written by
Juliana Furigay

New York University (NYU) Supplemental Essays Guide: 2021-2022

Essay Guides essay guide Admissions Tips 13 min read

Not sure how to approach the “Why NYU” essay prompt? CollegeAdvisor.com’s “Why NYU'' Essay Guide will show you exactly how to write an engaging “Why NYU” essay to maximize your chances of admission. This guide will also reference CollegeAdvisor’s “Why NYU” essay examples article from last year. The piece includes two “Why NYU” essay examples from students who were admitted to NYU. We also reference feedback from former admissions officers on why each “Why NYU” essay was successful.

If you need help crafting your answers to the NYU application essay, create your free account or schedule a free consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.

New York University (NYU) Essay Guide Quick Facts:

  • For the class of 2025, NYU accepted 12.8% of applicants to its New York Campus. U.S. News considers this school to be most selective.
  • We recommend answering the required NYU essay, and any additional prompts, comprehensively and thoughtfully.

What is NYU known for?

NYU prides itself on the fact that the city is its campus. In 1831, the university’s founders aimed to create an institution of learning that would be “in and of the city.” Thus, NYU’s main campus has no gates or walls separating it from the rest of Greenwich Village. This differs from other schools in the city, such as Columbia University that has a central quad and gates separating itself from the Morningside Heights area. Side note: Barnard College, Columbia University’s affiliated women’s college has its own quad and set of gates, albeit adjacent to Columbia’s campus.)

However, the breadth of NYU students’ learning extends far beyond the confines of Manhattan. NYU has more international students and students studying abroad than any other university in the United States. Students hail from 133 countries and nearly every state in the U.S.

What are three interesting facts about NYU?

  1. NYU’s main campus is located in Manhattan. However, the university also has campuses in Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, and other global academic centers.
  2. The origin of NYU’s color, violet, is obscure. Many believe it’s a nod to the violets that grow in Washington Square and around the original university building. Others trace it back to Athens, Greece—a center of learning in the ancient world. The violet flower was strongly associated with the city.
  3. NYU has many world-renowned alumni, including Lady Gaga, Adam Sandler, and Angelina Jolie.

How many essays do you have to write for NYU?

New York University has one required NYU essay prompt in the 2021-2022 Common App. Each applicant will produce a “Why NYU” essay in addition to their Common App personal statement. As you look at the NYU admissions page, you'll notice that there are additional requirements for Steinhardt (an audition or portfolio for all applicants to the Music Department with the exception of Educational Theatre, and a portfolio for those applying to Studio Art) and Tisch (an audition or portfolio for applicants to all programs). Applying to one of these programs? Make sure you complete all of the requirements referenced on the pages linked above. This NYU essay guide will only cover the required “Why NYU” essay. However, you can use the tips here to help craft the Steinhardt portfolio, Tisch portfolio, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholars Program essays as well.

How long is the NYU essay?

When writing your “Why NYU” essay, you have a maximum of 400 words to convey your interest in attending NYU. While 400 words may seem like a lot, you will want to strategize to use them wisely. You’ll also see below in the “Why NYU” essay prompt breakdown that there are several layers to the NYU application essay. Accordingly, you’ll need to answer each portion of the NYU essay prompt in order for it to be considered complete.

Due to NYU’s relatively low acceptance rate and competitive admissions process, a strong NYU application essay is key to maximizing your admissions odds. In fact, this is your chance to show NYU your demonstrated interest (DI). Demonstrated interest is what universities use to gauge just how interested a student is in attending their particular school. Want to read more about using supplemental essays to convey DI to each school that you’re applying to? Check out this article on DI by Forbes.

Why does the NYU essay have a word limit?

The “Why NYU” essay has a word limit because admissions officers have a limit. Last year, over 100,000 first-year undergraduate hopefuls applied to NYU. In short, the “Why NYU” essay has a word limit to help admissions officers process the large number of applications.

There’s more to the picture, however. The NYU supplemental essay prompt also enforces a strict word limit to test your (the applicant’s) ability to respond to their prompt clearly and succinctly. The NYU supplemental essay prompt is intentionally broad. Thus, each writer has ample opportunity to discuss their research on the school, passion about their potential major(s), and general excitement about NYU.

Finally, the NYU admissions committee is looking for well-edited, dynamic writing in each “Why NYU” essay. Having a 400-word limit helps admissions officers identify both strong and weak writing quickly. Most importantly, they’re looking for students who they believe will bring diversity to their community and will excel in a rigorous academic environment.

“Why NYU” Essay Prompt (Required)

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 words)

This NYU essay prompt is more than just a simple “Why NYU” essay question. In fact, there are several layers to the NYU essay. The admissions team is interested in your reasons for applying not only to NYU, but your interest in a particular campus, college, program, and area of study. Consequently, it’s best to approach this NYU supplemental essay as an NYU-specific personal statement. Similar to your Common App personal statement, you’ll want to treat this NYU essay as an introduction to the admissions committee.

How do you write the “Why NYU” essay?

Begin your “Why NYU” essay writing process with a brainstorm/free-write session. Start a list and write down every reason that contributed to your decision to apply to NYU. It can be as simple as “wanting to live in NYU;” as big as “majoring in education studies to make sweeping reforms in NYC’s school systems;” and as specific as “taking a music course with adjunct professor Questlove.”

Take no more than ten minutes to write this list. When you’ve finished, write two more lists, one titled “academic goals,” and the other titled “professional goals.” Spend ten minutes each completing these lists--these don’t have to be specifically related to NYU like the first list, but this is simply an opportunity to think about your area of study and goals for the future.

Make connections

Now that you have these three lists, take some time to draw connections between the three. For example, if your “why NYU” list includes the bonus of living in New York City while attending school, try to connect it with one of your reasons from the other lists. In other words, consider the fact that many students will list wanting to study in New York City as a reason for attending NYU.

To help your NYU essay stand out, you’ll need to create stronger connections between the school and your academic, personal, and professional goals. An example of this in a “Why NYU” essay could look like a student who is excited to study urban planning at NYU. In their NYU essay, they could link their interest in studying the history and future of New York City as the main reason for pursuing this particular program at NYU.

In fact, in the first of the “Why NYU” essay examples, the writer draws a clear connection between their interest in studying at the Stern School of Business and the opportunity to participate in the International Business Exchange Program:

Essay Example 1:

The Bachelor of Science in Business Program excites me, as it entails a well-rounded yet intensive study in core business disciplines. However, what draws me to Stern is the emphasis on gaining a global perspective, which is crucial in today’s rapidly changing world economy. Through the International Business Exchange Program, I will be able to gain a first-hand cultural experience that will mold me into a global citizen and business leader. Not only will I be taking courses in the most prestigious business schools across the globe, but I will also have new doors opened for me to network with alumni.

In just a few short sentences, the writer is able to state their school of interest (Stern), connect it to a program (the International Business Exchange Program), and talk about how NYU can help them accomplish their professional goals.

Identify the connections in your lists of personal, professional, and academic goals related to NYU. Then, it's time to think about how you’d like to open your NYU essay. The second of our “Why NYU” essay examples perfectly demonstrate the power of a persuasive opening anecdote or story. The first few sentences are meant to draw the reader into your story. This is true of any essay, the “Why NYU” essay included. Consequently, you’ll want to use dynamic language that sets the tone for your NYU supplemental essay. Let’s look at our “Why NYU” essay examples for inspiration:

Essay Example 2:

Before I began interning for the International Rescue Committee’s refugee youth acclimation program—right in the heart of the Lower East Side—I underwent weeks of training in providing trauma-informed support, reminded repeatedly that these kids have gone through more than I could possibly imagine.

Similar to the language in the first of our “Why NYU” essay examples, this writer is able to say a lot in a few sentences. They’ve not only identified their extracurricular/internship work with IRC but also established their level of commitment to helping refugee youths.

As you can see, both of these “Why NYU” essay examples deal with the very different subject matter. One essay deals with a refugee volunteer looking to study racial policy. The other focuses on a finance student looking to network with future NYU alumni. Both candidates, however, are clear in what they want to study at NYU and why it is important for them to pursue that particular program there. They are also able to draw connections between their passions and interests to their proposed academic programs.

Do your research

Make a strong case for why you want to pursue a particular program at NYU. Use the “Why NYU” essay examples for reference; this is the most important part of your “Why NYU” essay. If you’re unsure of what you want to study, now is the time to research NYU’s programs. The major referenced in your NYU essay may not be what you pursue if admitted, and that’s okay. If you can, however, identify potential majors of interest in your NYU essay prompt response and connect them to your overall candidate profile. This can help you write a stronger NYU essay.

For example, if your extracurriculars deal with creative writing and your high school courses are mainly in literature, picking a STEM major, simply to impress the admissions committee will likely raise red flags. In cases like this, you may want to talk about the ways that an NYU education will help you find your academic area of focus. Your “why” may not be as clear, but you can still write a successful “Why NYU” essay that focuses on what draws you to the unique community at NYU.

In other words, authenticity is key. Don’t submit a NYU essay that simply tells the admissions officers what you think they want to hear.

“Why NYU” Essay Draft Key Questions:

  • Does your “Why NYU” essay talk about your motivations for attending NYU?
  • In your NYU essay prompt response, do you demonstrate that you’ve done research on the schools, programs, courses, and organizations that NYU offers?
  • When applicable in your NYU essay, do you mention specific NYU campus traditions, courses, regional attractions, professors, etc.?

What should I include in my “Why NYU” essay?

The NYU supplemental essay prompt asks two deeper questions: “What motivated you to apply to NYU?” and “Why have you applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and or area of study?”. Both of these questions should be answered when drafting your “Why NYU” essay.

Naturally, NYU’s desired location in New York City leads many of its applicants to apply to the school. You can speak about the unique opportunities that the big city presents. However, you want to ensure that your response is specific enough to NYU. What does NYU have to offer that Columbia and Fordham don’t? Remember in the second of the “Why NYU” essay examples, the writer was able to specifically name the major (public health policy) that they wanted to pursue at NYU, as well as where they wanted to carry out research (CASSR). As in the “Why NYU” essay examples, it’s best to be as specific as possible.

After all, the NYU essay prompt asks “What motivated you to apply to NYU?”, and not “What motivated you to apply to college in New York City?”. A solid strategy in approaching this NYU supplemental essay, then, is to center your essay around NYU. This might seem obvious. However, you’d be surprised how many students realize after the fact that their completed NYU essay revolves around the city of the school and not the school itself.

Tell a story

For this NYU supplemental essay, it’s important to reflect on the past experiences that have led you to be interested in a given area of study. Was it a specific moment in your life or a series of experiences? You have the option to choose either path in writing this NYU application essay. Take a look at both of the “Why NYU” essay examples on the CollegeAdvisor blog. The first NYU essay example highlights multiple experiences that led the author to their interest in pursuing a finance major. The second of the “Why NYU” essay examples makes one volunteer experience the focus of their NYU essay prompt. Both are strong and a great reminder that your “Why NYU” essay should be as unique as you are!

To recap, the NYU application essay you submit should be thoroughly researched. After familiarizing yourself with NYU’s campuses and programs, you should include specific details related to your program of interest in your “Why NYU” essay. If it’s relevant to your essay you may also want to write about specific NYU clubs/organizations and events/traditions.

NYU Application Essay: Final Thoughts

Completing the NYU supplemental essay can seem daunting, but don’t let the NYU essay prompt discourage you from applying. At the end of the day, the NYU essay prompt is not intended to trip you up. Rather, view the NYU application essay as an opportunity to further introduce yourself to the admissions team.

Use this NYU supplemental essay guide to help you approach the NYU application essay with confidence. Before and during your NYU essay writing process, make sure to spend some time reading over our “Why NYU'' essay examples. Use the feedback from former admissions officers included with each NYU essay as guiding criticism for your own draft. While your experiences are going to be different than what is outlined in the “Why NYU” essay examples, your reasons for wanting to attend NYU should be just as clear as you read in the sample essay.

After completing your NYU supplemental essay, make sure to revise your NYU application essay. You should ask a counselor, advisor, or other trusted adult to help you proofread for spelling, grammar, and clarity. Good luck!


NYU supplemental essays guide image: a banner that says

This 2021-2022 essay guide on NYU was written by Juliana Furigay, Columbia ‘23. For more resources on the college admissions process, click here. If you need help crafting your answer to the NYU essay prompt, create your free account or schedule a no-cost advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.

nyu new york university why nyu essay essay guide essay guides supplemental essays