How to Write the NYU Supplement 2019-2020

NYU is a private university in New York City. 84,000 students applied last year, 17,000 of which were international students. The acceptance rate for the class of 2023 was 16%.

NYU’s supplement is below:

We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. We are particularly interested in knowing what motivated you to apply to NYU and more specifically, 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 tell us why you are interested in each of the campuses, schools, colleges, or programs to which you have applied. You may be focused or undecided, or simply open to the options within NYU's global network; regardless, we want to understand - Why NYU? (400 word maximum)

This supplement is wordy. And if you really read the question carefully, they’re giving you a lot to work with. They mention campus, school, program, and area of study; then ask you why you care about those things. And then they throw in a trick: “You may be focused or undecided.” Stop right there.  

Under no circumstance can you write that you’re undecided. In reality, you can be unsure or open to options, but you cannot write that. That’s a trap. We’ve written before about how to choose a major for your college applications. You should read that post, but in case you’re lazy here are the cliff notes: colleges want to admit students with an academic plan because they care a lot about their four-year graduation rate and try to build well-rounded classes. That’s really hard to do with undecided applicants, because they might end up with 5,000 English majors that take 7 years to graduate. By writing about a major, you’re telling them that you have a defined path and will graduate four years later. The post we linked to above explains this in more detail, so check it out before you start writing.

Back to the supplement. NYU wants to know how you plan to spend your time on campus both inside and outside of the classroom. They want to know what you hope to gain from attending NYU, and also how you’ll contribute to the student body. The best way to answer their question is by explaining what you plan to major in and what extracurricular activities you plan to involve yourself with. Those need to match, and we’ll explain that more below.  

As much as this supplement is a research assignment, it still needs to be about you. The admissions team already knows what the school has to offer, they want to know how you’ll take advantage of their resources. Start by making a list of reasons you want to go to NYU. Write down everything that comes to mind. Your essay will read as surface level if it’s exclusively about classes you want to take with no personal reasons as to why. You can’t write that you’re going to NYU to study chemistry if you’ve never taken a chemistry class before. You need to weave the offerings at NYU into your academic and extracurricular experiences.

Let’s start with academics. Perhaps on your list of reasons to attend NYU you wrote “I want to study music.” Yes, NYU has a department of music. So do a million other schools, so you need to start researching why NYU’s program is the best fit FOR YOU. Better yet, why it’s the only program you want to attend.

Start your search by looking at NYU’s available majors. You should read everything you can about your desired major at NYU. Once you’ve gotten a handle on the major as a whole, focus in on more specific aspects. It’s not just that you want to major in History, you should have either timespans or areas of the world that you’re interested in. Maybe you want to study history, but you want to do it at NYU because of the class field trips. Whatever major you choose, you must find bits and pieces of information that can only be found by someone who took the time to get to know the program. Look at class offerings, professors, stalk Twitter and social media, research opportunities, and more.

If there’s a specific reason as to why you want to study X major, you can start your supplement with what we call an origin story. It’s just a few sentences that explain how your academic interests came to be. We also understand that not everyone has one, so don’t force yourself to write something if it isn’t genuine.

After you’ve familiarized yourself with your intended major, find 1-2 upper level (200-300) classes that you want to take. You can’t choose introductory courses or 100 level classes because those classes tend to be available everywhere. You should have a solid reason for wanting to take the class. If you’re choosing history as a major, that means that you’ve taken more than a few humanities courses in high school. If you’re declaring a math major, you should be familiar with enough topics and disciplines to choose a class that sounds interesting to you, and that you’ve learned about in school.

After you’ve written about the classes you want to take, check and see if there are professors or research opportunities that pique your interest. Remember that it’s important to always be linking your academic past to the curriculum at NYU.

Extracurricular activities:

It’s now time to write about a club or student organization that you plan to join. You should write about something that is an extension of your activities in high school. So, circling back to the music major from above, they might look at the orchestras, choirs, and music ensemble student groups. Again, REALLY do your research here. Only some of the student ensembles are available to undergrad music students, so make sure you’re writing about something you can actually join. Making the mistake of writing about an organization that is only open to graduate students will send your application straight to the “no” pile.

It’s worth noting that unlike most other schools, the database that contains information on the student groups at NYU sometimes requires a student login to access. That doesn’t mean you can’t find any information about the groups, it’s just a little harder to find. Plug student group names into Google and go from there. There’s still a lot to choose from, so spend time searching through and find something that compliments your major.  

400 words sounds like a lot, but you’ll need them to really hone in on your interests. Your highly specific, NYU-related interested. You don’t need a traditional conclusion paragraph, just wrap things up nicely before you hit submit.


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