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How to Ace NYU’s Supplemental Essays | Guide & Examples, 2022-2023

School Supplements
Brad Schiller
Brad Schiller
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Ah! What a great year to apply to NYU! 

The outlook is rosy — they’ve changed their former “Why NYU” prompt to an easier one. 

(Yes, with our patented “Simple ‘Why Us’ method that works,” “Why NYU” wasn’t too difficult. But, there’s no avoiding at least a little research with “Why Us” essays, and they tend to take more time, so.) 

Instead, NYU is now asking for a nice, short Community/Contribution essay (250 words or less):

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.

Even better, what NYU hasn’t changed is the fact that there’s just one — yes, only one! — supplemental essay for NYU. We love it. 

For everything you need to make this essay easy to write and (more importantly) impress with, meet us below the table of contents.

(For help with all aspects of your college application, head to our College Essay Help Center.)

Prompt close read (1 of 3): Talk about the *actions you take* to further your heritage or identity;Prompt close read (2 of 3): talk about your “point of view” (rather than “your background”);Prompt close read (3 of 3): Don’t forget the “contribution” part of the prompt;Brainstorm — decide what’s the most impressive of your points of view before starting on your answer;Example Essay;Helpful info on all the “other” stuff you’ll consider as you apply to NYU (and other schools)
Prompt close read (1 of 3): Talk about the *actions you take* to further your heritage or identity;Prompt close read (2 of 3): talk about your “point of view” (rather than “your background”);Prompt close read (3 of 3): Don’t forget the “contribution” part of the prompt;Brainstorm — decide what’s the most impressive of your points of view before starting on your answer;Example Essay;Helpful info on all the “other” stuff you’ll consider as you apply to NYU (and other schools)

    Prompt close read (1 of 3): Talk about the *actions you take* to further your heritage or identity

    Here’s the prompt again:

    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.

    As you can see, the intro is focused on finding out where you come from, citing things like “all backgrounds,” and “diversity, in all its forms.” 

    ⚠️ Potential problem alert! ⚠️

    The issue with this prompt is that it could easily guide you into centering your essay on your family, your ethnicity, your nationality, or something similar. Now, obviously: (1) those things are rightly important to you, and (2) probably do belong in this essay. 

    However, the potential problem with an essay about family, ethnicity, or nationality is that those are aspects of your identity over which you have little control. The risk is that you write about them in a way that makes you seem passive.

    To deal with this risk, make sure that, as you address these important aspects of your identity, you show how you amplify, contribute to, or carry on these aspects of your culture. Focus on “I statements” and active verbs, to show that you’re a dynamic person who makes a difference to those around them.

    In other words, don’t educate the NYU admissions team about your Cuban heritage — that’s not actually what they’re looking for in this essay. (They can read a million books and articles on Cuban culture on their own time, remember?)

    Instead, educate them on what you do with your Cuban heritage. For example:

    • You have a loving relationship with your Cuban grandma — talk about how you nurture, partake in, and cherish that relationship.
    • You keep up your Spanish — talk about the challenges to speaking fluently, and what you do to stay up-to-speed in a language you don’t speak at school.
    • You help your family organize a yearly “Cuban-themed” block party — what does the party mean to you? How does it support other Cubans in your community? How does it educate non-Cubans? Where do you go for decorations and what did you do last year when the caterers canceled at the last minute?

    These examples show that you don’t need a momentous thing to talk about, but you do need to showcase your active role in that thing. 

    Prompt close read (2 of 3): talk about your “point of view” (rather than “your background”)

    Similarly, you don’t have to write about your background, sexuality, neurodiversity, or any other “identity” aspect of your life if you don’t think it’s your best, most interesting material.

    You can also talk about experiences you’ve had that give you a unique or rare point of view on the world. Generally, this is a great way to approach this question, because it ensures that your essay will show you as a dynamic person (which is what colleges want to see).

    For example, you could write about:

    • What you’ve learned from your parents who own their own small business — what you do in the shop, how you see things differently from your peers.
    • What you’ve learned from your work as a cashier at the grocery store — what you’ve learned about your co-workers, the customers who come in, the business of selling food, how you see things differently from your peers.
    • What you’ve learned as you’ve gotten obsessed with journalism through the school newspaper — how you’re the only person in your class (that you know of) who reads the Boston Globe daily, how you’ve become bolder and bolder when asking questions of authority figures, how you can spend hours logging on City government hearings or parsing through scholarly articles, how you see things differently from your peers.

    Prompt close read (3 of 3): Don’t forget the “contribution” part of the prompt 

    The last sentence of the prompt reads:

    We would like to better understand how your experiences would help us to shape and grow our diverse community.

    This sentence shows that NYU is looking for interesting students who will work together to form a fascinating community. 

    Therefore, your essay should similarly not only show what gives you a unique point of view but also suggest that you’re a great community member. Someone who makes places better. Who contributes.

    Brainstorm — decide what’s the most impressive of your points of view before starting on your answer 

    Now that you understand what you should be saying in this essay, begin by spending time brainstorming your most interesting “point of view” experiences. (Keep to the high school years, which are most relevant to admissions readers.) Brainstorm things like your:

    • Family traditions, relationships; unusual family dynamics + roles you’ve played in these.
    • Ethnic, cultural, religious, or national heritage + roles you play in this.
    • Other identities, such as disabilities, neurodiversity, sexuality, gender expression + how you’ve wrestled with/expressed these.
    • Jobs, internships, or extracurriculars that are unusual or have changed your point of view.
    • Self-learning and independent projects you’ve undertaken.
    • Any other skills you’ve developed or meaningful experiences you’ve had.

    If you create a free Prompt account, you can develop these ideas through our brainstorming modules. 

    Prompt’s essay-writing method starts with figuring out what you want to say, not letting the prompt dictate what you write about. So, after this exercise, you should be able to sift through and choose the experiences that show you as the most dynamic, interesting, and able to contribute to a fascinating NYU campus community. 

    You experiences should demonstrate one or more of the 5 Traits Colleges Look for in Applicants:

    • Drive (grit)
    • Initiative
    • Contribution
    • Intellectual Curiosity
    • Diversity of Experiences — which we’ve been talking about this whole article :-)

    Example Essay

    Please note that Prompt strongly believes that influencers shouldn’t influence your college essays and that, for essays that get published in flashy places, you don’t know if the essay got that student in or if they got in despite what was maybe a bad essay. 

    That being said, an example can be worth a thousand words. Here’s one to think about:

    I am the only teenager I know who actually reads the newspaper. And I don’t mean online — I asked my parents for a New York Times subscription for my birthday last year, and I peruse the whole thing before school each day. 

    Becoming a journalist is my obsession and becoming a reporter for my school paper was the best thing I’ve ever done at school. As I’ve gained experience, my identity as a reporter has become more central to how I view the world. 

    Take my latest article on our school’s cafeteria staff experience [bitlink] — as a freshman, I never thought much about our cafeteria staff; as a reporter, I knew there was a story there when I asked a worker how they were and they just said, “Tired.”

    I was shy as a young kid. Now, I love asking nosy questions (and I love that this pushes against stereotypes others might have of me as an Asian-American). Currently, I’m co-researching a piece on our school’s racial education gap. Teachers and administrators have not enjoyed the questions I’ve put to them. To me, that’s only shown me that I’m pursuing the right story. 

    As a senior, it’s also exciting that I’m in a position to mentor new, younger journalists. I love the moment when a member of the new cohort finally gets that the school paper isn’t just an “extracurricular;” it’s a whole new way of seeing the world and making a difference in it. 

    Notes:

    • Word count: 245
    • The essay focuses on the “view point” type of diversity — focused on how this student has a different point of view on the world because of their interest in journalism.
    • The essay focuses strongly on “I statements.” The reader learns about many active steps the student has taken in high school.
    • [bitlink] — This indicates that if you’re making a statement like this, it’s a good idea to provide a link for the reader. They’re unlikely to click it (though they might), but it adds believability to your story.
    • The essay mentions the student’s Asian-American identity and how that impacts them. It’s a great idea to talk about many different identities if you can, so long as you choose one aspect to be your prime focus. 
    • The essay ends on the “contribution” note we talked about, with the student talking about mentoring others.  

    Helpful info on all the “other” stuff you’ll consider as you apply to NYU (and other schools)

    A few helpful resources for the non-supplement parts of your application:

    BTW, here’s our guidance for approaching any college supplement + here’s where you can find our guides for almost every college’s supplements

    Feeling inspired? A great place to start is at our College Essay Help Center

    More articles on Prompt.com’s admissions-boosting methods:

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