How I Got Into Princeton

About this Series

In our “How I got Into” series, we share the stories of successful applicants to Princeton and other great colleges.

Our profiles go beyond a simple list of academic and extracurricular achievements. We also delve into the “how” and the qualities that successful applicants exhibit.

We provide a rare look into what drives these students, how they’ve overcome their challenges, how they’ve been shaped by significant events in their lives, how they deal with the pressure to succeed, and much more.

We regularly add new profiles, so please bookmark this page and come back later!

Our Stories

1) Erica’s Story:

“People telling me that I was worthless only drove me to study more, to work harder, to prove them wrong.”

2) Maia’s Story:

“It wasn’t until junior and senior year when I started questioning things, reaching out to people, and making my own priorities.”

Profile Photo Alonso 3) Alonso’s Story:

“Coming from a unique background with two very different parents (my American mother is a Harvard graduate, while my Costa Rican father never graduated High School), allowed me to see both of their worlds, while not fitting completely in either.”

4) Justin’s Story:

“What was originally just me wanting to wear a military uniform for fun became an intense hands-on leadership experience.”

5) Amanda’s Story:

“I spent around 2 hours a day reading and watching the news, focusing on political news, and I spent 6 hours a week on Science Olympiad ”

6) Shanaz’s Story:

“Even when I was offered more challenging courses, I made sure to continue pursuing my electives, such as orchestra, Spanish, and yoga”

7) Jim’s Story:

“Imagining myself succeeding gave me energy and drive, and I channeled this into my work.”

8) Rachel’s Story:

“In high school, I began a long journey of overcoming performance anxiety and negative internal dialogue that allowed me to thrive during my hardest academic years.”

9) John’s Story:

“I enjoy pushing myself and trying to win, so I simply followed my passions and interests.”

10) Jonah’s Story:

“I struggled to teach myself many things, but, as a result, I eventually understood them very well.”

11) Laura’s Story:

“I have always loved serving others and encouraging them to live their best lives possible, which has been a driving force behind my successes.”

12) Jasmine’s Story:

“I think my interests were inherently balanced – I used different parts of my brain for everything and that really helped.”

13) Alyssa’s Story:

“I felt responsible for every success and every failure.”

14) Aja’s Story:

“Being surrounded by other motivated, intellectual students makes me want to work harder.”

Emma McMahon 15) Elizabeth’s Story:

“I genuinely like learning because I was raised to value intelligence and hard work. I also thrive in competitive learning environments.”

16) Maya’s Story:

I wanted mostly to do my best. My parents instilled in me this desire to give 110%. If I wasn’t trying my best, I was being apathetic and wasting their hard work, my opportunities, and my abilities.”

17) Martin’s Story:

I always strive to make people proud of me.”

18) Natalia’s Story:

The pressure to succeed was internal.”

19) Devon’s Story:

“I dedicated a lot of time to being able to be competitive and successful.”

Profile - Harry 20) Harry’s Story

If I want to pursue something, I am very good at figuring out what the best approach is and directing my energy into that approach.”

In addition to the in-depth profiles above, we’ve also compiled the college essays that helped these same students get into their dream schools.

Check out their essays here – 11 College Essays That Worked – for the most comprehensive look at the country’s most successful applicants.


Here’s what we’re NOT doing with this series:

  • We are NOT prescribing an over-engineered approach to college admissions
  • We are NOT presenting a blueprint for how you should get into college
  • We are NOT suggesting that you must gain admissions to a selective school to be successful (you most certainly do not)

Here’s what we ARE doing:

  • We are presenting data and sharing stories
  • We are providing context that you usually don’t see to highlight that we are more than just our grades and GPA
  • Our ultimate goal is to uncover the values and personal qualities that drive successful applicants

Whether you are considering selective colleges or not, it is our unwavering belief that our values and personal qualities (and luck) are the major contributors to success.


Check out our first profile and learn about Erica’s journey.

At PrepMaven, our mission is not only to help your child increase their test scores and get into a great college but also to put them on the right track for long-term personal and professional success.

Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg Wong and Kevin Wong

Greg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.