How To Get Into NYU

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New York University is the largest private university in the country. The primary NYU campus is in New York City, and it also has degree-granting campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai. With an additional 12 study away sites throughout the world and 138 countries represented in the first-year class, NYU is a leader in global education.

NYU is a highly competitive university, and preparation is key. In this guide, we’ll share information and advice that will help you strengthen your application and increase your chances of acceptance. Let’s dive in!

About NYU

Founded in 1831, New York University has since educated over half a million students. Nearly thirty thousand undergraduates study at NYU each year. One amazing thing about NYU is that they employ enough faculty to truly support the number of students that they accept each year. At the NYC campus, the student-faculty ratio is nine to one.

The College of Arts and Science is NYU’s original school and still the “academic heart of New York University”. Most undergraduates at The College of Arts and Science spend their first two years exploring a wide variety of subjects before settling on a major. There are also dozens of minors available, including cross-school minors that allow students to study with NYU’s professional schools.  

NYU prides itself in being a truly international university and offers Study Away opportunities all over the world, including these locations:

  • Abu Dhabi
  • Accra
  • Berlin
  • Buenos Aires
  • Florence
  • London
  • Los Angeles
  • Madrid
  • New York
  • Paris
  • Prague
  • Shanghai
  • Sydney
  • Tel Aviv

At NYU, freshmen have the opportunity to spend their first year of college abroad. Liberal Studies first year students can choose to study in Florence, London, Madrid, or Washington DC. There are also Summer Study Away opportunities in additional locations such as Athens, Dublin, Cape Town, and Rio de Janeiro.

Is it Hard to Get into NYU?

New York University is highly competitive, and you’ll need an excellent academic record to be admitted. 

Acceptance rates have declined drastically over the past few years. Prior to 2020, over 30% of students who applied each year were accepted. Over one hundred thousand students applied to be part of NYU’s Class of 2023, and 12.8% of those students were accepted. 

The acceptance rate for the Class of 2026 was 12.2%. 

GPA and Test Scores

NYU is test optional at the moment, but may or may not be during its next admissions cycle. Standardized test scores are still considered, and they’re one key way that you can demonstrate academic aptitude. If you score within or above the middle 50% range for students who have been admitted to NYU, you should definitely submit your score. 

The middle 50% range SAT scores for students accepted to NYU was 1350 to 1530. 

The middle 50% range ACT scores for students accepted to NYU was 31 to 35.

These ranges are much more forgiving than we see at some other schools with single-digit acceptance rates. With proper planning, you should be able to score higher than average and fortify your application. We’ll cover this in greater detail below. 

You’ll also need close to straight A’s to be admitted to NYU. The average unweighted GPA for admitted freshman was 3.7. Most of these students were in the top ten percent of their graduating class. 

So, you’ll need an excellent academic record and should also submit strong test scores. But what else does it take to get into NYU? Read on.

What is NYU Looking For?

An excellent academic record is key to getting into NYU, but GPA and test scores on their own won’t be enough. NYU will also consider your character, your extracurricular pursuits, and your overall involvement in the world around you.

Each year, New York University pulls together a diverse class of students who are “interested in exploring the world”. International students and study abroad opportunities are a huge part of NYU culture. You don’t necessarily have to be well traveled, but being interested in the wider world is a must. Show them that you have an interest in languages and cultures beyond what’s familiar to you.

NYU requires at least one letter of recommendation, and you can submit up to three. Unlike most schools, NYU does not require that these letters be from academic teachers. They can be from any “authority figure”, such as a coach, music teacher, volunteer supervisor, or boss. Choose people who can speak to multiple aspects of your intelligence, character, and talent.

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What Should You Do in High School?

So, how can you live a life that will allow for a strong application? Here are some things that you can do in high school to show NYU that you would be a great addition to their next class. 

Excel in Challenging Classes

If you want to go to NYU, you’ll need to show them that you can handle the most difficult coursework available at your high school. We recommend that you take the most challenging possible course load that you can manage while still earning all or mostly A’s. We have more advice on keeping your grades up here.

NYU recommends the following:

  • English/Writing – 4 years
  • History/Social Studies – 3 to 4 years
  • Mathematics – 3 to 4 years
  • Laboratory Sciences – 3 to 4 years
  • Foreign Language – 3 to 4 years

Students are expected to take demanding coursework in these subjects for all four years if that’s possible at their high school. Students planning to apply to Tandon School of Engineering should study Physics, Chemistry, and Calculus in high school. Applicants to the Stern School of Business should study Calculus, or “at the very least” Precalculus. 

Take as many college-level courses as possible. Not only will these help to prepare you for college and add to your application, but NYU will give you up to 32 credits for classes taken prior to your freshman year. You’ll need a 4 or a 5 on AP exams and a B grade or better in college courses taken while in high school. 

Earn High Test Scores

Standardized tests aren’t required at NYU this year, but they are an opportunity to demonstrate your academic ability. It would be wise to take both the SAT and ACT exams as early as possible so that you can find out which one suits you best and how much additional preparation you’ll need to achieve your target score.

Make sure you have time to test and then study and test again if need be to achieve your desired score. Giving yourself plenty of time to familiarize yourself with these exams and try out different testing strategies will help you to score as high as possible. 

We have lots of tips on how to study for standardized tests right here.

Pursue Your Passions

Pursuing things that you’re truly passionate about will give you something to write about in your college essays. It will give you your hook, something to distinguish you from the other applicants and make you more memorable. 

So seek out new opportunities. Get out of your comfort zone and find what lights you up. And then dive deep. It’s better to pursue a small number of passions wholeheartedly than to occasionally clock in on a long list of extracurriculars. You want to be able to demonstrate community involvement, intellectual vitality, and a strong interest in exploring the world. 

Check out this article for ideas on extracurriculars to explore. If you’re not sure where to start, ask yourself what you can do to better the lives of those around you. 

Serve Your Community

Community service activities are an excellent way to show prospective colleges that you work well with others and would be a valuable addition to any community. Don’t stretch yourself too thin by dabbling in dozens of different projects. Do find something that you truly care about and can contribute to in a meaningful way.

NYU wants to know what you have to contribute to their community, and it’s not enough to tell them what you’ll do once you get there. You have to establish a history of community service now – not necessarily through established organizations (though that can be good too), but in real and meaningful ways that you can write about when it comes time to write those college essays. NYU only has one supplemental prompt, but you’ll have the opportunity to write about your community service experience in the Common App prompts.

Remember that community service can look different for everyone. Steady jobs or familial responsibilities are just as valid as community service projects. The important thing is that you’re interested and involved in the world around you in a positive way. 

Build Relationships with Your Teachers

NYU requires one letter of recommendation and allows up to three. They don’t have to be from teachers, but ideally your letter(s) of recommendation will be from people who can speak to both your academic abilities and your character.

In order to receive truly valuable letters of recommendation, your teachers need to know you as a person. Maybe your AP Psychology teacher led a summer travel experience, or your English teacher runs a local charity that you’ve given your time to. Choose people who know you well.

Application Process and Checklist

Your application to NYU will include:

  • Common Application (including essays)
  • Standardized test scores (optional)
  • A Self Reported Academic Record
  • At least one (and up to three) letter(s) of recommendation 
  • An audition or portfolio for specific artistic program applicants to the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and Tisch School of the Arts
  • English language testing if you have not completed at least 3 years of study where English is the sole language of instruction at the time of application submission and English is not your native language
  • Records of all college work that you have received academic credit for
  • The Common Application Mid Year Report with updated academic record 

If you’re applying to a program that requires an audition or portfolio, NYU recommends that you submit your application one month ahead of the deadline. Steinhardt School of Culture requires an audition or portfolio for all Music programs and a portfolio for Studio Art. Tisch School of the Arts requires an audition or portfolio for applicants to all programs. 

NYU Supplement Question

For years, NYU’s supplemental question on the Common App was a simple “Why NYU?” 

They changed things up this year, inviting students to tell them more about themselves. This question is optional, and students who choose not to answer it will not be penalized. 

NYU was founded on the belief that a student’s identity should not dictate the ability for them to access higher education. That sense of opportunity for all students, of all backgrounds, remains a part of who we are today and a critical part of what makes us a world class university. Our community embraces diversity, in all its forms, as a cornerstone of the NYU experience.

We would like to better understand how your experiences would help us to shape and grow our diverse community. Please respond in 250 words or less.

You don’t have much room here, so don’t try to include all the many things that make you unique. Choose one important aspect of your identity that sets you apart from most of the students applying to NYU. Use vivid, memorable examples that illustrate where you come from, what you value, and who you are today. 

General Essay Tips

Essays are your chance to distinguish yourself from a stack of similar candidates. Because NYU doesn’t offer a long list of supplemental essays, your responses to the Common App essay prompts are particularly important. 

Here are some more tips to write the best possible essays for your college applications:

  • Stick to the topic.
    Permitted word counts are low, so there’s no time to waste. Get to the point!
  • Include specific details.
    You’ll have to cut extraneous words, but that doesn’t mean your answer should be boring. Instead of telling them what you’re interested in or what matters to you, illustrate those things with vivid examples to make sure your application stands out.
  • Write in your genuine voice.
    Your essays shouldn’t be riddled with errors, but they shouldn’t be stiff and formal either. These short responses are your best chance to make an impression and showcase what makes you unique. Let your personality and voice shine through. 
  • Show your values. 

Focus on values that you genuinely believe in and share with NYU. Don’t just tell them what matters to you; provide examples of how you live and embody those values.

  • Be reflective.
    Go deep on these essays to demonstrate a high level of critical thinking and self-awareness. Your response should go beyond a basic answer and also serve to explain why each topic is important to you and how you’ve grown as a person.
  • Edit carefully and double check for errors.
    First you’ll want to edit for content, ideally getting outside perspectives from people you trust to make sure that your answers are conveying what you want them to. Once you’re satisfied with the content, you need to proofread multiple times to make sure each response has zero errors. Have other people proofread your essays as well to make sure you haven’t missed any mistakes.

Should You Apply Early to NYU?

New York University’s Early Decision notification plan is binding, but there is a bit of wiggle room. Students who apply for early decision admission and are admitted as an early decision applicant are expected to withdraw applications from other schools and enroll at NYU, but students who are not awarded a financial aid package that meets their needs may request to be released from the agreement. Additionally, students who were not admitted to their first choice of school or college are not required to enroll. 

Here are NYU’s deadlines by notification plan:

Notification Plan Application Deadline Decision

Early Decision I November 1 December 15

Early Decision II January 1 February 15

Regular Decision January 5 April 1

NYU’s Early Decision acceptance rate is always significantly higher than the overall acceptance rate! In recent years, nearly one third of students who apply Early Decision have been accepted. If trends continue, your chances could be one in four for Early Decision as opposed to one in ten for Regular Decision. 

If NYU is your first choice, it would be wise to apply Early Decision. 

Final Thoughts: How to Get into NYU

New York University is highly competitive and focused on creating a diverse and vibrant first year class. If you maintain an unweighted GPA that’s close to 4.0 and score well on standardized tests, you’re already halfway there. To stand out and be admitted to NYU, you’ll also have to show them that you share their values and that you’re actively interested in other cultures and diverse experiences. 

If you’re certain that you want to study at NYU, applying Early Decision will drastically increase your chance of acceptance. We wish you the best of luck. And if you have any questions, we’re here to help. 

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