Start spreadin’ the NYU (tips)

If you can make it there…well, you know the saying about New York City.  If you're hoping to call the Big Apple home and attend NYU (New York University) during your college years, here are a few tips to help you get there.

1.  Be sure to read the "Application Do's and Don'ts Guide" on the NYU admissions website. 

This might seem like an obvious thing to do, but a lot of applicants ignore this kind of available advice from the admissions officers themselves (and that's a bad idea).  Read the guide carefully.  The admissions committee is being very clear about what they want and don't want you to do.  Pay particular attention to this:

"Read and follow instructions. Please don't decide that you have a 'better' way. We wouldn't ask you to do something in a certain way unless it was important that you do it that way." 

If only every college were so direct.  

2.  Pay close attention to the testing requirements.

NYU's testing requirements are unlike those at most colleges.  You can submit the SAT or ACT, or specific combinations of SAT Subject Tests, or specific AP exam scores.  This can really allow a student to put her best testing foot forward.  So make sure you review the options carefully on the NYU website, and select the test option that puts you in the best testing light.

3. Consider that a desire to be "in the city" is more of a pre-requisite than it is a reason to apply.

In their essays to NYU, a lot of students write about a desire to go to college in New York City.  But a desire to be in New York should pretty much be a given if you do in fact want to go to college at NYU.   We're mentioning this here because NYU, like all selective colleges, is looking for evidence of a thoughtful college search and a potential match with their student community.  So don't just decide that New York seems exciting and stop there.  Really think about why life as a college student in NYC would really enhance your college experience, and what you would do to make the most of that opportunity.

4. Make the most of the personal statement essays.

NYU's Common Application supplement has four required essays.  Well, it's actually three required essays and one "haiku, limerick or short poem that best describes you."  Successful applicants won't lament the requirement to write so many essays, and they won't hide behind answers that are contrived to impress.  They'll have fun writing the haiku, imagining the movie being made in 2050 about their life and selecting a famous New Yorker to spend a day with.  They'll use those opportunities to reveal their personalities.  They'll be honest enough to show that they're just the type of self-aware, introspective, sometimes wry, sometimes sassy, sometimes self deprecating students that seem to choose (and thrive at) NYU.   

Here are some prompt-specific tips:

If you had the opportunity to spend one day in New York City with a famous New Yorker, who would it be and what would you do? (Your New Yorker can be anyone -past or present, fictional or nonfictional – who is commonly associated with New York City; they do not necessarily have to have been born and raised in New York.)

This is one of those prompts that can expose kids who haven’t given serious consideration to the school.  If you’ve really thought about what it would be like to live in New York City, you’ll have some idea about how you want to spend your days, and you probably have paid attention to who some famous New Yorkers are.  You've thought about the city and what you'd like to do there.  So this opportunity to spend a day with a famous New Yorker would probably be an exciting one.  

As with all essay questions, this should be about you, not about New York or the famous person.  The answer should reveal something about yourself and your personality.

For example, the Beatles fanatic could talk about John Lennon (who specifically left England to live in New York City) and what a fantastic day it could be just visiting local guitar shops, hanging out in The Village drinking coffee and talking music with him, how you could finally ask him the truth about the lyric in Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and find out whether or not he and Paul still liked each other. 

That answer reveals something about the writer.  It doesn’t just regurgitate information about New York City that the reader already knows.

In the year 2050, a movie is being made of your life. Please tell us the name of your movie and briefly summarize the story line.

This question and the limerick one after it are good examples of essay questions reflecting the personality of the school and the student body.  Students at NYU would have fun with a question like this if you posed it to them, even if they weren’t studying anything to do with film.  It’s just that kind of environment where people enjoy creativity and self-expression.  So NYU asks it in part to help identify students who embrace that culture. 

It doesn’t matter what the title or the story line is as long as you inject your own personality into it and help the reader get to know something about you.

Write a haiku, limerick, or short (eight lines or less) poem that best represents you.

Again, true NYU-ers will have a field day with this.  They won’t get frustrated with having to write “some stupid poem.”  They’ll want to do it.  They’ll wish that other college applications allowed them to do it.  It’s those students who are mostly likely to accept an offer of admission from NYU, and who are most likely to thrive once they get there. 

So let loose with this one.  Don’t plod along trying to create something impressive.  Be playful, serious, introspective—whatever you think represents you.    

Please tell us what led you to select your anticipated academic program and/or NYU school/college, and what interests you most about your intended discipline.

In spite of the fact that college is first and foremost, well, school, a lot of students give surprisingly little thought to questions like this.  NYU wants to know that you're not just looking forward to Central Park in fall and all that great New York pizza, but that you're also excited about the academic journey you're about to take. 

You've only got 500 characters (about one paragraph) to work with here.  So you're going to need to make your points clearly and forcefully.  And you'll need to do so in a way that focuses on you more than it does NYU.  That's how you distinguish yourself in a question like this, by writing something nobody else could write.

For example, any potential business major could write,

"Business has always interested me.  I find the combination of so many elements, from marketing to accounting to sales, fascinating.  NYU has an excellent reputation, and New York City will also provide me many opportunities to find internships where I can gain valuable experience." 

First of all, what teenager that you know talks like that?  Secondly, he just wrote the same essay that a lot of other NYU business major hopefuls will write.  And worst of all, he just told the admissions committee things about NYU that they already know.

Let them hear your academic excitement.  Show NYU that you've given appropriate thought to the major you’ve selected and why you want to pursue it.  What if this applicant above turned it around and said,

“I learned something working at my dad’s mortgage company–business isn't always fun.  I saw how much my dad worried especially as the economy started to go south.  It wasn't easy for him.  But I also saw how engaged he was in his work.  He loves what he does because it's hard, not in spite of it.  I'm a lot like my father.  I’m applying as a business major not because it seems fun, but because I want to get up in the morning and feel just as excited to go to class as I did to go to my job.”

Now we’ve gotten to know something about him, something we wouldn’t have known from the rest of his application.  And there’s an energy there, something that makes us believe he’s not just checking the “business” box because he doesn’t know what else to check. 

It takes a certain kind of student to get in, to attend, and to ultimately succeed at NYU.  And their application is designed to give you the opportunity to show that you’re one of them.  The best matched NYU students are independent, thoughtful and expressive.  They would never try to hide those qualities.  So bring them out here in your essay responses, and never hide behind language where you’re just trying to impress.

Note:  Before you follow our tips, we recommend you read our "How to" guide here: Download PreviewHowToUse30Guides

And if you have other questions about essays, applications, interviews or financial aid, visit our online store.  We’ve got books, videos and downloadable guides to help you.  Or you could speak with one of our online college counselors.

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