How I Got Into NYU
Do you know how to improve your profile for college applications?
See how your profile ranks among thousands of other students using CollegeVine. Calculate your chances at your dream schools and learn what areas you need to improve right now — it only takes 3 minutes and it's 100% free.
- Application Context
- Standardized Testing
- Extracurriculars and Awards
- Letters of Recommendation
- Final Tips
- What Are Your Chances of Acceptance at NYU?
It was torture waiting until March 30, 2020. If you’re familiar with the college admissions process, you know that March 30 is the last possible day to receive a regular admissions decision. And, of course, that was the day NYU chose to notify prospective students. At this point, I was driving my grandma crazy by pacing up and down our staircase, and by bouncing my leg up and down when she forced me to sit. At 7pm, I heard a ding. I rushed to my computer. It took me five tries to get into my computer, but there it was an email from NYU Admissions. This is that movie movement right? The make or break moment? Wrong. NYU Admissions was emailing me to give me a heads up that decisions would be released in 45 minutes. And so, the wait began anew.
My acceptance to NYU marked the end of an arduous college admissions process. Once my adrenaline wore down and I saw the bold-printed ADMITTED on the NYU Violet Portal, I started researching about what to expect from my new home. Yet, going through pages and pages of NYU brochures, testimonials, and webpages gave me information but held me back from feeling personally connected to the student body. This is the feeling that I hope to pass on to you with this post. I’m here to give you a first-hand account of what got me into NYU and what to expect from the Violet family!
For some context, I applied to NYU in December 2019 as a part of the regular decisions timeline through the CommonApp. As for many other colleges, the final application deadline was January 1st; which remains consistent with every regular admissions cycle.
I applied from a public high school with a graduating class of 123 students. My school used the quintile system to rank students, and I was placed within the top quintile, so the top 20% of my graduating class. I applied to NYU with a 4.29/4.33 weighted GPA, a 1500 on the SAT, and with 5s on 8 out of 10 AP courses that I reported.
Throughout the admissions process, my primary aid was the school guidance counselor. To be honest, I relied heavily on research and internet forums to find tips and tricks since my guidance counselor was overworked and would often only offer general advice. I also made sure to reach out to past graduates of my school who went on to attend the schools I was applying to. A really important part of this process is to find the right school for YOU; not necessarily the highest ranked school or the one with the hottest reputation!
On my application, I chose to disclose my ethnicity (Indian) and my citizenship status (US citizen). It’s undeniable that these factors play a role in admissions decisions; though at times it may seem unfair.
Another factor that may impact admissions is financial aid. I did apply for financial aid using the FAFSA. NYU is a need-aware school, meaning that admissions counselors are able to see if you require aid and how much aid you require, however, the university makes a conscious effort to award as close to a student’s demonstrated financial need as possible. If you are banking on merit-based scholarships, be wary that NYU only gives out these awards to about 1-2% of admitted students.
In terms of the application itself, I submitted the CommonApp as well as an NYU-specific supplement; which prompted me to answer the question “Why NYU?”. Since I applied to the College of Arts & Sciences as a Public Policy and Economics double major, I did not need to submit an arts supplement. However, if you wish to attend NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, additional essays and an arts supplement are required.
When I applied to NYU my unweighted GPA was a 4.09/4.0. As such, I was ranked in the top quintile (or 20%) of my graduating class; which encompassed 24 students with weighted GPAs of 4.08 or higher. I made an effort to take advanced level or AP courses as soon as I could. At my high school, students were prohibited from taking AP courses prior to their junior year. Most high-achieving students took three APs in their junior year and then 3-5 APs their senior year. Here is a breakdown of the honors and AP courses that I chose to take:
- Honors Geometry
- Honors Algebra II/Trigonometry
- Honors Chemistry
- Honors Engineering Design
- Honors Spanish 3
- Honors Contemporary Issues
- Honors Pre Calculus
- Honors Spanish 4
- AP Language and Composition (5)
- AP US History (5)
- AP Biology (4)
- AP Macroeconomics (3)
- College Chorus
- AP Literature and Composition (5)
- AP Spanish (5)
- AP Calculus AB (5)
- AP Psychology (5)
- AP Government and Politics (5)
- AP Environmental Science* (5)
*My school did not offer a wide range of AP courses given our relatively small student body. For this reason, I elected to self-study for the AP Environmental Science Exam.
Next to each AP class I have listed the exam score I received and reported to NYU. And don’t be alarmed by the number of courses I decided to take each year, you do not need to take this many to appeal to NYU! If I could go back, I would elect not to take some of these exams, because I attempted to pursue the accelerated path in all of my core subjects instead of focusing on the ones I was most passionate about. While this approach may not fail you, it may place undue stress and anxiety on you during the most difficult years of high school.
In addition, NYU’s accreditation process for AP courses is relatively generous. Coming into my freshman year, I already had 32 credits toward my graduation. This breaks down to 8 accredited AP courses, each earning 4 credits. The only two courses NYU did not give credit for were AP Macroeconomics and AP Government and Politics.
In my junior year of high school, I elected to take the SAT. Over the course of a year, I took the SAT two times, and chose to report a superscore of 1500. Note that NYU does allow both the SAT and ACT to be superscored; meaning they consider the highest score from each subject of the test.
To break down my score further, I earned a perfect 800 on the Math Section and a 700 on the Reading, Writing & Language section. The SAT also has an additional essay section, on which I scored a perfect score. NYU was able to see this score with my superscored grade.
In 2020, the middle 50% scores of accepted students at NYU ranged from 1440-1530. However, in comparison to NYU’s average score from 2019, I fell into the 75th percentile in comparison to their student body; which is significantly above average. In the past couple of years, NYU has begun to slash its admissions rate; decreasing from 19% in 2018 to just 12% in 2021. With this trend, it becomes more important to focus on your standardized testing in order to keep up with NYU’s increasing selectiveness.
I chose to self-study for the SAT. If I could go back, I would take greater advantage of the free resources available online for students. Since I was juggling 4 APs, 3 Honors classes, 1 College course, and all my extracurriculars, I did not have as much time as I wanted to study for the SAT. I only took a few practice tests, and luckily got a decent score, and then decided to not take the SAT a third time. But remember, this one number, a single score, is not going to determine your admissions chances entirely. While some schools use standardized testing as a preliminary indicator of fit, many schools, including NYU, apply a holistic approach to reviewing applications.
Extracurriculars and Awards
Model United Nations (9, 10, 11, 12)
- Selected as Secretary-General (President) for my 11th and 12th grade years
- Best Delegate (1st), Johns Hopkins Model UN Conference (JHUMUNC) 2019
- Best Delegate, EagleMUNC (run by Boston College) 2019
- Best Delegate, EagleMUNC 2018
- Outstanding Delegate (2nd), Rutgers Model UN Conference 2018
- Outstanding Delegate, Yale Model United Nations Conference 2017
- 3 Honorable Mention awards (from 2017-2019)
- 1 of 13 delegates selected for application-based advanced committees on four separate occasions
Team awards and honors (when I was President):
- Top 100 List of Model UN Teams in the Nation (2019)
- Best Large Delegation, EagleMUNC 2019
- Outstanding Large Delegation, EagleMUNC 2018
Student Congress (10, 11, 12)
- 1 of 5 elected representatives of my grade (3 yrs)
- Served as Chair of the Student Affairs Committee (2 yrs)
- Lead student initiatives such as Global Awareness Day, the Recycling Program, creating a school testing calendar, etc.
Mock Trial (9, 10, 11, 12)
- Applied and accepted onto our 15 person mock trial team
- Selected by advisors to serve as 1st lawyer (2 yrs)
- Advised new lawyers and helped formulate case theory/briefs
- State Qualifiers (2018)
- County Finalists (2018, 2019)
Brandeis University Book Award
- Awarded to a student within the top 10% of the graduating class in recognition of academic achievement and commitment to bettering the community through social action and volunteerism
National Spanish Exam Awards
- Level 4 – Premio de Bronce (Bronze Medal), 2019
- Level 3 – Premio de Oro (Gold Medal), 2018
- Level 2 – Premio de Oro (Gold Medal), 2017
- Level 1 – Premio de Oro (Gold Medal), 2016
Columbia University 3-week Summer Immersion (2019)
- Class: “Economics, Entrepreneurship, and Social Justice” (graded)
- Attended classes on the fundamentals of finance and economics as well as lectures from professionals in fields such as cryptocurrency, social enterprise, non-profit finance and start-up labs
Received the 2019 Dean’s Leadership Award
- Nominated and chosen by Columbia University staff; only student to receive the award in the summer immersion program (across all 100 classes)
This is a brief representation of some of my extracurricular activities and awards during high school. I was also heavily involved with student publications, and journalism work outside of school. In addition, I tried to give back to my community with over 80 hours of service during my four years of high school.
It’s super important to show extracurricular involvement. But, be sure to get creative with it! You aren’t just limited to the opportunities your school provides, admissions counselors would also be intrigued by passion projects you chose to explore, skills you opted to learn outside of the classroom, a job you may have held, or caretaker responsibilities that you bore. Basically, paint a picture of where your time was concentrated when you were out of school and not doing school work or relaxing.
I applied to NYU through the CommonApp. For my personal essay I chose to respond to the prompt: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. I felt this essay gave me room to creatively write about a striking life experience whilst also showing my potential for growth in-and-out of the classroom.
Regardless of which essay prompt you choose to respond to, NYU is looking for students who reflect on their experiences whilst employing a forward thinking mindset. So, don’t dwell too much on the past and make sure to relate your story back to you as a person; more than just you as a student.
Each year NYU has the same supplemental prompt. This question is a variation of Why NYU? Now, please don’t be cliche and give the admissions committee the hundredth “I really love NYC” response. NYU is not the only university or college in NYC, so you need to go beyond what NYC can offer you, and to specifically what programs, professors, or opportunities NYU can expose you to.
Really take some time to research NYU and the specific program you are applying for. Show the admissions committee that the Violet community is a place where you belong and thrive! Also, take a look at a Why NYU? Essay Example.
Here is an excerpt from my Why NYU? Response:
“I have always been fascinated by the confidence necessary to become an effective rhetorician. I aspire to become a policy maker, a true civil servant, which is complemented by NYU’s mission to create a community which fosters active citizens by bringing “thinkers and doers” together. As a student at NYU, I would take advantage of classes such as Public Policy in an Era of Disruption, taught by Professor Timothy Naftali, to understand the framing of policy on the national level and the importance of public engagement. A Violet is able to learn in a flexible style with an emphasis on experiential learning, thereby NYU’s academic structure provides the best preparation for the interdisciplinary realities of job in the American bureaucracy; which is the future reality I wish to enter.
As part of a summer course at Columbia University (2019), I built a social enterprise called Off-Peak, which had the goal of achieving a positive triple bottom line (financial, social, environmental) while fostering economic opportunity for growing female shoe designers in India. In the words of President Hamilton, NYU prides itself on becoming one of the “greenest urban campuses in the nation”. My passion for contributing to sustainability efforts in the private sector could definitely be supported by NYU’s Center for Sustainable Business. Since NYU allows undergraduate students to get research opportunities, I would be able to explore the juncture between public policy and environmental initiatives.”
Letters of Recommendation
Two letters of recommendation can be submitted on behalf of every candidate. One of these letters should be from a guidance counselor and the other from an instructor/teacher of the student. I chose to submit both letters. For the teacher recommendation, be sure to choose a teacher from a class that you did well in, that aligns with your academic pursuits at the undergraduate level, and that you showed true interest in during high school.
Since you only have one teacher evaluation available to submit, be sure to choose a teacher that you have formed a close relationship with! This type of teacher will be able to shine a light on innate personality traits or skills that you have that would make you excel in any university!
I chose to have my English teacher send in a letter of recommendation on my behalf. This teacher had taught me in three different courses, two of which were AP level English courses. So, she understood me as a student, and as a person! We shared a love of reading, specifically obscure literary texts and syntax! Even though I waive my right to see either letter of recommendation, I was confident that this teacher would positively impact my admissions chances. Be sure to pick a teacher who you believe would build you up!
NYU does not typically give out interviews to prospective undergraduate students. The two exceptions are if you’re applying to a program in which you have to audition (namely candidates for the Tisch School of the Arts), or if you’re applying to a NY state scholarship (HEOP).
The NYU Admissions website is full of resources, and I highly recommend that you familiarize yourself with all the information on there! There are many opportunities to connect with members of the Violet Family, to take virtual tours of campus, and to find out about interest-specific opportunities awaiting you.
And NYU is a truly global campus. Aside from amazing study abroad programs, prospective students have the opportunity to apply for undergraduate admissions through the NYC, Shanghai, and Abu Dhabi campuses. While course offerings may differ slightly, most major/minor programs are supported at any of the campuses!
As for admissions tips, the first step is clearing the academic cutoff. Doing well in school is fairly non-negotiable, along with taking the most rigorous courses available to you. But, do not feel like you need to stretch yourself thin! Focusing on a few interests, and really delving into them in-and-out of the classroom, may be just as applauded as taking courses from a wide range of subjects. Nevertheless, NYU is a pretty hard school, so you need to show that you can handle the rigor and workload, whether that’s through your transcripts, exam scores, or extracurriculars.
It’s critical that you show your personality in your application. In 2021, NYU received over 100,000 applicants for first-year undergraduate admission, for just around 6,500 spots in the class. But it won’t just be great grades or test scores that differentiate you, it will be a true passion for NYU and for the academic interests you wish to pursue. The NYU supplemental essay is the place to show your personality and lay out how you see yourself thriving at NYU.
I’ll conclude by saying that NYU students are generally ambitious, creative, and independent. NYU students love enriching themselves with the melting pot of cultures and backgrounds represented in the student body and in the greater-NYC community. As such, you should demonstrate character and passion, and embody its guiding principles which comprise “being ethical, efficient learning, equity, diversity, and inclusion.”
What Are Your Chances of Acceptance at NYU?
Only 12% of NYU applicants were accepted in 2021. If you’re feeling discouraged by this low acceptance rate, remember that your personal chances of acceptance can vary based on your profile. Also keep in mind that your profile doesn’t need to look exactly like mine—NYU strives to create a diverse student body with all kinds of interests and backgrounds.
To better understand your chances of acceptance, use our free admissions calculator. This tool will not only let you know your chances at hundreds of schools, but also give you tips for improving your profile.
Getting into a selective school requires a strong strategy, and our free admissions platform can help you every step of the way, from your school search to essays to live advice from admissions experts.