These College Application Essays Got Us Into NYU
ByMary-Catherine Rowe Harvey
The early decision deadline for many colleges (NYU included) passed over Halloweekend. I don’t doubt that many stressed college hopefuls’ weekends were ruined. My younger sister became a victim to such an occurrence and sent me her essay to proofread. Reading her essay inspired me to dig out my own application from what feels like a lifetime ago. I haven’t been able to fathom the strength to reread what I wrote since then. There is something so intensely embarrassing about college essays. The prompts are vague, so applicants tend to transform awkward anecdotes into 500 words of clunky metaphors and overly-wrought emotions. They’re humiliating windows into our souls — essentially the written equivalent of the dream of showing up naked we all had in high school.
I’ve compiled a few of our fellow NYU students’ recollections of their own essay topics — including some from members of NYU Local’s own staff — for your enjoyment. They range from the awesomely awful to downright cringeworthy. (One person refused to share his essay topic, saying, “I would rather not give you more ammunition to mock me with.”)
“I wrote about how I hate being patronized and how it had implications in society as a whole. And how adults were dumb.”
“It was a thinly-veiled metaphor in which I described watching my baby sister climb a rock wall for the first time. I talked about her bravery in fighting toward the unknown, and how I aspired to be like her: strong, goal-oriented, taking risks while the rest of my peers were content to watch from the safety of the ground. After getting accepted to NYU, I immediately lost the essay, partially to prevent her from finding it and reading about how goddamn special she is to me.” — Kelly Weill, Editor-in-Chief
“The relationship between beauty and cheese pizza.” — Cassidy George, Gallatin sophomore
“I wrote about this Cafe in Mumbai (Cafe Madras) that’s so crowded and popular, you sit where they tell you and rarely if ever get to sit with everybody you came with. I talked about how it brings people from all walks of life together, from businessman to laborer. Everyone’s there to eat their amazing South Indian food and that unites everyone who is divided by socioeconomic borders. Oh, and it makes great coffee. I’m not sure where I was trying to go with that…” — Freia Lobo, National
“I wrote about liking Banksy…I recant everything I said in that essay.” — Kyla Bills, Entertainment
“I wrote my Common App my essay on how I got mugged walking to a PSAT prep class in my hometown. Basically I just described the walk, the (brief) fight, and then what the whole thing did to my feelings about music, because I had my earbuds in the entire time as this kid tackled me. So basically I got jumped to a soundtrack. I even remember the specific song that was playing: “I’m Good” by Lil Wayne (Definitely not oblivious to that irony). Anyway, I may have had my face bloodied and arm broken and the kid may have gotten my beat-up iPod Nano, but I got into NYU, so who is the real winner here?” — Peter Slattery, Entertainment
“World Cup 2010: USA vs. England and the importance of not being indifferent.” — Andrew Harvey, Gallatin senior
“I wrote about how I was considering a career in fashion, but didn’t want to be a snobby fashion stereotype like the rest of the girls at NYU. Insulting a school’s student body — an excellent way to win the admissions officers’ hearts!” — Hannah Orenstein, Entertainment Editor
“I wrote about an ex-boyfriend. Yeah. I’m surprised I got in, too.” — Christina Li, Photo Editor
In fairness, my own application concluded with, “I know now I have to authenticate my thoughts and that will inevitably authenticate me as a person.” It pains me to think I thought these words should be strung together in a sentence. The fact that someone read that and was like, “Yes, you should definitely come to this exclusive institution” is shocking to me. I like to think that there is an annual competition between the college’s admission reps as to whose essay was the most cringeworthy read and that applicant (no matter the eligibility) is given a spot at NYU. That might explain how some of us ended up here…
The Requirements: One prompt. 400 words.
Supplemental Essay Type(s):Why
New York University (NYU) 2017-18 Application Essay Explanations
Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to witness an optical illusion. The lengthy paragraph below comprises one (1), and only one (1) college essay prompt. While the read may be a bit of a slog, you’re also in luck because this prompt is the one (1) and only supplemental essay NYU hopefuls are expected to write! Laying out the requirements for a 400-word personal statement, the prompt itself clocks in at nearly a quarter of that length. Knowing that your application time is precious, NYU must have had some reason to pen a prompt of this size, so it’s important to note each specific requirement and every minute detail that could give you some inkling as to how to tell your own story. Let’s break it down.
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 meandering paragraph asks the most straightforward supplemental question you’ll find: Why here? But before you let the words, “Why wouldn’t I want to spend the next four years of my life in the greatest city in the world?” cross your lips, take a closer look. In addition to offering your unique take on why an NYU education is right for you, you’ll also need to make sure your answer ticks off a few specific boxes. Firstly, NYU wants a drill down of your reasoning from your campus selection all the way to your specific program of choice. The question isn’t just “Why NYU,” but “Why do YOU want to study this topic at this time in this geographical context via NYU?” And, of course, if you’ve applied to more than one campus, you’ll want to explain how each location can meet your needs in ways that are both unique and somehow equivalent. You wouldn’t apply to Abu Dhabi if Paris was the only place for you, right? The nice thing about being able to focus on geography is that you don’t have to have a fully fleshed out plan for your major; instead, you can focus on the experiential and cultural elements that will feed into your education. How will living in New York or abroad affect you as a person? As a student? How will you grow?
Your answer should be personal to you and, if possible, surprising. Remember that while you have a free reign to gush about how much you want to live in New York, New York, a lot of your potential peers probably feel the same way. So, try not to focus on what you’d like to do or see. Instead, explain what your desire to move from your hometown to New York says about you. Whether you’re trying to be courageous by leaving your small homogenous town or hoping to stay close to your family in Brooklyn, what is your personal reason? And don’t forget that you’re still writing about a school! Is there a professor in your department who has done research you admire that you hope to work with? Is there a program that combines your unique interests that is not offered at any other school? Get specific, but don’t worry about being comprehensive. You’ve only got 400 words, after all!