Writing the Why NYU Essay for 2020-21

HomeSchool Supplements

New York University is a highly selective private research university based in Manhattan but with campuses and “study away” sites around the world.

The required “Why NYU” essay lets you show admissions readers how you and NYU are an ideal fit for each other. It helps to do lots of research into specific opportunities that NYU offers so that you can stand out in your “Why NYU” essay from the throngs of prospective students who just want to study in New York City!

Let’s examine the prompt for this NYU supplement.

We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. What motivated you to apply to NYU? Why have you 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 also tell us why you are interested in these additional areas of study or campuses. We want to understand - Why NYU? (400 word maximum)

There are really two basic prompts embedded here: “Why NYU” and “Why your major.” So how do you address both questions?

It largely depends on how focused you are in your college plans.

If you’re applying to, say, NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering or the Tisch School of the Arts (or both!), you likely have a somewhat defined college plan and some idea of your future goals, though you still may not know your exact major. Or you may have decided on your major back in the fifth grade and spent recesses networking for top jobs in your field! In either case, you’ll want to structure your essay around this primary interest. Identify specific classes, faculty, opportunities, student organizations, and other resources that will allow you to pursue this interest and attain your post-college goals.

If you don’t know what you want to focus on, delve into the NYU majors and programs, particularly within their largest undergraduate college, the College of Arts & Sciences, and see what appeals to you based on your academic interests. In this case, structure your essay around how NYU’s breadth of offerings will help you explore and connect your diverse interests. You’ll still want to mention plenty of NYU-specific resources, so that readers see why another college wouldn’t fit as well with your unique personality, traits, and passions.

Whichever of the above approaches you take, balance it with just a bit of the other approach. So if you’re totally committed to studying filmmaking at Tisch, and you cite filmmaking resources at Tisch that perfectly align with your artistic goals, you might also briefly discuss how, for example, you’re considering a minor in Art and Public Policy so that you can investigate cinema’s relationship to political and social change. On the other hand, if you discuss NYU’s global presence and provide examples of how you love exploring other cultures, you’ll still want to pick at least one of your academic interests, explain why it’s meaningful to you, and connect it to specific NYU resources. This way you address both the “Why NYU” and “Why major” aspects of the prompt, and show that you have enough interest in the school to have done your research.

Keep in mind that mentioning NYU’s New York City location is risky—because almost everyone “hearts” NYC! Only discuss NYC if you can tie a very specific passion or goal to a very specific NYC resource. For example, if you are fascinated with finance or urban planning, you could discuss how you might make use of NYU’s proximity to Wall Street or how you might study development within the five boroughs. The same goes for NYU’s international campuses. It’s a good idea to talk about your interest in the non-NYC locations, but you should still do your research so that you can surprise readers with your specific details and say something no one else could say.

Written by
DT Wang
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