Published July 25, 2022

NYU’s Common Application Questions

Jonathan Williams

Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Admissions

NYU doesn’t have a supplement. However, there are a few prompts built into our first-year Common Application member section that are necessary for us to evaluate your application. They’re grouped into four sections: General, Academics, Contacts, and Family. This article focuses on the first two.

General Section

If you’re applying as a first-year applicant, the first thing you’ll need to decide is when you’d like to begin your studies at NYU. Once you do that, you’ll tell us which of our three degree-granting campuses you’re interested in. We have campuses in New York City, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai.

If you have your heart set on one campus, you can select it and move on. However, we give you the option to rank all three of our campuses in order of preference. We’ll consider your application for all campuses you list there, but you’ll only receive one offer of admission.

Next, you’ll let us know if you’re interested in applying for financial aid and housing . If you’re interested in being considered for either, you’ll need to take additional steps to complete the processes by their deadlines.

Academics Section

It is very important to do some research before you start this section of NYU’s Common Application. While every aspect of your application tells us more about you, this section helps guide which committees review your application based on your academic interests. 

Programs of Interest

The prompts you’ll see in this part of NYU’s Common Application will depend on which campuses you selected in the General section. 

Students applying to Shanghai or Abu Dhabi are able to choose from a list of majors to indicate what they may be interested in studying. The major you list here isn’t binding; admitted students declare their major sophomore year. However, indicating a major you might want to study can help paint a better picture of your interests in conjunction with your academics, extracurriculars, and essays.

Students who list New York City as their campus of interest will have to select one of our 10 schools and colleges as well as a major within that college as their primary program of interest. Just like NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai, the major you select on your application helps us understand your interests and can be changed once you’re on campus. For all undergraduate schools at our New York City campus, you’ll begin taking classes related to your identified major as early as your first semester, so it’s important you have an interest in that subject.  

After you select your primary program for New York, you’ll have the option to list up to 10 alternate majors across the other schools and colleges in New York – with the exception of our artistic programs that require an audition or portfolio. If you’re interested in being considered for an artistic program, it should be your primary selection for New York. 

Another great opportunity is that when you select Liberal Studies—either as a primary or alternate option—you’ll access a list of first-year study away sites. You can rank, in order of preference, one or all of our first-year sites: New York City, Florence, London, Madrid, and Washington, DC. Only list first-year sites where you’re genuinely interested in spending your first year at NYU. Most Liberal Studies students begin their studies at NYU in one of their top-two choices.

Standardized Testing

Here, you’ll let us know what form of testing you’d like to use. NYU has one of the most flexible standardized testing policies that allows students to submit any number of exams to meet our requirements, including many international examinations . However, with the challenges of COVID-19, we recognize that it might not be flexible enough for the upcoming cycle. While NYU welcomes applicants for the class of 2027 to submit test scores in line with our policy, we will not require it. If you do not submit test scores, you will not be disadvantaged during the application review process for 2022-23. This updated testing policy is only for students who will be applying to NYU in the coming application cycle. 

For artistic majors within Steinhardt and Tisch that require an audition or a portfolio, the audition or portfolio will satisfy our standardized testing requirement. If you are applying to one of these programs exclusively, you can opt-out of sending additional standardized testing, and doing so will not impact your application.

This exemption does not apply to our English language testing, which we may require for students whose native language is not English. You can read more about our policy on our English language testing website .

As You Begin This Process

One thing I often mention when speaking with students is that the college search process is about finding the right match. As you consider what schools you add to your My Colleges list, think about what you want most from your college experience and make sure that those universities can provide it.

You can always reach us at 212-998-4500 or [email protected] , attend one of our virtual events , or follow us on social media @MeetNYU as you explore if NYU is the right match for you.

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More from Jonathan:

5 Tips to Get Your NYU Application Submitted

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How to Approach the Common Application

There’s no wrong way to approach the Common Application, but here’s two different strategies you might want to choose from when you apply to NYU.

Submitting a Transfer Application to NYU

Everything you need and everything you need to know about the transfer process.

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new york university essay prompts 2021

December 12, 2021

Tips for Answering the NYU Supplemental Essay Prompt [2021 – 2022]

Tips for Answering the NYU Supplemental Essay Prompt [2021 – 2022]

Located in the middle of bustling lower Manhattan, New York, NYU’s campus is intertwined with the city. It is not a campus in a traditional sense – its buildings and lifestyle are organized around Washington Square Park, enabling students and faculty alike to take advantage of everything offered by this energetic area.

NYU grants degrees from its NYC campus along with campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai. In addition, it has satellite campuses in London, Accra, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Tel Aviv, Sydney and more; access to these locations around the world provide opportunities for a truly global undergraduate educational experience. Many students are particularly attracted to the ease with which they can study abroad and remain under the larger intellectual umbrella of the University.

Get a free consultation: Click here to schedule a call to find out how our admissions expert can help YOU get accepted to NYU!

NYU offers several admissions options including binding Early Decision I (November 1st deadline) and Early Decision II (January 1st deadline), as well as Regular Decision (January 5th deadline). In addition to the main Common Application essay, NYU requires only one additional essay response.

The admissions committee is already aware of your grades, test scores, letters of recommendation, honors/awards, activities and whatever you wrote about in your main Common Application essay. Now is your chance to share your passion for NYU! Be careful not to repeat information you shared in your main essay. Use your NYU response to convince the admissions committee that NYU is the best place for you and to show how you might contribute to the diverse community at NYU.

NYU’s supplemental essay question

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)

The sole purpose of this prompt is to provide an opportunity for you to demonstrate your fit with NYU. You will want to do this in 3 ways (and all 3!): prove an intimate knowledge of NYU and its offerings, of NYC and all it has to offer, and of what makes you stand out as a diverse contributor to the NYU community. 

You only have 400 words to communicate what draws you to NYU specifically- to the campus, school, college, program and/or specific area of study. Think about your personal connection to the school and the city. Don’t just list interesting things about the city—you are not a tour guide. Instead, explain why those things are so important to you and your potential growth. 

Consider your values and how the unique qualities/opportunities at NYU appeal to you. In short, make a personal connection. How might the approach to education at NYU support your learning? This might include: studying abroad, potential experience with internships, relationships with people from around the world, specific academic requirements or programs, career-related opportunities, or anything else you feel is important to your success. Ultimately, you want to prove, not only your own qualifications, but your informed knowledge of NYU and the research you’ve done to be certain NYU would be the perfect fit for you.

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In addition to demonstrating an intimate knowledge of NYU as a university, this essay also offers you a chance to think about what living and learning in a fast paced city like New York might be like: how is it similar to what you are accustomed to, or perhaps different? What are the particular reasons you find this setting appealing? Once you’ve explained the appeal of the city, you must also demonstrate your independence because you will need to be independent in order to navigate the NYU world. How will you survive, contribute to and thrive in this atmosphere. How will you embrace this environment? How can you benefit from this experience? Why is studying at NYU your true calling?

Keep in mind that NYU is assembling a first-year class that represents regional, global, and cultural diversity. NYU values difference and supports students of all identities and backgrounds. Don’t underestimate yourself and your story. Each applicant has something to offer that can enrich this distinct cohort. How might you utilize this opportunity to grow as a person, as a global citizen, as a future leader?

Final thoughts on applying to NYU

To offer some context for where you might stand: NYU’s Fall 2020 acceptance rate was 21%. Although NYU offers one of the most flexible standardized testing policies (see NYU admission website for details), the average SAT scores are 738 for Math and 701 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. The average ACT score is 32. This is a competitive applicant pool.

Although it is wise to keep these statistics in mind, take a moment to relax and plan. Make sure you meet all deadlines and allow yourself adequate time to write and revise your essays. Consider the best way to reflect your personal experiences, convey your interests, express your enthusiasm for learning, and demonstrate how and why NYU is the best place for you!

If you’re applying to NYU, you already know you’re up against tight competition. Don’t be overwhelmed. Get the guidance of an experienced admissions specialist who will help you stand out from a highly competitive applicant pool so you can apply with confidence, and get accepted! Click here to get started!

***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***

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Related Resources:

  • School-Specific Supplemental Essay Tips
  • The Essay Whisperer: How to Write a College Application Essay
  • Focus on Fit , a podcast episode

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How to write the NYU essays

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A top-tier university with a vibrant school culture, NYU is known for its stellar academics, its open-mindedness, and its opportune location in one of the United States' most famous and diverse cities.

Join Moriah as she covers how to write the NYU essay for all applicants, as well as the specific Cinema Studies major supplement and the MLK Scholars program supplement.

She’ll also be available to answer all of your questions about applying to this prestigious university.

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College Essays

feature_whynyu

If you're applying to New York University, you'll need to submit both the regular Common App materials as well as the NYU supplement, which includes a short essay. At its heart, the NYU essay prompt asks you to answer a single straightforward question: why do you want to go to NYU?

In this article, we'll fully analyze the "Why NYU?" essay prompt and what successful essays need to accomplish. We'll also go over potential topics to write about and look at the essay that got me into NYU's College of Arts and Science.

First, however, we'll begin with a quick discussion of why schools ask students to write "why this school?" essays

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Why NYU Essay 2023 Update

NYU has discontinued the "Why NYU" for the 2022-2023 admissions cycle . That means there won't be an NYU-specific writing supplement provided as part of the Common Application process. 

However, students can submit an optional 250-word response as part of NYU's additional questions section. This response deals with students' perspectives on diversity. Here's the prompt for 2023-2024: 

We are looking for peacemakers, changemakers, global citizens, boundary breakers, creatives and innovators. Choose one quote from the following and let us know why it inspires you; or share a short quote and person not on our list who inspires you, and include why.

“We’re used to people telling us there are no solutions, and then creating our own. So we did what we do best. We reached out to each other, and to our allies, and we mobilized across communities to make change, to benefit and include everyone in society.” Judith Heuman, 2022 NYU Commencement Address

“I encourage your discomfort, that you must contribute, that you must make your voice heard. That is the essence of good citizenship.” Sherilynn Ifill, 2015 NYU Honorary Degree Recipient

“You have the right to want things and to want things to change.” Sanna Marin, Former Prime Minister of Finland, 2023 NYU Commencement Address “It’s hard to fight when the fight ain’t fair.” Taylor Swift, Change, Released 2008, 2022 NY Commencement Speaker

Share a short quote and person not on the list and why the quote inspires you.

What's the Point of "Why This School" Essays?

While the Common App essay gives students a chance to showcase something of who they are that might not be evident elsewhere in their application, the "why [school]?" essay allows students space to explicitly state why they are such a good match for the school.

Presumably, if you're applying to the school, your test scores, grades, course rigor and curriculum, extracurriculars, and volunteer experience all put you at least somewhat in line with other students at the school.

The "why this school?" essay is your opportunity to discuss not just why you could excel at the school, but why you are a good fit (and why you want to go there).

"Why this school" essays are also a useful way for schools to judge student interest in a school (which can indicate whether or not a student will attend if admitted). Based on students' "why this school?" essays, colleges can distinguish students who are specifically interested in attending that school from students who clearly applied just because of the school's location or ranking

Writing a strong "why [school]?" essay not only gives you another instance to showcase your writing and reasoning skills, but also tells the school that you care enough to invest time in researching what makes them special. It signifies that you have put in the time to realize whether or not you're a good fit. (And, it secondarily shows that having put in that time, you're more likely to attend if admitted than someone who just wrote some generic statements about why they want to attend college ).

For a more in-depth look at what schools hope to get out of your "Why [This School]?" essays, read this article .

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Why NYU Essay Prompt, Analyzed

Here's the complete NYU supplement essay prompt for 2021:

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

Besides the standard "what motivated you to apply to [school]?" question that almost every "why this school" essay asks, the NYU prompt gives you one extra nudge for what to focus on in your essay.

Specifically, NYU wants you to talk about what's drawn you to "a particular campus, school, college, program, and/or area of study?" (or, if you're drawn to more than one, why you're drawn to each campus/school/college/program/area of study).

Keep in mind that you should be discussing all of this in the context of NYU . Obviously, if you're interested in NYU because of one of their 10 undergraduate schools, then that's particular to NYU, but the same goes for their campus locations, programs, and areas of study.

For instance, if you're passionate about studying theater, you wouldn't just write that you want to attend NYU because you love theater and NYU has a theater program and is in New York, a city that has theater; that description could apply to half a dozen schools. Instead, you'd go into the details of what attracts you about specific classes and professors at Tisch, or other opportunities that are unique to NYU (ability to do certain kinds of projects, the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration, etc).

This prompt also hints at a few different directions you can go with your "Why NYU" essay:

Why have you expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, 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.

If you're already certain of what you want to study in college or have a " spike ", you'll want to go the "particular" route in your essay . This means mentioning specific classes, professors, programs, or how you see NYU supporting your future career/academic plans.

On the other hand, perhaps you're not at all sure what you want to study in college (AKA me in high school). In that case, you'll shape your essay more around how you believe going to NYU will allow you to explore many different avenues to find your passion .

Finally, if you already know that you want to spend time abroad during college in a place where NYU has a campus, you can emphasize your interest in continuing to receive an NYU-level academic education while living in another country .

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Potential "Why NYU?" Essay Topics

Earlier, we briefly touched upon some topics that you might write about in your essay, including specific courses/teachers/programs and study abroad opportunities.

We're now going to take those broad topic categories and go into a little more depth for how to write about them in your "Why NYU?" essay.

Colleges/Programs

NYU has the following 10 undergraduate schools, colleges, and programs:

  • College of Arts & Sciences
  • Gallatin School of Individualized Study
  • Liberal Studies
  • 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 the Arts

Because there are so many different undergraduate programs within NYU, it's a good idea to identify which program(s) you're applying to and why in your NYU supplement essay.

Since you'll need to decide on a program before applying to NYU anyway, you might as well use the time you spend reading about each college to figure out if there are any programs within particular colleges that call out to you.

For instance, if you're interested in the intersection of different fields (like psychology and computer science, or biology and philosophy/ethics) and are self-motivated to create your own program of study, you should talk about that in your application to the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. If you've spent the last 12 years devoting all your extra time in and out of school to theatre and want to attend a conservatory with opportunities to go see live theatre, then write about that in your application to Tisch.

Courses/Professors

NYU is a world-renowned university for a reason, and it's not just because of its immense real estate holdings; it has a wide variety of courses and professors renowned in their fields. If one of the main reasons you're drawn to NYU is for its academics, then this is a good topic to get into in your supplemental essay.

Flip through the online course catalogs and read about professors in departments you're interested in. Are there any classes you really want to take (that seem particular to NYU)? Or any professors you absolutely have to study with?

You don't need to go so far as to read the professors' research or anything like that (unless you're super excited by it!), but doing even a little research into the courses and professors you'd be learning from and mentioning it in your "Why NYU?" essay will go a long way toward showing the admissions officers that you're serious enough about NYU to check out its specifics.

Extracurricular Opportunities and School Traditions

If there's an extracurricular at NYU that you've been particularly involved in during high school (or are excited to start getting involved in at college), you can write about it, as long as you're clear about why it's something unique to NYU.

In a similar vein, you can also try reading through some of the campus-wide events offered throughout the year and see if there's anything special about them that speaks to you.

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NYU Essay: Topics to Avoid

The "Why NYU" essay prompt makes it pretty clear that you should focus your 400 words around a specific college/program/area of study.

What you absolutely should avoid is gushing about NYU's location (whether you're applying to the New York campus or not).

Back when I applied to NYU, the "why NYU?" essay prompt was even more blunt about not centering your essay around New York City:

"Many students decide to apply to NYU because of our New York City location. Apart from the New York City location, please tell us why you feel NYU will be a good match for you."

If New Yorkers have heard it all and seen it all before, NYU admissions officers have certainly read any and all paeans you could care to write to New York City.

It's fine to write about how being in New York gives you access to opportunities relevant to your course at NYU (e.g. you can get amazing internship opportunities for journalism and theatre there that you wouldn't be able to get anywhere else). However, you need to be clear to center your essay around the program at NYU, with the New York location (and its opportunities) being an added bonus.

Unless you have a unique take on why NYU's location is so important to you (e.g. your grandparents used to live in a building that was demolished to make way for Bobst law library and you were brought up on vengeance that has since turned to adoration), stay away from NYU's location in your explanation of why you want to go there.

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Brainstorming for the Why NYU Essay

Before you start to narrow in on what angle you'll take in your "Why NYU?" essay, you should first examine your reasons for applying to NYU. By "examine," we don't just mean "list your reasons"—we mean you need to go a few levels deeper into each surface reason that occurs to you.

For example, this is the list of reasons I had for applying to NYU (roughly in order of importance):

  • My test scores and grades/course rigor make it likely I'll get in
  • NYU has lots of good schools and programs
  • It's easy enough to get from NYU to my family, transportation-wise

On the face of it, none of these reasons are very compelling. If I'd just gone on to write my "Why NYU?" essay (or in those days, essays) with those three bullet points, I doubt I would have been accepted.

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Instead, I went deeper with each reason to see if there was anything there I could mine for the NYU supplement essay.

Surface Reason 1 : My test scores and grades/course rigor make it likely I'll get in.

  • One level deeper : I'm applying to NYU as a safety school, because I'm pretty sure I'll get in there, even if I don't get in anywhere else, and I'd want to go there if I got in.
  • Should I write about this in my "why NYU" essay? Definitely not. No school wants to hear that it's a safety (even if it's a safety you would be fine with attending because it's still a good school).

Surface Reason 2 : NYU has lots of good schools and programs.

  • One level deeper : I'm extremely undecided about what I want to study—I know that I'm interested in English (Creative Writing), Math, Neuroscience, Chinese, and Music, but I might end up deciding to study something entirely different in college. It's important to me that I go somewhere that I'll have the opportunity to explore all of my interests (and develop more), which I can do at NYU.
  • Should I write about this in my "Why NYU" essay? This reason is definitely promising, although I'll need to do more research into the particular programs and courses at NYU so I can namedrop (and in the process, double-check that I'm right about being able to study all these things there!).

Surface Reason 3 : It's easy enough to get from NYU to my family, transportation-wise.

  • One level deeper : My parents want there to be good transportation options for me visiting home (or them visiting me). NYU's location (New York City) definitely makes that possible (there's easy access to planes, trains, buses, rental cars, fixed-gear bikes…).
  • Should I write about this in my "Why NYU" essay? Probably not. The prompt asks me about why I've expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and/or area of study, not a geographic area. Plus, it's not like there aren't plenty of other New York schools. I maybe could throw in this reason if I'm running short on things to say, but as it is, it looks like my second reason is going to be the best bet for the "Why NYU?" essay.

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Why NYU Essay Sample

Below, I've created a "Why NYU?" essay example that draws verbatim from what I used in my (successful) NYU application. (The essay requirements were slightly different then, with different word counts, so I had to expand a little upon what I originally wrote.)

I feel NYU would be a good match for me because of the number and kinds of programs it has. I am very interested in a variety of subjects, and NYU seems to encompass everything. In fact, I'm applying to the College of Arts and Sciences because I can’t specify my interests any more than that at this time. I have so many things that I want to learn that I can’t imagine limiting myself before I even enter college.

Take Chinese, for example. I'm learning Mandarin now (and have been for the last five years), but I would also like to learn Cantonese. There are not many other schools that offer Cantonese classes that can boast trips into Chinatown as part of the curriculum! Furthermore, I am excited by the possibility of studying abroad at NYU Shanghai. I'd not only be able to go to China for a semester for a year and immerse myself in the language and culture, but I'd be able to do so with the continuity of being on an NYU campus, even halfway across the world.

The music theory program in the College of Arts and Sciences also really interests me. I've picked up some theory here and there, but I haven't had all that much formal training. I'm also really intrigued by NYU's early music ensemble and the chance to explore different modes and tunings. At the other end of the spectrum, while I've written a few pieces on my own and taught myself a little bit about MIDI, I have not really had a chance to experiment very much with computer/electronic composition, and would really like to use those Steinhardt facilities that would be available to me at NYU to help remedy this.

Finally, I cannot stress enough how important reading and creative writing are to me. Because of how much the two feed into one another, I'm excited by NYU's Reading Series and the potential to be able to attend organized events for interacting with other writers outside the classroom.

The opportunity to expand my Chinese language abilities beyond Mandarin (and have the chance for practical application) is what first intrigued me; the chance to explore computer music and get my hands on NYU's facilities was the next breadcrumb; but the breadth and depth of the courses for writing lure me in even more, until I can resist no further.

This essay isn't necessarily the best piece of writing I've ever done. However, it still effectively conveys my desire to attend NYU because I mention a few key reasons I want to attend NYU:

  • The variety of courses available . I began by stating that I'm undecided and part of what attracts me to NYU is the opportunity to get to do lots of different things. I then go on to discuss several different examples.
  • Specific NYU opportunities . I looked up various courses, events, and opportunities offered by different departments and mentioned a couple of them specifically (the Reading Studies program for creative writing, Cantonese classes, studying abroad in China).
  • While I did mention a New York City thing (going into Chinatown), it was linked with something that's relatively NYU-specific (the opportunity to study Cantonese as well as Mandarin).

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Tips for the Why NYU Essay

To wrap up, we've summarized our top four tips for writing the "Why NYU?" essay.

#1: Look over the descriptions of the different schools/programs. This will help you figure out both which one you want to apply to as well as what makes those schools interesting for you to apply to.

#2: Read through the course catalog and look up professors in departments you're interested in. As the NYU Admission blog states , you don't have to go overboard in stating exactly what course you want to take with what professor at what time, but you should demonstrate that you're aware of what kinds of things you will be able to do and learn while at NYU

#3: Look into whether there are any extracurricular activities or NYU traditions that particularly appeal to you--and explain why they matter specifically to you.

#4: Avoid writing odes to New York City. If there are particular opportunities you're interested in that are only available in New York (e.g. internships at the American Museum of Natural History, research into immigration history at Ellis Island) you can mention it, but don't lean too heavily on the location.

#5: Remember that while you should make it clear why you want to attend NYU with your essay, you don't need to agonize for hours over it. Ultimately, other parts of your application (including your test scores and grades/course rigor, letters of recommendation, and personal statement) are more important factors to your acceptance than your NYU supplement essay is. You just need to show that you've done at least a little research into NYU and why you want to apply there in particular.

And if along the way you find that you don't really have a super good reason that's getting you excited to apply to NYU? It might be worth reconsidering whether or not you should apply there.

What's Next?

Have a bunch more college-specific supplement essays to write? Be sure to check out our overview of the "why this college" essay .

Looking for application tips for other selective schools? Read our complete guides to the University of California system and to the Georgetown application .

Should you apply early or regular decision to college? Find out the pros and cons of early decision in this article . ( And read up on the distinctions between early decision, early action, and the different kinds of each here. )

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Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.

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Master of Business Administration (MBA) Programs - Admissions | Essays

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Our Stern essay questions give you the opportunity to more fully present yourself to the Admissions Committee and to provide insight into your experiences, goals, and thought processes.

Your essays must be written entirely by you. An offer of admission will be rescinded if you did not write your essays.  

  • Short Answer: Professional Aspirations
  • Essay 1: Change: _____ it
  • Essay 2: Personal Expression (a.k.a. "Pick Six")
  • Essay 3: Additional Information (optional)

Short Answer: Professional Aspirations (150 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)

  • What are your short-term career goals?

Essay 1: Change: _________ it (350 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font) In today’s global business environment, the only constant is change. Using NYU Stern’s brand call to action, we want to know how you view change. Change: _____ it. Fill in the blank with a word of your choice. Why does this word resonate with you? How will you embrace your own personal tagline while at Stern? Examples:

  • Change: Dare it.
  • Change: Dream it.
  • Change: Drive it.
  • Change: Empower it.
  • Change: Manifest it.
  • Change: [Any word of your choice] it.

Essay 2: Personal Expression (a.k.a. "Pick Six") Introduce yourself to the Admissions Committee and to your future classmates using six images and corresponding captions. The Pick Six is a way to share more about the qualities you will bring to the Stern community, beyond your professional and academic achievements.   Your uploaded PDF should contain all of the following elements:

  • A brief introduction or overview of your "Pick Six" (no more than 3 sentences).
  • Six images that help illustrate your interests, values, motivations, perspective and/or personality.
  • A one-sentence caption for each of the six images that helps explain why they were selected and are significant to you.

Note: Your visuals may include photos, infographics, drawings, or any other images. Your document must be uploaded as a single PDF. The essay cannot be sent in physical form or be linked to a website. Essay 3: Additional Information (optional) (500 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font) Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee and/or give context to your application. This may include important aspects of yourself not otherwise apparent in your application, including but not limited to: hardships you have encountered, current or past gaps in employment, further explanation of your undergraduate record or self-reported academic transcript(s), plans to retake the GMAT, GRE, Executive Assessment, IELTS or TOEFL, or any other relevant information.  

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Conquering the Pick 6

Nedjee Corriolan, Admissions Coordinator at NYU Stern, shares her tips for the Pick 6 essay on our full-time MBA blog.

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New York University Essay Guide 2020-2021

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In this New York University Essay Guide, CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Experts Elinor and Shruthi will cover how to approach the 2020-2021 NYU supplementary essays. For more guidance on personal essays and the college application process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.

Applying to New York University

New York University is a world-renowned, top-ranked institution, situated in one of the most sought-after cities in the world: the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps, the iconic concrete jungle. Although NYU does not have a central campus, that is perhaps its biggest charm. NYU and NYC are one and the same, and to be a student is to be a true New Yorker. With over 26,000 undergraduate students and 230 areas of study, it offers a diverse set of opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom. It is also the largest independent research university in the US and has academic institutions all over the world, including fully-fledged campuses in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi.

NYU boasts over 230 programs and areas of study, with 18 schools to choose from at their New York City campus, including the prestigious Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Tisch School of the Arts, and the College of Arts and Sciences. At the conclusion of the 2019 to 2020 admissions cycle, NYU reported that the newly admitted class of 2024 was their most diverse admitted class in the school’s history: 27% of the class is made of underrepresented minorities, and 18% are Pell Grant recipients. With that, NYU has also reported that this year’s admissions process was also the most selective in the school’s history. The admissions rate was at a record low of 15 percent and the median SAT score set a record high of 1500.

Its immense resources and sought-after locations make it no surprise that NYU received over 84,481 applications this past fall. Of this giant pool, 6,500 students ultimately enrolled at one of its three campuses. There is just one supplemental essay — this is your chance to stand out amongst other applicants. Although it’s long, you’re in luck, as it’s the only one you’ll have to write!

Essay Prompt: Why New York University?

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)

Shru: So, although NYU is doing you a bit of a favor with only one essay to write, that doesn’t make this a necessarily easy task. There is a lot riding on this one supplement after all, and within the four hundred words that they allot for your essay, you’re asked to answer a lot!

Specificity is Key

Elinor: As with other college essays, the key to answering “Why School” prompts is to be specific. It’s not enough to list out NYU’s best qualities — you need to describe yourself, your interests, and what it is that makes New York University a great fit for you, specifically. Using generic or obvious reasons is not going to convince admissions officers, so be wary of citing things that anyone who’s taken a tour of NYU would know.

It’s okay to touch upon NYU’s location in New York or its prestige, but if they represent one of your main reasons for going, it will seem like you didn’t do much research on the school.

Shru: At first glance, this essay might seem like the standard “why school” essay, but NYU is not asking you to read and regurgitate their promotional materials, or even their website. They want to know why YOU want to study what you want to, why YOU want to do that specifically at NYU. In short, they are asking about you – therefore, things unique to you .

The mistake I see time and time again with “why school” essays is that students don’t spend enough time on their personal experiences and instead use up their precious words trying to cram in the names of obscure courses, professors, and the titles of their research publications. Yes, there is merit in doing thorough and specific research about the schools and its course offerings, or expressing your genuine interest in a professor or their work — but what you must first tell a story about YOU, and then connect it organically to the resources offered at NYU — and obviously, there is no shortage of them here.

Elinor: Keep in mind that this prompt isn’t only asking you why you want to go to NYU — it’s also asking why you want to study at a particular campus (New York City, Shanghai, or Abu Dhabi), as well as why you want to enroll in whichever of their majors you have selected. Spend some time explaining which campus you are applying to, and use reasons that are unique to you. However, don’t let this be the bulk of your essay, especially if you are applying to the New York City campus as a domestic student.

I recommend thinking about the professional opportunities the city might offer you post-graduation, or giving examples of how you want to incorporate the city into your education. For example, if you are interested in a career in diplomacy and would like to work in the Middle East, NYU-Abu Dhabi’s History major emphasizes a global framework, experiential learning through class trips, and offers lots of courses that delve into different aspects of Middle Eastern history.

Shru: Another point to be wary of with the NYU essay — New York itself. Now, New York is one of the most iconic cities in the world (arguably, the most iconic city in the world). The other biggest mistake you can make with this essay is to write a “why New York” essay instead of a “why New York University” essay. Trust me on this: you will not stand out in a crowd of nearly 85,000 applicants by writing an essay that could be summarized in a stereotypically-tourist “I LOVE NY” t-shirt. Again, the best essays tell stories about you and then connect to the school.

Personally, I centered my essay around a story that, admittedly, took place in New York City. I wrote about my experience interacting with a social justice club from NYU that was camped out in Washington Square Park, and how speaking with those students showed me the possibilities for who I could be at NYU, and how much I wanted to be that person. I then used that opportunity to speak about some of the things that I was passionate about — like immigration reform — as well as what I have done to work towards my goals in these areas, and finally, how NYU could help further my work and dreams.

Schools, Colleges

Elinor: Within NYU, there are multiple schools and colleges. While some of these are meant for graduate students, like the School of Dentistry, there are several schools that undergraduates can choose from. The College of Arts & Sciences offers the majority of undergraduate degrees. You could also consider the Leonard N. Stern School of Business, where you can study topics such as economics, finance, operations, and marketing. Or, if you are interested in creating your own major, you could apply to the Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

Whichever you choose, make sure to do some research into the history of the school, its values, and the different majors and programs it offers. For example, you could take a few minutes to watch NYU’s video explaining The Gallatin Philosophy .

If you’re applying to the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), you don’t need to focus much on this part of your essay — spend more time explaining why you’re pursuing your chosen major within CAS. A strong answer to this part of the prompt will mention the names of unique programs and courses offered by the school. For example, if you’re applying to NYU Steinhardt, you might discuss your excitement at the chance to learn about songwriting from Vanessa Williams, the 2020-21 Dean’s Scholar-in-Residence.

The key idea is to avoid generic reasons that could easily be said about other New York City universities; instead, name NYU’s unique offerings, then explain why they appeal to you and how you will engage with them.

Elinor: Within the college you apply to, you will have a wide array of majors to choose from. Even if you are already sure of what you want to study, take the time to read through NYU’s list of majors. This list is long, which means that each major is more specific than at other universities. For example, while some schools simply offer “French” or “Linguistics,” New York University offers “French,” “French-Linguistics,” “Romance Languages,” and a combined BA/MA French or French Studies program — as well as 5 related minors.

Take the time to read through the different majors offered by the departments that you’d like to apply to, and consider what about your program of choice interests you the most. Due to NYU’s location, there are often lots of opportunities to learn outside of the classroom — do some research to see where the alumni of your program end up working.

While the bulk of your essay should be about why you want to study your chosen major at NYU, do take some time to explain why you chose this field in the first place — just one or two sentences will do, as you only have around 400 words in total. Some questions you should ask yourself: Does this major include a study abroad component? If so, which study abroad program(s) would I like to do, and why? What systems are in place to help students get internships/work experience in the field? What unique electives does this major offer? What professors have done work that I am interested in? How interdisciplinary is this major? Is it more research-oriented, or pre-professional? What do I want to do as a career, and how does this program support students interested in that field?

Final Thoughts

Elinor: It’s possible that you might read this blog post, get to the end, and think to yourself: “But the only reasons NYU is on my list in the first place is because it’s prestigious and in New York! I don’t have any other reasons that I want to go there.”

The admissions officers aren’t expecting you to be able to answer this prompt off the top of your head. Although the main reason they are asking is so that they can determine if you are a good fit and likely to enroll if accepted, they also are using this as a clever way of advertising NYU. By giving you this prompt, they know you will likely have to spend some time on their website and reading up on the school. In doing so, they are betting that you will find yourself falling in love with the school. Essentially, this prompt isn’t just for the admissions officers to read — it’s for you to research and learn more about this school . Ultimately, the more time you spend finding great reasons to use in this prompt, the more prepared you will be to make your decision, should you be accepted.

Shru: This year, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may not have gotten to visit NYU and experience interacting with elements of the campus before applying. However, I genuinely believe that the best stories are about moments of genuine connection and displays of true passion.

It doesn’t make the essay any less effective if you had that an interaction with a social justice club at NYU over their social media channels, rather than in person at Washington Square Park. Although you can’t be there in person, I strongly encourage you to engage with the resources that schools provide for student-to-prospective student communication! If you are genuine in your story, your connection, and your passion, then you can stand out.

This New York University essay guide was written by Elinor Martinez (Brown University ‘21) and Shru Bharadwaj (Princeton University, ‘24) . If you want to get help writing your NYU application essays from Elinor, Shru, or other CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Experts , register with CollegeAdvisor.com today.

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First-Year Applicants

Your guide to applying.

On this page you’ll find step-by-step application instructions on applying to all three of NYU's degree-granting campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai. If one of the following applies to you, follow the instructions below to apply as a first-year student:

  • Currently in high school, even if taking college courses.
  • Participating in a dual-enrollment program, even if you’re earning enough credits for an associate’s degree. (Dual-enrollment means that you are in high school and also in a college-level program.)
  • Graduated with a GED or high school diploma equivalency test and have not enrolled in a degree-seeking program.

How do I apply?

Step 1: start and complete the common application online.

The Common Application is required for students applying to any or all of NYU's three degree-granting campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, or Shanghai. You'll be able to choose your campus(es) and program(s) of interest on the NYU-specific page of the Common Application.

You’ll need:

  • A personal email address that you check regularly. Please do not use a school email address as you may miss important information about your application and admissions decision.
  • Contact information for the counselor or other school representative who will complete your Common Application School Report, where they are able to submit your high school transcript and optional letter of recommendation.
  • Contact information for one person (or, optionally, up to three maximum) who will complete a letter of recommendation. NYU requires one letter of recommendation from a teacher, counselor, coach, supervisor, or anyone else in a position of authority. If your recommender is unable to submit their letter through the Common Application, they can email it directly to  [email protected] . Please have them include either your date of birth or Common App ID.
  • Nonrefundable $80.00 application fee. Students who are unable to pay the application fee can request a fee waiver .

Are you ready? Start the application now.

Step 2: Gather and Submit Necessary Documents

Depending on your educational background and the program you are applying to, you will need to provide the following:

  • Standardized test scores (see NYU’s standardized testing requirements ). Standardized testing is optional for the upcoming application term.
  • A Self Reported Academic Record (SRAR). All applicants will be invited to complete this after submitting their application.
  • Steinhardt requires an  audition or portfolio  for all applicants to the Music Department and a  portfolio  for those applying to Studio Art.
  • Tisch requires an audition or portfolio for applicants to all programs. 
  • For programs that require an audition or portfolio, we strongly recommend you submit your application one month in advance to ensure ample time to prepare your audition or portfolio.
  • English language testing if you have not completed at least 3 years of study where English is the sole language of instruction at the time of application submission and English is not your first language.
  • Records of all college work that you have received academic credit for and does not appear on your high school transcript.
  • The Common Application Mid Year Report with updated academic record if mid-year grades are available. This should show your first semester senior year grades.

When should I apply?

Follow the key dates and deadlines below.  Learn more about early decision .

For programs that require an audition or portfolio, we strongly recommend you submit your Common Application one month in advance to ensure ample time to prepare your audition or portfolio.

*The cut-off time for applications is 11:59 pm in your local time zone.

Sending Documents

NYU will accept official or unofficial transcripts and test scores for the purposes of our application review process. Students can send unofficial documents by email to  [email protected]  or upload them through their applicant portal, which they will gain access to after submitting the Common App.

Include an official English translation if the document isn't in English. A school official or a translation agency accredited in the country of the educational institution can issue the translation. NYU will only make exceptions for documents in Mandarin Chinese submitted to NYU Shanghai.

Documents not submitted through the Common Application can be mailed to:

New York University Office of Undergraduate Admissions 400 Lafayette Street 4th Floor New York, NY 10003 USA

Or sent via email to: [email protected]

Remember To ...

Use your name exactly as it appears on your passport or birth certificate on your application and supporting documents.

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September 13, 2023

2023-2024 NYU Supplemental Essay Prompt

The arch is featured under a blue sky in NYC's Washington Square Park.

New York University has released its supplemental essay prompt for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle. In addition to The Common Application ’s Personal Statement, applicants to NYU are asked to respond to one optional 250-word supplemental essay — and it’s a different one from years past.

For this supplemental essay, NYU applicants can focus their answer on one of four quotes provided, choose their own quote, or not answer the question at all. Of course, students who don’t write optional essays put themselves at a significant disadvantage — irrespective of what NYU’s admissions officers may say to the contrary.

2023-2024 NYU Essay Question

In 250 words or less, applicants to NYU’s Class of 2028 are asked to respond to the following prompt:

We are looking for peacemakers, changemakers, global citizens, boundary breakers, creatives and innovators – Choose one quote from the following and let us know why it inspires you; or share a short quote and person not on our list who inspires you, and include why.

“We’re used to people telling us there are no solutions, and then creating our own. So we did what we do best. We reached out to each other, and to our allies, and we mobilized across communities to make change, to benefit and include everyone in society.” 

– Judith Heumann, 2022 NYU Commencement Address

“I encourage your discomfort, that you must contribute, that you must make your voice heard. That is the essence of good citizenship.” 

– Sherilynn Ifill, 2015 NYU Commencement Addresss

“If you know how to fly but you never knew how to walk, wouldn’t that be sad?” Lang Lang, 2015 NYU Honorary Degree Recipient “You have the right to want things and to want things to change.” 

– Sanna Marin, Former Prime Minister of Finland, 2023 NYU Commencement Address

“It’s hard to fight when the fight ain’t fair.” 

– Taylor Swift, Change, Released 2008, 2022 NYU Commencement Speaker

Share a short quote and person not on this list, and why the quote inspires you.

Not answering this optional question.

When answering this NYU essay prompt, regardless of the quote a student chooses, students must focus on how they think and wish to shape the world in one singular way rather than focus on the quote itself or the person who uttered the line at a commencement address. Ideally, the essay will fit like a puzzle piece with the Personal Statement — in a complementary rather than a redundant way — to showcase the singular hook a student hopes to bring to NYU.

On a personal note, we at Ivy Coach are pleased to see a quote included from the late disability rights activist Judith Heumann , NYU’s 2022 commencement speaker and the subject of a 2022 Academy Award-winning documentary, as she was a dear friend of Ivy Coach’s Founder, Bev Taylor .

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with the NYU Essay

If you’re interested in optimizing your case for admission to NYU by submitting an NYU supplement that wows admissions officers, fill out Ivy Coach ’s free consultation form , and we’ll be in touch to outline our college counseling services for applicants to the Class of 2028.

You are permitted to use www.ivycoach.com (including the content of the Blog) for your personal, non-commercial use only. You must not copy, download, print, or otherwise distribute the content on our site without the prior written consent of Ivy Coach, Inc.

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2021-2022 Common App essay prompts

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The Common App essay prompts will remain the same for 2021-2022 with one exception. We will retire the seldom used option about solving a problem and replace it with the following:

  • Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

We will also retain the optional COVID-19 question within the Additional Information section.

The new prompt is inspired by scientific research on gratitude and kindness , specifically the benefits of writing about the positive influence of other people in our lives.

This mindset resonates with Common App President & CEO Jenny Rickard. “Particularly at this challenging time, we can help students think about something positive and heartfelt in their lives,” she explains. “And we can do it explicitly.”

“Particularly at this challenging time, we can help students think about something positive and heartfelt in their lives. And we can do it explicitly.” Jenny Rickard, President & CEO, Common App

In crafting the new option, we relied on the expertise of counselors and admission officers on our Outreach and Application Advisory Committees, along with input from psychology and gratitude researchers. Together, these educators understand the ingredients of a successful essay prompt. The final language they helped to shape balances flexibility with direction. They believe the new choice will generate stories that students are inspired to write and that colleges are excited to read.

An essay prompt can’t erase the loss and anxiety of the last 12 months, but it can validate the importance of gratitude and kindness. We hope students see the new prompt for what it is intended to be: an invitation to bring some joy into their application experience.

Below is the full set of essay prompts for 2021-2022.

  • Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  • Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  • Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  • Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  • Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
“As a member of the Common Application Advisory Committee, I appreciated learning about the careful and deliberative process, involving a variety of counseling and student stakeholders, to recommend these revisions to the essay prompts. During these difficult times, it will be encouraging for students and those reviewing these essay responses to be reminded of the joy and hope that generosity and gratitude can foster.” Sacha Thieme, Assistant Vice Provost & Executive Director of Admissions, Indiana University

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new york university essay prompts 2021

From the Heart to Higher Education: The 2021 College Essays on Money

Each year, we ask high school seniors to send us college application essays that touch on money, work or social class. Here are five from this year’s incoming college freshmen.

Credit... Robert Neubecker

Supported by

Ron Lieber

By Ron Lieber

  • June 18, 2021

When the most selective — or, even better, rejective — schools in the United States are accepting under 10 percent of the people pleading for a spot in the next freshman class, it eventually becomes impossible to know why any one person receives an offer, or why a student chooses a particular school.

So in this particularly unpredictable season — as we publish a selection of application essays about money, work or social class for the ninth time — we’ve made one small but permanent change: We (and they) are going to tell you where the writers come from, but not where they are headed.

Our overarching point in publishing their essays isn’t to crack the code on writing one’s way into Yale or Michigan, as if that were even possible. Instead, it’s to celebrate how meaningful it can be to talk openly about money and write about it in a way that makes a reader stop and wonder about someone else’s life and, just maybe, offers a momentary bit of enlightenment and delight.

One writer this year helps her mother find a new way of bringing joy into the world, while another discovers the cost of merely showing up if you’re a female employee. A young man reflects on his own thrift, while a young woman accepts a gift of ice cream and pays a price for it. Finally, caregiving becomes a source of pride for someone young enough to need supervision herself.

Each of the writers will make you smile, eventually. And this year in particular, we — and they — deserve to.

new york university essay prompts 2021

“She began to cry and told me it was too late for her. I could not bear to watch her struggle between ambition and doubt.”

New York — Bronx High School of Science

My mom finds a baffling delight from drinking from glass, hotel-grade water dispensers. Even when three-day-old lemon rinds float in stale water, drinking from the dispenser remains luxurious. Last year for her birthday, I saved enough to buy a water dispenser for our kitchen counter. However, instead of water, I filled it with handwritten notes encouraging her to chase her dreams of a career.

As I grew older, I noticed that my mom yearned to pursue her passions and to make her own money. She spent years as a stay-at-home mom and limited our household chores as much as she could, taking the burden upon herself so that my brothers and I could focus on our education. However, I could tell from her curiosity of and attitudes toward working women that she envied their financial freedom and the self-esteem that must come with it. When I asked her about working again, she would tell me to focus on achieving the American dream that I knew she had once dreamed for herself.

For years, I watched her effortlessly light up conversations with both strangers and family. Her empathy and ability to understand the needs, wants and struggles of a diverse group of people empowered her to reach the hearts of every person at a dinner table, even when the story itself did not apply to them at all. She could make anyone laugh, and I wanted her to be paid for it. “Mom, have you ever thought about being a stand-up comedian?”

She laughed at the idea, but then she started wondering aloud about what she would joke about and how comedy shows were booked. As she began dreaming of a comedy career, the reality of her current life as a stay-at-home mom sank in. She began to cry and told me it was too late for her. I could not bear to watch her struggle between ambition and doubt.

Her birthday was coming up. Although I had already bought her a present, I realized what I actually wanted to give her was the strength to finally put herself first and to take a chance. I placed little notes of encouragement inside the water dispenser. I asked my family and her closest friends to do the same. These friends told her other friends, and eventually I had grown a network of supporters who emailed me their admiration for my mom. From these emails, I hand wrote 146 notes, crediting all of these supporters that also believed in my mom. Some provided me with sentences, others with five-paragraph-long essays. Yet, each note was an iteration of the same sentiment: “You are hilarious, full of life, and ready to take on the stage.”

On the day of her birthday, my mom unwrapped my oddly shaped present and saw the water dispenser I bought her. She was not surprised, as she had hinted at it for many years. But then as she kept unwrapping, she saw that inside the dispenser there were these little notes that filled the whole thing. As she kept picking out and reading the notes, I could tell she was starting to believe what they said. She started to weep with her hands full of notes. She could not believe the support was real, that everyone knew she had a special gift and believed in her.

Within two months, my mom performed her first set in a New York comedy club. Within a year, my mom booked a monthly headlining show at the nation’s premier comedy club.

I am not sure what happened to the water dispenser. But I have read the notes with my mom countless times. They are framed and line the walls of her new office space that she rented with the profits she made from working as a professional comedian . For many parents, their children’s careers are their greatest accomplishment, but for me my mom’s is mine.

Adrienne Coleman

“The intense Saturday night crucible of the restaurant, with all the unwanted phone numbers, catcalls and wandering hands, jolted me into an unavoidable reckoning with feminism in a professional world.”

Locust Valley, N.Y. — Friends Academy

“Pull down your mask, sweetheart, so I can see that pretty smile.”

I returned a well-practiced smile with just my eyes, as the eight guys started their sixth bottle of Brunello di Montalcino. Their carefree banter bordered on heckling. Ignoring their comments, I stacked dishes heavy with half-eaten rib-eye steaks and truffle risotto. As I brought their plates to the dish pit, I warned my female co-workers about the increasingly drunken rowdiness at Table 44.

This was not the first time I’d felt uncomfortable at work. When I initially presented my résumé to the restaurant manager, he scanned me up and down, barely glancing at the piece of paper. “Well, you’ve got no restaurant experience, but you know, you package well. When can you start?” I felt his eyes burn through me. That’s it? No pretense of a proper interview? “Great,” I said, thrilled at the prospect of earning good money. At the same time, reduced to the way I “package,” I felt degraded.

I thought back to my impassioned feminist speech that won the eighth-grade speech contest. I lingered on the moments that, as the leader of my high school’s F-Word Club, I had redefined feminism for my friends who initially rejected the word as radical. But in these instances, I realized how my notions of equality had been somewhat theoretical — a passion inspired by the words of Malala and R.B.G. — but not yet lived or compromised.

The restaurant has become my real-world classroom, the pecking order transparent and immutable. All the managers, the decision makers, are men. They set the schedules, determine the tip pool, hire pretty young women to serve and hostess, and brazenly berate those below them. The V.I.P. customers are overwhelmingly men, the high rollers who drop thousands of dollars on drinks, and feel entitled to palm me, a 17-year-old, their phone numbers rolled inside a wad of cash.

Angry customers, furious they had mistakenly received penne instead of pane, initially rattled me. I have since learned to assuage and soothe. I’ve developed the confidence to be firm with those who won’t wear a mask or are breathtakingly rude. I take pride in controlling my tables, working 13-hour shifts and earning my own money. At the same time, I’ve struggled to navigate the boundaries of what to accept and where to draw the line. When a staff member continued to inappropriately touch me, I had to summon the courage to address the issue with my male supervisor. Then, it took weeks for the harasser to get fired, only to return to his job a few days later.

When I received my first paycheck, accompanied by a stack of cash tips, I questioned the compromises I was making. In this physical and mental space, I searched for my identity. It was simple to explore gender roles in a classroom or through complex characters in a Kate Chopin novel. My heroes, trailblazing women such as Simone de Beauvoir and Gloria Steinem, had paved the road for me. In my textbooks, their crusading is history. But the intense Saturday night crucible of the restaurant, with all the unwanted phone numbers, catcalls and wandering hands, jolted me into an unavoidable reckoning with feminism in a professional world.

Often, I’ve felt shame; shame that I wasn’t as vocal as my heroes; shame that I feigned smiles and silently pocketed the cash handed to me. Yet, these experiences have been a catalyst for personal and intellectual growth. I am learning how to set boundaries and to use my professional skills as a means of empowerment.

Constantly re-evaluating my definition of feminism, I am inspired to dive deeply into gender studies and philosophy to better pursue social justice. I want to use politics as a forum for activism. Like my female icons, I want to stop the burden of sexism from falling on young women. In this way, I will smile fully — for myself.

Hoseong Nam

“I feel haunted, cursed by the compulsion to diligently subtract pennies from purchases hoping it will eventually pile up into a mere dollar.”

Hanoi, Vietnam — British Vietnamese International School

Despite the loud busking music, arcade lights and swarms of people, it was hard to be distracted from the corner street stall serving steaming cupfuls of tteokbokki — a medley of rice cake and fish cake covered in a concoction of hot sweet sauce. I gulped when I felt my friend tugging on the sleeve of my jacket, anticipating that he wanted to try it. After all, I promised to treat him out if he visited me in Korea over winter break.

The cups of tteokbokki, garnished with sesame leaves and tempura, was a high-end variant of the street food, nothing like the kind from my childhood. Its price of 3,500 Korean won was also nothing like I recalled, either, simply charged more for being sold on a busy street. If I denied the purchase, I could console my friend and brother by purchasing more substantial meals elsewhere. Or we could spend on overpriced food now to indulge in the immediate gratification of a convenient but ephemeral snack.

At every seemingly inconsequential expenditure, I weigh the pros and cons of possible purchases as if I held my entire fate in my hands. To be generously hospitable, but recklessly drain the travel allowance we needed to stretch across two weeks? Or to be budgetarily shrewd, but possibly risk being classified as stingy? That is the question, and a calculus I so dearly detest.

Unable to secure subsequent employment and saddled by alimony complications, there was no room in my dad’s household to be embarrassed by austerity or scraping for crumbs. Ever since I was taught to dilute shampoo with water, I’ve revised my formula to reduce irritation to the eye. Every visit to a fast-food chain included asking for a sheet of discount coupons — the parameters of all future menu choice — and a past receipt containing the code of a completed survey to redeem for a free cheeseburger. Exploiting combinations of multiple promotions to maximize savings at such establishments felt as thrilling as cracking war cryptography, critical for minimizing cash casualties.

However, while disciplined restriction of expenses may be virtuous in private, at outings, even those amongst friends, spending less — when it comes to status — paradoxically costs more. In Asian family-style eating customs, a dish ordered is typically available to everyone, and the total bill, regardless of what you did or did not consume, is divided evenly. Too ashamed to ask for myself to be excluded from paying for dishes I did not order or partake in, I’ve opted out of invitations to meals altogether. I am wary even of meals where the inviting host has offered to treat everyone, fearful that if I only attended “free meals” I would be pinned as a parasite.

Although I can now conduct t-tests to extract correlations between multiple variables, calculate marginal propensities to import and assess whether a developing country elsewhere in the world is at risk of becoming stuck in the middle-income trap, my day-to-day decisions still revolve around elementary arithmetic. I feel haunted, cursed by the compulsion to diligently subtract pennies from purchases hoping it will eventually pile up into a mere dollar, as if the slightest misjudgment in a single buy would tip my family’s balance sheet into irrecoverable poverty.

Will I ever stop stressing over overspending?

I’m not sure I ever will.

But I do know this. As I handed over 7,000 won in exchange for two cups of tteokbokki to share amongst the three of us — my friend, my brother and myself — I am reminded that even if we are not swimming in splendor, we can still uphold our dignity through the generosity of sharing. Restricting one’s conscience only around ruminating which roads will lead to riches risks blindness toward rarer wealth: friends and family who do not measure one’s worth based on their net worth. Maybe one day, such rigorous monitoring of financial activity won’t be necessary, but even if not, this is still enough.

Neeya Hamed

“In America, we possess all the tangible resources. Why is it, then, that we fruitlessly struggle to connect with one another?”

New York — Brooklyn Friends School

Sitting on monobloc chairs of various colors, the Tea Ladies offer healing. Henna-garnished hands deliver four cups of tea, each selling for no more than 10 cents. You may see them as refugees who fled the conflict in western Sudan, passionately working to make ends meet by selling tea. I see them as messengers bearing the secret ingredients necessary to truly welcome others.

On virtually every corner in Sudan, you can find these Tea Ladies. They greet you with open hearts and colorful traditional Sudanese robes while incense fills the air, singing songs of ancient ritual. Their dexterous ability to touch people’s lives starts with the ingredients behind the tea stand: homegrown cardamom, mint and cloves. As they skillfully prepare the best handmade tea in the world, I look around me. Melodies of spirited laughter embrace me, smiles as bright as the afternoon sun. They have a superpower. They create a naturally inviting space where boundless hospitality thrives.

These humble spaces are created by people who do not have much. Meanwhile, in America, we possess all the tangible resources. Why is it, then, that we fruitlessly struggle to connect with one another? On some corners of Mill Basin, Brooklyn, I discovered that some people don’t lead their lives as selflessly.

I never imagined that the monobloc chair in my very own neighborhood would be pulled out from under me. Behind this stand, the ingredients necessary to touch my life were none but one: a friendly encounter gone wrong. While waiting for ice cream, a neighbor offered to pay for me. This deeply offended the shop owner glaring behind the glass; he resented my neighbor’s compassion because his kindness is reserved for those who do not look like me. The encounter was potent enough to extract the resentment brewing within him and compelled him to project that onto me.

“I guess Black lives do matter then,” he snarked.

His unmistakably self-righteous smirk was enough to deny my place in my community. It was enough to turn a beautiful sentiment of kindness into a painfully retentive memory; a constant reminder of what is to come.

Six thousand three hundred and fifty-eight miles away, Sudan suddenly felt closer to me than the ice cream shop around the corner. As I walked home, completely shaken and wondering what I did to provoke him, I struggled to conceptualize the seemingly irrelevant comment. When I walk into spaces, be it my school, the bodega or an ice cream shop, I am conscious of the cardamom mint, and cloves that reside within me; the ingredients, traits and culmination of thoughts that make up who I am, not what I was reduced to by that man. I learned, however, that sometimes the color of my skin speaks before I can.

I realized that the connotations of ignorance in his words weren’t what solely bothered me. My confusion stemmed more from the complete lack of care toward others in his community, a notion completely detached from everything I believe in. For the Tea Ladies and the Sudanese people, it isn’t about whether or not people know their story. It isn’t about solidarity in uniformity, but rather seeing others for who they truly are.

Back in Khartoum, Sudan, I looked at the talents of the Tea Ladies in awe. They didn’t necessarily transform people with their tea, they did something better. Every cup was a silent nod to each person’s dignity.

To the left of me sat a husband and father, complaining about the ridiculous bread prices. To the right of me sat a younger worker who spent his days sweeping the quarters of the water company next door. Independent of who you were or what you knew before you got there, their tea was bridging the gap between lives and empowering true companionship, all within the setting of four chairs and a small plastic table.

Sometimes, that is all it takes.

“I was the memory keeper, privy to the smallest snippets that go forgotten in a lifetime.”

Lafayette, Calif. — Miramonte High School

I was the ultimate day care kid — I never left.

From before I could walk to the start of middle school, Kimmy’s day care was my second home. While my classmates at school went home with stay-at-home moms to swim team and Girl Scouts, I traveled to the town next door where the houses are smaller, the parched lawns crunchy under my feet from the drought.

At school, I stuck out. I was one of the few brown kids on campus. Both of my parents worked full time. We didn’t spend money on tutors when I got a poor test score. I’d never owned a pair of Lululemon leggings, and my mom was not versed in the art of Zumba, Jazzercise or goat yoga. At school, I was a blade of green grass in a California lawn, but at day care, I blended in.

The kids ranged from infants to toddlers. I was the oldest by a long shot, but I liked it that way. As an only child, this was my window into a sibling relationship — well, seven sibling relationships. I played with them till we dropped, held them when they cried, got annoyed when they took my things. And the kids did the same for me. They helped as I sat at the counter drawing, and starred in every play I put on. They watched enviously as I climbed to the top of the plum tree in the backyard.

Kimmy called herself “the substitute mother,” but she never gave herself enough credit. She listened while I gushed about my day, held me when I had a fever and came running when I fell out of the tree. From her, I learned to feed a baby a bottle, and recognize when a child was about to walk. I saw dozens of first steps, heard hundreds of first words, celebrated countless birthdays. Most importantly, I learned to let the bottle go when the baby could feed herself.

And I collected all the firsts, all the memories and stories of each kid, spinning elaborate tales to the parents who walked through the door at the end of the day. I was the memory keeper, privy to the smallest snippets that go forgotten in a lifetime.

I remember when Alyssa asked me to put plum tree flowers in her pigtails, and the time Arlo fell into the toilet. I remember the babies we bathed in the kitchen sink, and how Kimmy saved Gussie’s life with the Heimlich maneuver. I remember the tears at “graduation,” when children left for preschool, and each time our broken family mended itself when new kids arrived.

When I got home, I wrote everything down in my pink notebook. Jackson’s first words, the time Lolly fell off the couch belting “Let It Go.” Each page titled with a child’s name and the moments I was afraid they wouldn’t remember.

I don’t go to day care anymore. Children don’t hide under the table, keeping me company while I do homework. Nursing a baby to sleep is no longer part of my everyday routine, and running feet don’t greet me when I return from school. But day care is infused in me. I can clean a room in five minutes, and whip up lunch for seven. I remain calm in the midst of chaos. After taming countless temper tantrums, I can work with anyone. I continue to be a storyteller.

When I look back, I remember peering down from the top of the plum tree. I see a tiny backyard with patches of dead grass. But I also see Kimmy and my seven “siblings.” I see the beginnings of lives, and a place that quietly shapes the children who run across the lawn below. The baby stares curiously up at me from the patio, bouncing in her seat. She will be walking soon, Kimmy says. As will I.

Ron Lieber has been the Your Money columnist since 2008 and has written five books, most recently “The Price You Pay for College.” More about Ron Lieber

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University of Chicago 2021-22 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Regular Decision: 

University of Chicago 2021-22 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: 2 essays of 1-2 pages each

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why , Oddball

This is it, the infamous U Chicago supplemental application. These quirky prompts have been a rite of passage for generations of applicants. So before you dive in, just remember that if they could do it, so can you! Your goal in writing your Chicago extended essay should be the same as ever: to reveal something new to admissions. It might even help to have a few ideas in mind before reading through your options. These prompts are so specific and strange that, in the end, the key is just to follow your instincts. What speaks to you right away? What inspires you?

Question 1 (Required)

How does the university of chicago, as you know it now, satisfy your desire for a particular kind of learning, community, and future please address with some specificity your own wishes and how they relate to uchicago..

Think of this run-of-the-mill why essay as the overture to your magnum opus (i.e. the Extended Essay). Chicago wants you to cover all the bases – “learning, community, and future” – so as with any why essay, you’d best buckle down and do your homework. The more specific details you can incorporate into your essay, the more sincere and personal it will feel (and be!). Explore both academic and extracurricular opportunities. How will you pursue your interest in oceanography? With a major in biology and a semester in Australia? What research opportunities will you pursue? Will joining the club crew team help you feel more connected to aquatic life despite your midwest location? One thing you won’t find on the school website, though, is that third piece, that “future” thing. Think about where you’d like to be five or ten years from now – your career or the impact you’d like to have or even just a geographic location. How will a U Chicago education help you get there? How will your scholarly and social pursuits help you grow? Show admissions how U Chicago is the bridge between the person you are and the person you hope to be.

Question 2: Extended Essay (Required; Choose one)

Essay option 1, what if the moon were made of cheese or neptune made of soap pick a celestial object, reimagine its material composition, and explore the implications. feel free to explore the realms of physics, philosophy, fantasy…the sky is the limit.

—Inspired by Tate Flicker, Class of 2025

Your answer to this prompt should ultimately speak to your passions. Maybe Jupiter is made up entirely of salt water because you can’t think of anything cooler than alien sharks (and you’re an aspiring marine biologist). Perhaps Saturn is made up of string because you recently discovered a love for knitting and you would take full advantage of this bountiful new resource. If Pluto is made up of trampolines, would you take your love of gymnastics to new heights? (We’re too punny!)

Whatever the celestial object is made of, it has to link to some kind of story or revelation about yourself. You need to know what you’re choosing, why you’re choosing it, and how it relates to something about you that admissions doesn’t yet know.

Essay Option 2

What’s so easy about pie.

—Inspired by Arjun Kalia, Class of 2025

You could take this prompt as face value and literally write about pie. Maybe you’re a novice baker or pie serves as the centerpiece of all of your family reunions. Does pie smooth out  social interactions with your relatives? (Who can question you about your career path and life goals when they have a mouthful of delicious pumpkin pie in their mouth?!) 

On the other hand, maybe this prompt isn’t about pie at all. Or, if it is, perhaps you don’t think there’s anything easy about pie. This prompt can be interpreted in a hundred different ways. The extent to which you can push this open-ended question is virtually limitless. Admissions is looking to see how you think, process, and approach. So, flex your imaginative muscles and take the metaphor off a cliff (in a good way). In the end, if this prompt doesn’t speak to you, don’t worry, there are plenty of others to choose from!

Essay Option 3

In homer’s iliad, helen had a “face that launched a thousand ships.” a millihelen, then, measures the beauty needed to launch one ship. the sagan unit is used to denote any large quantity (in place of “billions and billions”). a new york minute measures the period of time between a traffic light turning green and the cab behind you honking. invent a new unit of measurement. how is it derived how is it used what are its equivalents.

—Inspired by Carina Kane, Class of 2024, and Ishaan Goel, Class of 2025

This question can be reflective of so many aspects of your life. It can refer to a subject that you enjoy studying, a place that is important to you, or a hobby you’ve invested a lot of time into. This prompt is meant for fun, so don’t hesitate to tap into your comedian side or engage in wordplay. Are the hours between dinner and twilight the “construction-zone,” as you try makeup tutorials in your free time? (Repurposed phrases are encouraged!) If this prompt appeals to you, your answer will become abundantly clear. What do you want admissions to know about you? You can make almost any topic work for this prompt, so long as you have the proper segue.

We here at CEA have a different definition of a New York Minute, which is the time it takes a New Yorker to mute the monitor in the backseat after getting into a cab. If we were responding to this prompt, we might explore what it’s like to grow up in a city filled with distractions or what it’s like to be part of a super fast-paced environment. 

The new unit of measurement you invent could be the octave your mom manages to reach when breaking into one of her hyena laughs (her “wild-note”), or the force in which your dog is able to wag his tail and knock over literally everything (the “demolition-wag”). Let your mind wander and see what comes up for you!

Essay Option 4

“there is no such thing as a new idea” – mark twain. are any pieces of art, literature, philosophy, or technology truly original, or just a different combination of old ideas pick something, anything (besides yourself), and explain why it is, or is not, original..

—Inspired by Haina Lu, Class of 2022

This prompt is for all the creatives out there. Like the rest of the University of Chicago’s prompts, it doesn’t really matter which side you take, so long as you’re using the prompt to write about something that is important to you. Maybe you want to write about recent social justice movements like Black Lives Matter or #MeToo . Are they introducing new ideas? Not necessarily. Does that mean they’re not important for us to engage with and pay attention to? Absolutely not. 

You can also argue that everything is new. Sure, every piece of music is composed of the same notes, but those notes can be arranged in an infinite number of ways, evoking joy with that classic G-major and melancholy with those minor keys. You could argue that, every time you play a song, it’s for the first time because it will never be played exactly the same way twice. Or you could argue that ideas are reflective of the times in which they are introduced, and thus, they’re always brand new because they’re explored through the lens of a new chapter in history. If this prompt calls to you, follow the sound, and we’re sure you’ll come up with something great (and maybe even new)!

Essay Option 5

It’s said that history repeats itself. but what about other disciplines choose another field (chemistry, philosophy, etc.) and explain how it repeats itself. explain how it repeats itself..

—Inspired by Ori Brian, AB’19

This prompt serves you with a fun, creative way to nerd out about an intellectual interest of yours. However, what you choose to focus on doesn’t have to be something related to your major or long-term goals; it can just show admissions that you’re multifaceted and think about things creatively.

Maybe you’re a music-lover and want to write about how lyrics or choruses repeat themselves. Or, perhaps, you’re an avid reader and you’ve read or seen the plot of Pride and Prejudice at least seven times (each time with a different title and new characters, despite being the same storyline). Maybe you’re a science geek and want to talk about asexual bacteria and how it replicates/repeats itself all the time. So long as you’re having fun while responding to this prompt, you’re doing it right!

Essay Option 6

In the spirit of adventurous inquiry (and with the encouragement of one of our current students) choose one of our past prompts (or create a question of your own). be original, creative, thought provoking. draw on your best qualities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, citizen of the world, or future citizen of the university of chicago; take a little risk, and have fun.

We love all the prompts from the past —there are so many quirky ones! If this year’s questions aren’t inspiring you, don’t be afraid to peruse the archives to find one that stands out to you. If you belong at UChicago, there is no doubt you will find a prompt that sparks a story within you. 

We’d also like to note that this is a great opportunity for recycling essays. If you wrote a strong longform essay for another school, see if any of the old prompts work in your favor, or make up your own question custom-built for your essay. Good luck! 😊

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new york university essay prompts 2021

The 2021-2022 Common App Essay Prompts Are Here

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What’s Covered:

2021-2022 common app prompts, what has changed, tips for writing your common app essay.

  • How to Get Your Essay Reviewed for Free

The Common App recently released their essay prompts for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle, and unlike the past several years, the prompts are not the same as before.

In this post, we’ll go over the prompts, the changes, and tips for writing a strong Common App essay.

new york university essay prompts 2021

Here is a list of the prompts for this cycle. While they are largely unchanged, Prompt #4 is different this year (which is kind of a big deal, considering that the prompts have been the same since 2017).

Prompt #1: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Prompt #2: The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Prompt #3: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Prompt #4 (NEW): Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

Prompt #5: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

Prompt #6: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

Prompt #7: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

As usual, there are six prompts, with the seventh allowing you to write on a topic of your choice. The prompts are all the same except for Prompt #4. 

Here’s a side-by-side of the old and new versions of the prompt.

Before: Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

After: Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

While all Common App essays should be personal, the old prompt was more “scientific” and analytical than the new one. The focus of the essay was a problem, its relevance to your life, and how you found a solution (or how you would find a solution).

The theme of the new prompt is gratitude, and it is inherently more reflective than the old prompt, as the focus is a personal story. The new prompt is likely to apply to more students, but there are some potential tripwires to keep in mind.

A common mistake is to spend too much time elaborating on the “thing” that was done, or on the person who did it. While you should absolutely provide some context, the essay should mainly be about you and how this event impacted your life.

It’s also important to note that the prompt asks for an act that “made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. ” Admissions officers don’t want just a classic feel good story about an act of kindness. This act of kindness can be small or significant, but it should have a relatively big impact on your life that you may not have expected. The act itself may have also been surprising, or maybe your response to it was the unexpected part. 

While this prompt may seem straightforward, it’s actually encouraging a reflection on a nuanced situation. Some examples of good topics would be: 

  • Your friend signs you up for robotics even though you didn’t want to join at first, but then you discover a love for programming and want to use it to help build medical devices and prosthetics.
  • Your parents don’t approve of your artistic pursuits due to their immigrant background and desire for stability in “practical” careers, but after years of showing no interest in your art, they attend your gallery opening. This leads to a mutual understanding and inspires you to create art based on your parents’ struggles.

new york university essay prompts 2021

Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.

1. Get a head start

The topics are out, so you should consider drafting your Common App essay before the rush of the fall semester. Once senior year begins, you’ll be dealing with schoolwork, supplemental essays, extracurriculars, and other responsibilities. Your Common App essay will go to most, if not all, of the schools on your list, so it’s important that you take the time to write, edit, and get feedback on your essay. 

Read our ultimate guide to the Common App essay (which will soon be updated with the new prompt) and take a look at some strong essay examples to get a better idea of what admissions officers are looking for.

2. Know what topics are good, and which ones to avoid

There are two ways to brainstorm your essay. You can either pick a prompt that resonates with you and look for a matching story from your life, or come up with a story essential to who you are and find a prompt to match.

Keep in mind that there are some essay topics to avoid, however. Some cliche college essay topics include:

  • Sports injury story
  • Working hard in a challenging class
  • Immigrant story
  • Tragedy (death, divorce, illness)
  • Volunteer trip
  • Your religion
  • Romantic relationships
  • Family pressure to pursue a particular field

In general, these topics are bad because they’re extremely common and too often focus on the event itself rather than you and your personality. This doesn’t mean you can’t cover these topics, but it’s very difficult to do so in an effective way (see the post linked above for tips on how to revamp these cliche topics).

On the flip side, some good topic ideas are:

  • A unique extracurricular activity or passion
  • An activity or interest that contrasts heavily with your profile
  • A seemingly insignificant moment that speaks to larger themes within your life
  • Using an everyday experience or object as a metaphor to explore your life and personality
  • An in the moment narrative that tells the story of a important moment in your life

These topics are much broader and allow for greater creativity. 

3. Answer the 4 core questions

The point of the Common App essay is to humanize your application and put a face to your transcript. That’s a tall order for only 650 words max! 

To make sure you’re sharing the fullest range possible of who you are, try to answer these four core questions in your essay:

  • Why Am I Here?
  • What is Unique About Me?
  • What Matters to Me?

4. Consider the different college essay structures

The Common App essay is a piece of creative storytelling, and not your typical analytical paper for school. You don’t necessarily want to write an essay with the standard introduction, thesis, and supporting body paragraphs. 

How should you structure your essay, then? Here are a few ideas:

  • In-the-moment narrative: Take us to a specific moment in time and share your story as it’s unfolding, using this moment as a segue into broader themes of your life.
  • Narrative told over an extended period of time: This structure allows you to cover several experiences, and is well-suited for those looking to highlight their long-term development.
  • Series of anecdotes, or montage: Use several scenes (that aren’t necessarily related or chronological) to highlight an element of your life or personality.

There are also unconventional essay structures that you may consider, such as writing a movie script or a poem. These are high risk, but also high reward if executed correctly.

Learn more about essay structures and see examples in our blog post.

5. Show, don’t tell

One common mistake students make is to simply state what happened in their essay, rather than to use storytelling techniques like imagery and dialogue. To keep your essay as engaging as possible, you need to bring us to these experiences and allow us to be there with you, rather than telling us what happened. 

Here’s an example of telling: “Running a half marathon was a challenge.”

And here’s an example of showing: “My shoe became untied at mile 11, so I paused and bent over to lace it back up. Pain shot through my lower back. I grimaced and let out an audible groan.”

Where to Get Your Essay Edited for Free

Once you clear the academic threshold for selective schools, your essays and extracurriculars are the deciding factors for admissions officers. In fact, your essays and extracurriculars matter almost as much as grades and test scores at top schools. Why is this? Most students applying to top schools will have stellar academics. Your essays and extracurriculars are your chance to stand out and share your personality.

This is especially true for the Common App essay, as the prompts invite reflection and personal storytelling. It’s vital that your essay is engaging and presents you as someone who would enrich the campus community.

Before submitting your application, you should have someone else review your Common App essay. It’s even better if that person doesn’t know you personally, as they can best tell whether your personality shines through your essay. 

That’s why we created our Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. We highly recommend giving this tool a try!

new york university essay prompts 2021

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