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Duke University
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How to Write the “Why NYU” Essay

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:



New York University (NYU) asks its applicants to reply to its “Why NYU” supplemental essay. The prompt states:


“We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. What motivated you to apply to NYU? Why have you applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and/or area of study? If you have applied to more than one, please also tell us why you are interested in these additional areas of study or campuses. We want to understand—Why NYU? (400 words)”


In this article, we discuss how best to respond to this prompt and provide examples of successful essays. For more writing tips and tricks for this prompt, check out our post on how to write a stellar “why this college” essay.


How Essays Set You Apart 


The admissions officers at NYU have to filter through many applicants with similar grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities. Reading essay responses is how the admissions officers learn about your personality and see whether you would be a good fit at NYU. Developing a unique supplemental essay that showcases your personality and values will give admissions officers a chance to get to know you beyond your grades and test scores. As with many essays, the “why NYU” essay differentiates you from other applicants with the same level of qualifications


NYU admissions want to see that you actually care about attending their school and that you are not just applying for superficial reasons. You want to convince NYU that you are passionate about the school. The best way to do this is by submitting a highly personal and specific essay response that shows that you’ve done your research and can envision yourself as an NYU student. 


Writing About NYU’s Campus


This prompt has a 400-word limit, so instead of writing 400 words about the location and prestige of NYU, you want to dive into the specifics. The length of this essay and the questions in the prompt enable you to go into extensive detail. Admissions officers don’t want to read a general description of the campus; they’re looking for your specific interest in particular areas of the campus and the program that you’re applying to. Make sure to respond in a manner that is specific to you and to NYU. A great tip to keep in mind while you’re writing is this: if you can replace NYU with Columbia or another school in your essay, you haven’t made your essay specific enough. 


There are three buckets that you can write about in your “why NYU” essay: the campus, college, and area of study. Each of these buckets can get broken down into smaller areas. For example, you can write about the New York City, Abu Dhabi, or Shanghai campus for the campus bucket. A weak response to this bucket would be saying that you wanted to attend the NYU Abu Dhabi campus because you visited the area once and want to live in the city. This is a general answer with no specific information about what you will get out of and be a part of by going to NYU. The admissions officers at NYU know exactly what makes their school unique, but they want to read this from your perspective, so be as specific as possible. 


A stronger response would be talking about how you want to study at the Shanghai campus to major in global China studies because it aligns with your interests in working in international marketing. There’s no better place to pursue this major than on a campus located in the heart of a major Chinese city. You can talk about how the Shanghai location would grant you the opportunity to see the topics discussed in the classroom firsthand.


This type of response immediately demonstrates that the student has done their research and is genuinely interested in the program that they’re writing about. This example clearly outlines their trajectory at NYU in a way that is clear to the admissions officers and shows that NYU is their first choice.


Writing About NYU’s Different Colleges 


Like many other schools, NYU is divided into several schools and colleges. The biggest one is the College of Arts and Sciences, which is a general liberal arts college, so you don’t want to spend too much of your essay talking about it. Instead, focus on your area of study or specific extracurricular interests at one of the campuses. 


However, if you are planning to apply to one of NYU’s smaller colleges, you should spend the bulk of your essay writing about the college that you chose. You want to do this because it will automatically set you apart from the other applicants. You will have more specific programs and classes to write about than applicants applying to the larger colleges.


Writing About NYU’s Areas of Study 


Within each school or college of NYU, there are multiple different programs and majors to write about. For this topic, pick the major or program that appeals to you, and write about why you want to be part of it. The unique thing about this essay is that since there is a 400-word limit, which is long for most supplemental essays, you can dive into your motivations a bit more while writing about the area of study that you want to pursue at NYU. 


By going into your background, you can connect your past experiences to your future goals at NYU. This will allow you to differentiate yourself from other applicants by showing your personality and bringing out more of your authentic self.