two of America’s finest universities.

Princeton Vs. Yale – Academic Requirements for Admission

Princeton University Nassau Hall
Princeton University – Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

It takes a talented, well-rounded student to gain admission to either Princeton or Yale. This section will discuss the components each school requires for a complete application. Let’s start with Princeton.

The first step in applying to Princeton is the completion of the Common Application, the Princeton Supplement, the application fee (or waiver), and the Graded Written Paper. 

The Princeton Supplement is essentially the essay section of the application. Responses to the first question are limited to 250 words. Most applicants will discuss the academic areas that intrigue them and how they think Princeton’s offerings will satisfy their desire for knowledge.

Princeton asks a few additional questions of its applicants, which may change yearly. In general, the questions center on students’ extracurricular activities or work experience, civic engagement and experiences with diversity, and personal interests, such as a song featured on the soundtrack of their lives.

The Graded Written Paper should ideally be completed within an English or social studies class during the last three years of high school. 

The Office of Admissions emphasizes that they are only interested in reading expository writing (not creative writing) and that 1-2 pages are sufficient for the paper length. The submission should include the grade earned and any commentary from the educator.

The remaining components of a Princeton application include official high school transcripts and a letter of recommendation from a school guidance counselor and two teachers (ideally from higher level courses. Additionally, students must submit a Mid-year School Report once mid-term grades are available. 

Submission of standardized test scores remains optional. Students applying to programs in architecture, creative writing, dance, music, theater, or visual arts also have the option to submit an Arts Supplement reflecting their talent or performance.

Instructions for applying to Yale University are very similar to Princeton. Students can complete either the Common Application, Coalition Application, or QuestBridge Application, all of which include Yale-specific questions. An $80 application fee or fee waiver should accompany the application of choice.

Yale also requires a letter of recommendation from two teachers and one guidance counselor, a complete high school transcript, and a Mid-Year Report. Standardized test scores remain optional for the current admissions cycle. However, the Office of Admissions indicates that their internal research team shows ACT and SAT scores to be a strong predictor of a student’s undergraduate academic performance.

Like Princeton applicants, Yale hopefuls will answer several essay questions. These prompts challenge students to discuss their academic interests and pursuits, sources of inspiration, personal accomplishments, and other information that makes them stand out from their competitors. For example, one prompt states them to come up with a novel Yale course.

Yale also allows students pursuing an arts degree to submit a supplementary portfolio representing their best work.

Princeton Vs. Yale – Ranking, Acceptance Rates, and More

Regarding acceptance rates, Princeton and Yale are on the most competitive end of the spectrum. While both schools value a strong grade point average, neither set a specific minimum for admission. 

That being said, the average GPA for an incoming Princeton first-year was 3.93 on a 4.0 scale (statistics for Yale were not shared as part of the 2021/2022 Data Set).

An amazing 37,601 hopefuls applied to become a member of Princeton’s class of 2025. Of that group, only 1,647 were admitted and 1,345 chose to enroll – that’s an acceptance rate of only 4.4%! 

A whopping 46,905 first-year applicants sought admission to Yale’s class of 2025, with almost 83% applying as regular decision candidates. 

Yale admitted 4.6% of those applicants, ranking it equally competitive with Princeton. Yale enrolled roughly 400 more first-year students than Princeton.

What does the successful Princeton or Yale admit bring to the table? When looking at Princeton’s newest applicants, the middle 50% score between 740 and 800 on the Math SAT and 710-770 on the Evidence-based Reading and Writing SAT. 

When it comes to the ACT composite score, the middle 50% of Princeton first-years achieve a 32 to 35 – just about perfect!

The stats for incoming Yale first-years are very similar. On average, the middle 50% of admits score a 720-770 on the SAT Evidence-based Reading and Writing, a 740-790 on the SAT Math, and a 33-35 on the ACT. 

With a history of high-achieving scholars, it is no surprise that both Yale and Princeton sit at the top of many popular college ranking lists. 

The U.S. News has situated Princeton as the #1 National University for eleven consecutive years! Additionally, they rank Princeton as #3 in Best Undergraduate Teaching and #4 in Best Value Schools. 

Acclaim for Yale is just as high – the U.S. News ranks the school #5 out of National Universities, #1 in Best Value Schools, and #2 in Undergraduate Research/Creative Projects.

Deciding Whether to Attend Princeton or Yale

Yale University
Ragesoss, Berkeley College (South) at Yale, CC BY-SA 4.0

When it comes to selecting between Princeton and Yale, the decision doesn’t come down to which school is best. Both institutions bring valuable assets to the table, and strong scholars will find a way to thrive in either setting. 

In this case, students may wish to base their decision on the sociocultural environment and availability of financial aid.

Both Princeton and Yale pride themselves on cultivating a diverse learning environment. At Princeton, 83% of its new cohort are from out-of-state. 12.6% of Princeton first-year students are international citizens. 

At Princeton, the total attendance cost (which includes tuition, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and other expenses) rounds out to $80,240 per year! Yale’s total costs are slightly higher at $85,120.

For many families, the cost alone may rule both schools out as options. The good news is that Princeton and Yale have massive endowments. 

Last year, Princeton awarded nearly $200 million in scholarship funds, with an average need-based scholarship package of $61,731 per full-time first-year student. The school also awarded $850,000 in funds from federal work-study programs.

Yale University has committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need without the use of loans. 64% of its student body receives financial assistance, and families earning less than $65,000 per year are not expected to make any kind of monetary contribution. 

In 2021-2022, the average need-based scholarship at Yale totaled $60,820, and the school gave away $224.2 million in federal and institutional scholarship awards. 

They additionally designated $1.4 million toward student work-study placements. 88% of Yale graduates leave the school without owing a single penny of debt.

RECAP – Which Is the Better School, Princeton or Yale?

Saying yes to either Princeton or Yale is no poor decision. On average, students graduating from either university earn $71,300 and $76,359 per year (respectively). Both schools maintain an ideal student-to-faculty ratio of 4:1, and most classes on campus house fewer than 20 students.

The better school depends on the candidate and the degree they intend to pursue. At Princeton, the most popular majors include Social Sciences, Engineering, and Computer Sciences. 

Computer Science is equally popular at Yale, and conferred degrees are additionally concentrated in Environmental Studies; Economics; English; and, Ethics, Politics, and Economics.

When it comes down to it, both Yale and Princeton are looking to enroll students committed to making the world a better place. During the application cycle, the admissions committees seek to identify students who show considerable engagement and the desire to venture outside their comfort zones.

If this description fits your hopes and dreams, and you’re seeking to learn in a diverse, challenging, and innovative environment, you should consider applying to Yale or Princeton.