The following are frequently asked questions by prospective and admitted students. Admitted students will likely be interested in sections other than Admissions.
Q: Should I apply for the masters program if my final goal is a Ph.D.?
A: No. The masters programs are separate programs that terminate with the masters degree. There are two types of masters programs: M.Eng. and MSE. The M.Eng. is available in all six departments and is usually a one year, non-funded program. The MSE is available in all departments except Electrical Engineering and is typically funded (tuition and stipend). If you are interested in obtaining a Ph.D., you should apply directly to the Ph.D. program in your field. Most departments offer a masters degree “en route” to the Ph.D. (usually after your second year).
Q: Do all Princeton Engineering graduate students come from Ivy League undergraduate institutions?
A: Definitely not. In the past five years, graduate students from 175 undergraduate institutions in North America have gained admission. Half of these institutions were public schools. Internationally, students also represent over 100 different institutions. In fact, 55% of the admitted students are international.
Q: What is Princeton Engineering looking for in admitting graduate students?
A: The school takes a “holistic reading process” approach to reviewing applications. All aspects of the application, including undergraduate coursework, test scores, research experience, and letters of recommendation, are considered. Strengths in any of these areas may compensate for weaknesses in any other areas and while it is not necessary to possess an impeccable record in all of these areas, strength in each of these areas is correlated with admission. In short, unfortunately there is no formula for gaining admission. Meeting even a small group of current students will help you realize the diverse backgrounds of our admitted students.
Q: What GRE scores do I need to be accepted?
A: There are no strict cutoffs or quotas pertaining to GRE scores and admission. Averages are reported in some university publications and media such as US News & World Report. The majority of scores for recently admitted students were > 550 on the Verbal and > 700 on the Quantitative, with specific results varying across departments and programs. Again, however, GREs are just one aspect of the application that are considered, so please do not let scores you perceive to be low discourage you from applying, as strengths in other areas can and regularly do compensate.
In addition, the Computer Science department recommends a subject GRE score – please see the COS department’s Web site for more information.
Q: Should I contact Princeton professors with whom I am interested in working?
A: Not necessarily. It is not necessary to contact faculty members at Princeton, nor is it clear that doing so will help you gain admission. The answer truly varies from one faculty member to another. If you have a specific question about a faculty member’s research, you are welcome to send him or her an email; however, please keep in mind that faculty members are very busy, so you should not feel discouraged from applying if you do not receive a response. In fact, some faculty have a policy of not responding to emails from prospective students to avoid issues of advantage or fairness. Please be sure to visit the faculty member’s Web page first to see if (s)he encourages emails from prospective students.
If you are planning to visit the campus as a prospective student, please email the graduate coordinator for your department so (s)he can arrange meetings with faculty members with whom you would like to meet. Please see the department Web pages for contact information for your prospective graduate coordinator.
Q: Do I need an undergraduate or masters degree in an engineering field to apply?
A: No. Many of our students majored in other disciplines as undergraduates. Since the school emphasizes both engineering and applied science, a large number of these students majored in the sciences and are now pursuing more applied work, although non-science fields are represented in our backgrounds as well. All departments do, however, have core competency requirements that usually must be fulfilled within the first two years in the program. These requirements vary in terms of the background expected of incoming students. Please consult the departmental Web sites and graduate coordinators for specific information.
Q: Do I have to know my specific research area before I apply?
A: The short answer is no, although you must apply to only one department. There is variation between departments and research groups, though all departments have some flexibility so that students are not committed to one faculty member or research group from the day they arrive. Many departments do, however, request that students indicate a division of interest on their applications and they assign first-year advisors based on these interests. Please check with the department’s graduate coordinator for further information about this question.
Q: Should I mention specific professors with whom I would like to work in my application personal statement?
A: Generally, yes. Your personal statement should detail why you would like to attend Princeton Engineering for graduate school and such discussion should indicate that you are aware of the research opportunities available in your program and have considered faculty members and research groups that are a good match for your background and interests. Often this information is used by departments to ensure that appropriate faculty members have a chance to review relevant applications and to help in making decisions such as first year advisor assignments. However, it is also important to be selective and show thoughtfulness. Simply listing the names of every professor in your program or division will not impress anybody.
Q: What are general examinations?
A: General examinations, or “generals,” vary by department, but are essentially comprehensive examinations intended to assess expertise in a field. They may be written, oral, or a combination of both and may include both undergraduate and graduate material. Depending on your department, they are usually taken in the first or second year in the Ph.D. program. Most graduate schools have similar examinations, though the titles may vary – they can also be referred to as Qualifiers, A-Levels, or Prelims.
Please consult the individual department Web pages for specific details about general exams within each department.
Q: Can I take courses in departments outside of my own?
A: Absolutely! That’s one of the perks of being a Princeton graduate student. With a few rare exceptions, such as visual and performance arts, you are free to take courses in any department in the university and the tuition is still covered. In fact, you are encouraged to take courses in other departments that are related to your research. It is also very common for engineering graduate students to take courses for personal interest, whether for credit or not, in a variety of programs in the humanities, arts, and social and natural sciences.
Q: What is social life like for graduate students at Princeton?
A: Princeton is unusual in that there is a focal point for graduate student residential and social life, the Graduate College, or “GC”. Most single first-year graduate students live in the GC, which is a dormitory-style complex, and there are thus plenty of opportunities for meeting people through living and dining with each other. Some students elect to live in one of the on-campus apartments, yet still enjoy the wealth of social events that the GC provides, such as weekly social hours, movie nights, intramural sports, and activities ranging from knitting and bridge to canoeing and trips to the Jersey shore. Therefore the social life for Princeton graduate students is very communal. There is a small school atmosphere in which most graduate students know most others and it is also a very supportive environment, with much camaraderie among students.
Q: What housing options are available for Princeton graduate students?
A: Most graduate students, especially incoming students, live in university housing, either in dorms at the Graduate College or in apartments in Lawrence, Butler, or Hibben-Magie Communities. Housing for students with families is available in all of the apartment complexes. Assignment to university housing is based on a lottery system, with priority allocated based on year in the program. For more information, please consult the university’s official graduate student housing site.
Q: Where can I learn more about student life at Princeton?
A: A great resource is the Graduate Student Guide, put together by the Graduate College House Committee.
Q: What is the town of Princeton like?
A: Princeton is a college town, which means there are many restaurants, shopping areas, and cultural activities. It is also a very safe area, with a very low crime index. Princeton has a rich history, dating back to colonial times, and is within an hour of both New York City and Philadelphia by train or car. Its proximity to these cities provides many opportunities for entertainment and convenience – for instance, both Newark and Philadelphia International airports are less than an hour away by train. We encourage you to visit Princeton for yourself to find out more.
International Student Issues
Q: How many of your students are international?
A: Approximately 55% of currently enrolled graduate students are international.
Q: If I am a Canadian citizen, do I still need to get a Visa?
A: Yes, you do, but you do not need to go to an American Embassy. Instead, just show your documents when you cross the border (whether it's by plane or otherwise) and a Visa will be issued to you on the spot.
Q: I have another question about Visas. Whom should I contact?
A: The Office of Visa Services may be able to help you.
Is your question not answered here? If so, please email the GEA at