These College Application Essays Got Us Into NYU
ByMary-Catherine Rowe Harvey
The early decision deadline for many colleges (NYU included) passed over Halloweekend. I don’t doubt that many stressed college hopefuls’ weekends were ruined. My younger sister became a victim to such an occurrence and sent me her essay to proofread. Reading her essay inspired me to dig out my own application from what feels like a lifetime ago. I haven’t been able to fathom the strength to reread what I wrote since then. There is something so intensely embarrassing about college essays. The prompts are vague, so applicants tend to transform awkward anecdotes into 500 words of clunky metaphors and overly-wrought emotions. They’re humiliating windows into our souls — essentially the written equivalent of the dream of showing up naked we all had in high school.
I’ve compiled a few of our fellow NYU students’ recollections of their own essay topics — including some from members of NYU Local’s own staff — for your enjoyment. They range from the awesomely awful to downright cringeworthy. (One person refused to share his essay topic, saying, “I would rather not give you more ammunition to mock me with.”)
“I wrote about how I hate being patronized and how it had implications in society as a whole. And how adults were dumb.”
“It was a thinly-veiled metaphor in which I described watching my baby sister climb a rock wall for the first time. I talked about her bravery in fighting toward the unknown, and how I aspired to be like her: strong, goal-oriented, taking risks while the rest of my peers were content to watch from the safety of the ground. After getting accepted to NYU, I immediately lost the essay, partially to prevent her from finding it and reading about how goddamn special she is to me.” — Kelly Weill, Editor-in-Chief
“The relationship between beauty and cheese pizza.” — Cassidy George, Gallatin sophomore
“I wrote about this Cafe in Mumbai (Cafe Madras) that’s so crowded and popular, you sit where they tell you and rarely if ever get to sit with everybody you came with. I talked about how it brings people from all walks of life together, from businessman to laborer. Everyone’s there to eat their amazing South Indian food and that unites everyone who is divided by socioeconomic borders. Oh, and it makes great coffee. I’m not sure where I was trying to go with that…” — Freia Lobo, National
“I wrote about liking Banksy…I recant everything I said in that essay.” — Kyla Bills, Entertainment
“I wrote my Common App my essay on how I got mugged walking to a PSAT prep class in my hometown. Basically I just described the walk, the (brief) fight, and then what the whole thing did to my feelings about music, because I had my earbuds in the entire time as this kid tackled me. So basically I got jumped to a soundtrack. I even remember the specific song that was playing: “I’m Good” by Lil Wayne (Definitely not oblivious to that irony). Anyway, I may have had my face bloodied and arm broken and the kid may have gotten my beat-up iPod Nano, but I got into NYU, so who is the real winner here?” — Peter Slattery, Entertainment
“World Cup 2010: USA vs. England and the importance of not being indifferent.” — Andrew Harvey, Gallatin senior
“I wrote about how I was considering a career in fashion, but didn’t want to be a snobby fashion stereotype like the rest of the girls at NYU. Insulting a school’s student body — an excellent way to win the admissions officers’ hearts!” — Hannah Orenstein, Entertainment Editor
“I wrote about an ex-boyfriend. Yeah. I’m surprised I got in, too.” — Christina Li, Photo Editor
In fairness, my own application concluded with, “I know now I have to authenticate my thoughts and that will inevitably authenticate me as a person.” It pains me to think I thought these words should be strung together in a sentence. The fact that someone read that and was like, “Yes, you should definitely come to this exclusive institution” is shocking to me. I like to think that there is an annual competition between the college’s admission reps as to whose essay was the most cringeworthy read and that applicant (no matter the eligibility) is given a spot at NYU. That might explain how some of us ended up here…
Always dreamed of studying in the Big Apple at New York University? You better be able to put those dreams in words and explain why NYU is the choice for you.
New York University’s application asks students interested in studying at their university for an additional writing supplement. Specifically, the prompt questions why applicants wish to pursue their study at NYU. Here’s the exact prompt:
We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. 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? 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. You may be focused or undecided, or simply open to the options within NYU’s global network; regardless, we want to understand - Why NYU? (400 word maximum)
Don’t be intimidated by the essay prompt. The essay prompt is long with a lot of details and questions, and you only have 400 words to address all those points. Breathe. The essay prompt provides you with these questions and details to help you brainstorm your answer. Many of them overlap and will help you get to the core of why NYU is the best place for you to pursue your interests and studies.
Let’s break them down.
- NYU Campus: New York University offers 3 degree-granting campuses around the world. Applicants can choose to apply specifically to one of them, or rank them by preference. The 3 locations are in New York, Abu Dhabi and Shanghai.
If there is a specific campus you’re applying to, why? What made you decide to choose one over the other two locations? If you prioritized one over the others, what was the motivation behind that?
- NYU School or College: On the New York campus, NYU houses 10 schools and colleges, giving prospective students a broad range undergraduate studies they can focus on. Even if you’re undecided on what major you’d like to study, you must choose a specific school or college to apply to. Here are the options:
- College of Arts and Sciences
- Gallatin School of Individualized Study
- Liberal Studies Core Program
- Meyers College of Nursing
- School of Professional Studies
- Silver School of Social Work
- Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development
- Stern School of Business
- Tandon School of Engineering
- Tisch School of Arts
Choosing which school you want to apply to is akin to choosing which field of study you want to pursue. What experiences do you have that led you to choose your specific school? Why are you interested in your chosen field of study?
- Focused or Undecided: Are you applying with a specific major or a specific field of study? Or are you undecided? You can choose to expand further on why your interests in a major by linking in your extracurriculars and academics.
- NYU’s Global Network: If you are undecided and unsure what you want to study, why is NYU the place to go to help you discover your interests? This will give you the opportunity to dive into what you know about NYU’s student body and campus culture. And, how that aligns with the environment you want to be in.
So, how do you tie all these points together in 400 words? Find a focus. Look at the rest of your application, and think what else are you missing from your application that you really want to emphasize. If you’ve already talked about your interest in your chosen major for your personal statement, then maybe there’s something else you want to share. Whatever that focus is you want to highlight, how does it link to NYU? That’s the connection you want to show in this supplemental essay. Here are some examples:
1. Essay Example 1: Studying Sociology at NYU
Nyudotedu, New York University ‘19
“I can think of no better place to study such phenomena than in New York City and at NYU. There are good reasons why the Sociology program at NYU was ranked one of the best by sociology.com. Not only does NYU offer a solid academic foundation, it also provides a place to conduct fieldwork that not many schools can match - namely, New York City. The department also invites speakers that cover diverse topics to show how sociology is applied to different fields of study. I think the seminars offered at NYU will help me see sociology from many different perspectives. Among the seminars offered at NYU last year, I would have definitely attended “Should We Worry about inequality?” and “Cultural Durability and Social Change.” If given the chance to attend NYU, I would take advantage of such seminars and workshops to add to my classroom knowledge.”
NYU essay excerpt 1 breakdown:
In this excerpt of nyudotedu’s NYU supplemental essay, you can see how she demonstrates her interest in sociology, her knowledge of NYU’s sociology curriculum, and her intellectual curiosity. Her focus here is to further explain her chosen major and why she wants to study computer science at NYU. She not only points to NYU”s curriculum for why she wants to study sociology at NYU, but also to the school’s location—New York City. She makes it clear that there is value for her to be in both NYU and NYC to pursue her studies.
Additionally, she gives specific examples of the type of seminars she’d join, thereby showing her continued interest outside of the classroom and knowledge of what NYU offers. She doesn’t go into detail about the courses, because she doesn’t have to. The admissions officers may know and can find out what those courses entail, and judging by the course titles, it’s another subtle opportunity for them to know she is as a student and person.
Unlock nyudotedu’s NYU profile to read her full application essays and advice!
2. Essay Example 2: Diversity at NYU
Ngozirebecca, New York University ‘19
“I’ve been in love with you for quite some time now. As a young girl, I would admire you from afar, merely a schoolgirl’s crush, staring open-mouthed at your tall, glittering building and vibrant violet banners. As I grew older, my puppy love grew to look past the superficial and I fell hard. I saw the diversity of your student body, a melting pot of talent and intellect, and the care with which you taught them. When I saw you offered cross-school minors, I realized how dedicated you were to comprehensive education, and when I learned the sheer number of student groups available for participation, I realized that you embraced every one of your student’s passions, no one was a “freak,” no one was alone. As I approach graduation and prepare to head out into the world on my own, I finally understand: We fit on another.”
NYU essay excerpt 2 breakdown:
In this excerpt of Ngozirebecca’s “Why NYU” essay, she points out the reasons why NYU is a good fit for her, whilst being completely transparent with her growth and thought process. She demonstrates a sense of maturity in her essay, as she explains how her love and perspective of NYU has changed as she grew up. She’s able to show off her creative writing style, and share what NYU’s academics and student body can offer her. And, most importantly, what she can offer in return.
Unlock Ngozirebecca’s NYU profile to read her full application essays and advice!
3. Essay Example 3: “NYU is creative and determined”
ShaneNYUStern, New York University ‘19
““Are you going to eat all that?” asked another swimmer in the dining hall. “Yup, one bite at a time,” I told him. That’s how I approach things: consistently with determination and creativity. I have been swimming competitively since I was nine. For the past three years, I wake up at 3:50am and swim nine times a week. I am consistent. I am determined and fierce competitor. This past year, I found an outlet for my creativity. I competed as a member of Virginia DECA and won a state award, advancing to the international level and placing in the top 4-percent. NYU is creative and determined. It consistently produces alumni who are amount the best in their field. I hope someday to be one of them.”
NYU essay excerpt 3 breakdown:
ShaneNYUStern to share more about himself and his characteristics in his supplemental essay. In this essay excerpt, he highlights his extracurricular achievements, varsity swimmer and DECA winner, what he learned from them, and how that ties in to his interest in studying at NYU.
Unlock ShaneNYUStern’s NYU profile to read his full application essays and advice!
Hope this was helpful for those of you finishing your NYU applications! Interested in reading these students’ full personal statements in addition to their full responses to the Why NYU supplemental prompt? Unlock all of them in one go with our Why NYU Package!
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About The Author
Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.