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Why NYU? The Complete Guide to Answering the NYU Supplemental Essay.

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After much consideration, you’ve decided to apply to NYU. Why NYU? You don’t know where to start. This post will help take you from start to finish.

This past application cycle proved to be historic and selective. While the school admitted the largest number of international students as well as the largest percentage of African-American and Latino students in 16 years, the NYU acceptance rate dropped to 28%, its lowest acceptance rate since 2001.

NYU (short for New York University) is a private university located in the heart of New York City, with satellite campuses found in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai.

Offering over 230 areas of study and 2,700 courses across 17 schools, NYU ensures that there’s something for every student.

While NYU may not be impossibly difficult to get into, it’s become more selective.

This means you’ll need to spend some extra care and attention on your application, especially on the supplemental essay “Why NYU?”

NYU Essay Requirements

Every freshman applying to NYU will have to write the standard Common App essay. Otherwise known as your personal statement, we created an entire Common App guide so you can write the best essay.

When you’re applying to NYU, you’ll need to write one supplemental essay.

  • The supplemental essay has a 400-word limit and requires that you express your interest in NYU as artfully and concisely as possible.

This guide will walk you through the question and tips for crafting your essay to help you put your best foot forward!

So, let’s get to it: Why NYU?

Step 1: Read the question and break it down.

This is an extremely important step! A question like this one, with several parts, requires that you understand and address the entire question in your 400-word response.

Let’s walk through the question breakdown together.

“We would like to know more about your interest in NYU”

Translation: Why do you want to attend NYU? You have thousands of other choices in schools, and you used one of your choices on NYU. Why?

“We are particularly interested in knowing what motivated you to apply to NYU and more specifically, why you have applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and/or area of study.”

This is a meaty one, so let’s break it down into two parts.

“We are particularly interested in knowing what motivated you to apply to NYU…”

Translation: We want to know more about you as an individual.

  • What is it about you that makes you think NYU is a good choice?
  • Are you a good fit for NYU? If yes, tell us why

“We are particularly interested in knowing….why you have applied or expressed interested in a particular campus, school, college, program and/or area of study.”

Translation: Why are you interested in what you’re interested in, and why did you apply to the school that has your chosen major?

For example, if you’re interested in acting, tell us why you’re interested in acting and why you’re applying to the Tisch School of the Arts.

“If you have applied to more than one, please tell us why you are interested in each of the campuses, schools, colleges or programs to which you have applied”

Translation: If you have more than one interest and want to pursue more than one major or degree, please tell us why and help us to make sense of your interests.

For example, if you want to study Acting (Tisch School of the Arts) and Computer Engineering (Tandon School of Engineering), we want to know how your interests fit together and why you want to do both.

“You may be focused or undecided, or simply open to the options within NYU’s global network; regardless, we want to understand – Why NYU?”

Translation: You understand that NYU has a global network, right? Tell us why you want to come to our school.

If you are unsure of what exactly you want to study, rejoice!

NYU is saying that you don’t need to have your major all figured out. You just need to have a clearly articulated interest in NYU.

Think about the issues and the questions that interest you.

  • Maybe you wonder about the way our dress (fashion) sustains or challenges the way we see world culture (anthropology)?
  • Consider, then, how NYU could help you explore anthropological questions about fashion.

Click deeply into NYU’s website to find an avenue – a school, a program, or even a class – that will help you pursue this interest. You don’t need to commit to a career, or even a major, but you do need a good sense of the questions that guide you. Even if you’re uncertain, lean into a vision for your future.

Your supplemental essay isn’t binding, so you can operate in hypotheticals.

  • If you’re interested in economics, imagine yourself as a business student.
  • What type of business student would you be?
  • Would you care about sustainability?
  • Would you have other social or ethical concerns?
  • What kind of career would this prepare you for?

And, in case you didn’t notice, they highlighted that they have a “global network.” This is important information, and the next step will tell you why.

Step 2: Research NYU’s values and special traits.

If you’ve decided to apply to this school, then you’ve likely already done your homework. Just in case you haven’t, study their website.

From studying the website, you can gain a clear sense of the school’s values, what they look for in an applicant, and if you share similar values.

Even if you’re uncertain, pretend that you’ve “fallen in love with the school,” and focus on the particulars of your new infatuation. To extend the metaphor, the application process is a kind of courting in which you make the first move.

  • If you’re interested in digital media, research programs like the Brooklyn Experimental Media Center.
  • Describe how its resources will convert your interests into an abiding passion or a career orientation.
  • A good rule of thumb for “Why This College” essays is that you should have several names (in capital letters) of particular programs at the university.

This research will help you immensely in answering the “Why NYU?” question.

If they have blogs and/or social media accounts, look through those to get a feel for the school. Bonus points if you are able to visit, because an on-campus visit (especially during a regular weekend when they’re not trying to impress you) is the best way to determine what a campus feels like, what their culture is like and what they truly value.

Here’s a great way to research NYU’s values and traits:

  • NYU has an online magazine called NYU Q for prospective students. You can find the online magazine by clicking here. NYU Q showcases the interesting people, places, and things that make NYU special.
  • A quick look through the NYU Q site illustrates that NYU as a campus deeply values building a global community with people from diverse backgrounds, geographic locations, academic interests, and life experiences.
  • You can find out that NYU boasts of having a higher number of international students than any other campus (their international student population is 20%). They also have three international campuses and a robust study abroad program.

Additionally, because the question asks you specifically, “Why have you applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program and/or area of study,” you owe it to yourself to become familiar with the culture of the particular school or college to which you’re applying, and even the department of the major you’re interested in studying.

It’s important to ensure you aren’t picking NYU for generic traits. Generic traits are dangerous to mention in your essay because they can be applied to any college campus.

Here’s a useful checklist to make sure you are highlighting the special elements of NYU:

  1. Don’t say NYU is the “perfect” place for you. Perfection is impossible to achieve, and the admissions officers are well aware.
  2. Instead, pick five elements of NYU (departments, professors, events, on-campus groups) that appeal to you. Picking real names and titles forces you to perform research and stay specific.
  3. Your “Why NYU?” essay should not be a retelling of your Common App essay. Use this opportunity to pair NYU with your values and personality (covered later in this piece).
  4. Make sure your essay couldn’t be true of any other school. This demands that you do your research and dive deep into the school’s website.
  5. Make sure you never write about how you want to attend school in New York City. There are dozens of universities both in and near NYC, so this reason is cliche and tiresome.

Still having trouble? Ask yourself these questions to help you find specific elements of NYU that you find appealing:

  • What are classes I’d like to take?
  • What are some questions I’d like to ask in these classes?
  • Name some on-campus groups and activities that I’d like to participate in.
  • What are NYU-sponsored events I’d like to attend?
  • Which academic department at NYU do you want to study in? And what are the department’s noteworthy achievements?
  • What is my ideal major or double major at NYU?

The admissions officers at NYU want to see that you are well-informed about what they are offering, and that you’ve thought hard enough about whether or not you would be a good fit.

You want to mention, for example, that you’re interested in the Tisch School of the Arts. You also want to go a step further and describe how you’re excited, perhaps, about their internship opportunities and classes on animation.

You can’t determine if you’re a good fit if you haven’t done your research.

Under the Academics tab is a full listing of NYU’s academic programs, schools and colleges, and other academic offerings. Make sure you click through to find your particular school and major.

Step 3: Free-write

The worst thing you can do as you’re writing your response is to agonize over every single word at the beginning of the process.

  1. Instead, just start writing.
  2. For each question they ask, write down whatever comes to mind and don’t hold back.
  3. Use our translation to each question to simplify what you should be writing about.

It’s through answering these questions in an unrestricted flow that patterns can emerge.

Be sure to write down any memories that come up  – even the bad ones! The refining will come later, but for now, put all the words you can on paper.

They key here is to organize your thoughts. This task seems farcical, but it’s important to perform because “Why NYU?” is such a broad question that countless thoughts will fly through your mind at first read.

  • Find stories that embody your personality.
  • Record stories that highlight your sense of grit.
  • Write stories that personify your wonder and curiosity.

Perform this task three times. You want at least three stories. The more stories, the more options you have.

Step 4: Brainstorming Powerful Essay Ideas

Once again, you never want to write about how much you want to live in New York City. There are plenty of schools that share NYU’s geographic location. Furthermore, there are thousands of students who want to live in a city as diverse, resource-rich, and historic as New York City.

Your goal is to set yourself apart from the rest of the applicants. Your story will help you do this.

Dig deeper.

Write down what you care about. What…

  • …makes you happy?
  • …makes you angry?
  • …bores you to death?
  • …are you inspired by?

Don’t hold back here either. Be completely honest with yourself.

In the college admissions process, you may be able to lie to yourself, but it’s hard to lie to the college admissions committee. It’s not worth the risk.

Be honest about what you care about, and it will shine through in your essay. Once you’ve come up with your list, look through your research from Step 2. What does NYU care about? Perhaps, you’ve learned that they care about the arts, curiosity, intercultural exchange, and open-mindedness.

Do you…

  • … care about the arts? Are you curious?
  • …enjoy learning from and learning with people from cultural backgrounds different from yours?
  • …consider yourself to be open-minded?

Why, or why not? Once again, the key here is to be honest.

Dig deeper. Explore your values, memories, interests, and hobbies.

  • Is there a setback you’ve learned from? Is there a challenge burned into your memory?
  • What issues are you passionate about?
  • What are you endlessly curious about? Do you love reading about a particular subject?
  • What talents do you want to offer the world? Is there a specific reason you want to share your gift with the world?
  • What drives you? Deep down, is there something that makes your blood flow and brain click?
  • Are there special items in your house that hold sentimental value to you?

All told, think about anecdotes: What stories from your life have inspired your interests and passions. Think about lessons learned, personal themes, and the challenges and setbacks that made you who you are today.

Students often say that their anecdotes aren’t interesting. That’s fine!

What matters is how you explain them within the context of your experiences. That means you should be honest and specific about your experiences. Authenticity goes a long way for the Why NYU essay.

Step 5: Picking an Effective Essay Premise

Look over your free-write responses, and pick up particularly interesting memories that are related to your values and tell a story.

Almost everyone likes a good story.

  • Review your free-writing document. Find memories that highlight an important aspect of your personality or values.
  • Find a common thread between each of your stories and one or two values per story.
  • Match one of NYU’s values or special traits with each story.
  • Structure your essay around these three parts.

College admissions officers have to read hundreds of applications a day, and the ones that stand out are the ones written in the form of a good story.

The good news is that you don’t have to be J. K. Rowling or John Green. The best stories are authentic (that means they are true to who you are), descriptive (you help the reader experience your experience with their own senses), and clear (the reader understands exactly what you’re trying to say).

Talk about your experience, how that relates to your values and NYU’s values, and, most importantly, how your experience has impacted your choice of NYU as a potential college.

It’s likely your “Why NYU?” essay will flow as such:

  1. This is a story that highlights an important aspect of who I am.
  2. This value connects to the story.
  3. It just so happens this value connects with NYU’s special value.
  4. And that’s why I’m a great fit.

Remember the million-dollar question: Why NYU?

And then rethink the question: Why am I a good fit for NYU?

Why NYU Essay Example

Here’s an excellent outline of a Why NYU essay. Before reading the outline, keep in mind that you have many options for crafting this essay.

What counts is telling an effective story.

  • As such, one way to tell an effective story is to start your essay with an anecdote.

Your anecdote can begin with one of the following:

  • A quote from someone that helps you preface your story
  • Cold hook: Something almost random that captures the reader’s attention
  • Bold statement: A statement that your story will support with details
  • Obvious statement: A line that makes the reader say, “Yes, of course. Why would you say something that obvious?” This is the segue to the next part of your essay.

Once you add your anecdote, frame it with details immediately. You have 400 words to work with, so get right into your essay. Your anecdote should comprise 10-15% of your essay.

Once you get into your essay, explain the actions you took to pursue an interest. This should comprise 30-40% of your essay.

  • What are you interested in?
  • Describe the action steps you took to further your passion and take initiative.

Then, spend the rest of your essay discussing the resources at NYU that will help you accomplish your goals and sharpen your skill set. You can mention examples of the following:

  • Grants
  • Fellowships
  • Projects
  • Internships
  • Professors and their classes
  • On-campus groups
  • Study-abroad programs
  • New academic initiatives
  • Externships

Without further delay, here’s what a good Why NYU essay would look like:

  1. You grew up in a lower-income household and can recall a conversation with your sibling about how your family couldn’t afford health insurance.
  2. Disappointed in our country’s health care options, you were inspired to volunteer in clinics, where you learned more about bloat and inefficient business processes within insurance companies. This adds to costs for would-be consumers like your family.
  3. You shadowed a doctor during your junior year in high school to learn about technologies that could be provided at scale for low-income citizens.
  4. This is why you want to study at NYU Stern: to engage in NYU-sponsored internships both in the city and abroad that will help you learn more about healthcare technology at scale.
  5. You then want to establish a startup with the help of a specific professor, who will advise you with raising capital, hiring talent, and pivoting when necessary.

Step 6: Get Critiques & Make Revisions

An English teacher, your favorite teacher (which may or may not be your English teacher), and a friend who is always honest are great choices for additional readers.

A great English teacher knows the mechanics of the English language very well and will be honest with you about how your essay looks and sounds.

Bad punctuation is a death knell, and awkward words and phrases could move your essay from the “wow we’ve got to take him/her” pile to the “snooze/meh” pile.

Pick an English teacher with whom you have a good/neutral relationship, and approach them with the utmost respect and humility.

Remember, they don’t have to read your essay. They’re doing you a favor. Ask them to mark it up for you, if they have time, and to give their honest thoughts and opinions. If they really like you, they may do this several times. After the process is said and done, be sure to send them a thank you card.

Your favorite teacher may not be your English teacher, but they’re just as valuable because they usually have a really good sense of your likes, dislikes, as well as your authenticity. In other words, they can tell if you’re lying or trying to be something you’re not.

You need someone who knows you well and can tell you if you’re being honest in your essay. Your favorite teacher may also be able to remind you of things about yourself that you’ve forgotten. Let’s face it, when you’re taking 6-8 classes a quarter among all of your other responsibilities, you might lose a memory or two.

A friend who is always honest with you is infinitely better than a friend who just wants you to be happy/flattered.

Pick a friend who isn’t afraid to tell you that your writing is terrible, or that you could have worded things a little better. You need as much constructive criticism as possible while crafting a college essay that is authentic and compelling.

Step 7: Final read-throughs

If possible, do your final readings at least 24-48 hours after your last revision, in order to give your brain a break.

Make sure to read your essays out loud, just in case you have a typo in there that you and your other readers missed.

Two final read-throughs should be sufficient for assurance sake, but any more than that, and you could end up making yourself a bit anxious.

Trust yourself and trust the process. When you’re done, let go and submit.

Conclusion: Why NYU?

You did it! You made it through all 7 steps.

By now, you understand the importance of breaking down the essay questions and putting them in your own words, researching the school, reflecting on your own values, and finding places of commonality between your values and the school’s.

In order to get to your story, you need to let yourself write without restriction. In addition, you know the importance of crafting a coherent narrative and having several people read through your work.

Hopefully, you have written a superb essay in response to NYU’s question.

Remember that you are more than enough, and all the support you need is out there if you would look for it.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. We wish you all the best on your applications!

And if you’re interested in gaining an edge in college admissions, check out our college essay boot camp.