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How to Write the NYU Tisch School of the Arts Essays

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Moriah Adeghe in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


What’s Covered



The Cinema Studies program at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University (NYU) is a popular program. In this post, we discuss the two parts of the portfolio that applicants are required to submit. For more general information on how to write college application essays, check out our step-by-step guide to how to write your college essay.


Part 1 of the Required Portfolio


Part one of the portfolio is a five- to 10-page essay on a film, director, or any other moving image-related topic that you choose.


This prompt gives the applicant a considerable amount of freedom, which can be challenging because it is easy for applicants to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of image-related topics that they would like to write about. Like most college application essays, the purpose of this essay is to gauge how an applicant thinks. Due to this, you want to demonstrate to the admissions committee that you are passionate and able to think critically about your image-related topic of choice.


Choosing a Topic


Given the amount of liberty that you have to choose any image-related topic, you should make sure you are passionate, eager to write, and have something original or unique to say about whatever topic you choose. Be careful that your essay does not become a film review or a biography, as that is not what the admissions committee is asking for. 


In addition, make sure you do not write a research paper. Although your topic may require or inspire you to include research and opinions from other sources, these should be used to support your original ideas and analysis only. Above all, make sure you choose a topic through which your unique perspective, background, creativity, and analytical abilities can shine. 


Writing a Thesis


To produce a compelling essay, you need a strong, central, and multipronged thesis. After writing a compelling introduction, you will introduce your thesis. Each paragraph of your essay that follows will explore parts of this thesis in more depth and detail. 


For example, you could write an essay contrasting the portrayal of female and male political figures in The West Wing, House of Cards, Veep, and Parks and Recreation. Your thesis should make a claim or set of claims, such as female political figures are challenged or opposed more often by their staffers compared to male political figures. You might extrapolate beyond the universes of these television shows to then draw connections to and make conclusions about how the media portrays men and women in politics.


Being Original


Your main priority is to find something original to say about your image-related topic. If you are writing about a film, you need to offer your original ideas and analysis of the film—not the ideas of other critics or scholars. You could also write about a film project of your own, as long as you can write five or more pages worth of description, commentary, and analysis about it. This can be a great opportunity to give the admissions committee insight into your creative process and prior experience working in film.


Part 2 of the Required Portfolio


Part two of the portfolio is a one-page statement that answers the following questions:


  • Have you taken any cinema/media-related classes?
  • What areas of cinema studies most interest you, such as film genres, directors, or theory? 
  • What are your career aspirations, such as film journalism/criticism, film curating, or filmmaking?


From this essay, the admissions committee is hoping to understand the extent to which you have pursued your interest in film and media studies, your motivations for studying film and media, and the career that you are hoping to pursue. If you have not taken any formal classes in film or media, you should talk about how you have explored your interest informally, such as through watching various forms of media, making movies, and consuming content about the film and media industry, like books, journal articles, blogs, video essays, and podcasts. The Cinema Studies Department is seeking applicants for whom film is not just a pastime but also a passion that they actively pursue.


When identifying the areas within cinema studies that most interest you, name specific topics within these areas and explain why they interest you. You should also discuss your track record of exploring these topics, either on your own or in a more formal setting, and your aspirations at Tisch and beyond to be involved in these topics.


In regard to your career aspirations, be ambitious and specific. You need to show that you have put thought into your future goals and why your application to Tisch is aligned with them. If you dream of working with a particular production company or creating a certain docuseries, this is a great place to mention this.


Example: Horror Films


As an example, let’s consider an applicant with an intense enthusiasm for horror films. The applicant might start by sharing background about how they first fell in love with the horror genre after watching Night of the Living Dead as a fourth-grader. Then, the applicant could talk about how they have studied horror films by reading books like, Horror Film: A Critical Introduction, and taking classes at The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies in Brooklyn. To conclude, the applicant may write about how their goal is to someday become a film curator and instructor at The Miskatonic Institute so they can impart their love of the horror genre to other cinephiles.