Colleges in NYC: Schools to Consider in the Big Apple

Padya Paramita

Colleges in NYC: Schools to Consider in the Big Apple

From the networking opportunities available throughout Manhattan to the artistic communities that can be found across Brooklyn, there’s a lot in store for you if you end up attending one of the colleges in NYC. The next four years offer plenty of promise, whether you’re a strong student looking towards Columbia and NYU or an in-state candidate who wants to take advantage of the reduced tuition at Hunter or Queens College. 

There are over 40 institutions that have four-year undergraduate options within the boroughs of New York City. And that doesn’t even count the options within nearby towns and islands. Whether you want to be a musician or an engineer, there are specialized programs in the City That Never Sleeps which may perfectly suit your interests and aspirations. To help you explore your options I’ve listed all of the colleges in NYC, as well as talked about public vs. private institutions, how to go about applying to them, and how much you should discuss the city itself in your applications.

List of Colleges in NYC that Offer Bachelor’s Degrees

As you know, New York is big. Not only does it include bustling Manhattan - the borough it is most well-known for, thanks to popular culture - but it’s also home to Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island. All of them are accessible to each other via subway and bus, so if you’re planning to look at colleges in NYC, don’t count out any locales. 

Check out the full list of New York schools in the table below, which features all of the colleges with undergraduate options, along with the borough where you can find them:

Name Location
American Musical and Dramatic Academy Manhattan
Barnard College Manhattan
Baruch College Manhattan
Berkeley College Manhattan
Boricua College Manhattan
Brooklyn College Brooklyn
City College of New York Manhattan
College of Mount Saint Vincent Manhattan
College of Staten Island Staten Island
Columbia University Manhattan
Cooper Union Manhattan
Fordhan University Manhattan
Hunter College Manhattan
John Jay College of Criminal Justice Manhattan
The Juilliard School Manhattan
The King's College Manhattan
Lehman College The Bronx
Long Island University Brooklyn
Manhattan College The Bronx
Manhattan College of Music Manhattan
Marymount Manhattan College Manhattan
Medgar Evers College Brooklyn
Metropolitan College of New York Manhattan
Monroe College The Bronx
New York City College of Technology Manhattan
New York Film Academy Manhattan
The New School Manhattan
New York University Manhattan
Nyack College Manhattan
Pace University Manhattan
Plaza College Queens
Pratt Institute Brooklyn
Queens College Queens
St. Francis College Brooklyn
St. John's University Manhattan
St. Joseph's College Brooklyn
Touro College Brooklyn
Wagner College Manhattan Manhattan
Yeshiva University Manhattan
York College Queens

Some schools are more recognizable than others. Columbia University is the one Ivy League school located in NYC (although Cornell isn’t too far away in Ithaca, New York upstate), and it ranks high at #3 on the US News ranking for the Best National Universities. Columbia University also encompasses Columbia Engineering and Barnard, a women’s college ranked #25 among the Best Liberal Arts Colleges in its own right! This can be a worthy option to check out if you’re looking for a women’s college with strong computer science and psychology programs. Many of these schools offer exchange programs and dual registration. Barnard students can take classes at Columbia and vice versa. Students from both Columbia and Barnard can receive a BA from their initial institution as well as a Master of Music (MM) from Juilliard in five years. 

When thinking about which of the colleges in NYC might be the right one for you, you should take a look at the median GPA and standardized test scores for admitted students, visit campus, and talk to current students in order to determine what your school list should include. Since there are numerous options, there might be hidden gems. You might not even know about the Journalism + Design major at The New School that could be perfect for you. So don’t count anything out before you’ve had the chance to browse the college websites and discover more information. Dig deeper into some of the lesser known schools as well!

Private vs. Public Colleges in NYC

Many of the above institutions are private schools. But if you’re an applicant who is a current New York state resident, you could also benefit from in-state advantages that come with public universities such as the City College of New York (CUNY). Brooklyn College, Baruch College, Queens College, and Hunter College, which all fall among CUNY's public schools. The CUNY tuition is $6,730 per year for in-state candidates, a big difference from the out-of-state tuition of $14,400. Students who meet CUNY's New York State residency requirements for in-state tuition also have the opportunity to receive a tuition scholarship, which covers four years of undergraduate study excluding fees and expenses.

Although they don’t offer in-state advantages, private institutions in NYC have strong and unique academic programs. Besides Columbia and Barnard, New York University is another big name among colleges in NYC. If you’re looking for specialized undergraduate programs in business, arts, or engineering, NYU has some of the biggest names not just in the city, but in the world. Do Stern, Tisch, and Tandon ring any bells? 

Speaking of specialized programs, if you’re looking for an art school, Pratt Institute offers notable programs at their School of Art, School of Architecture, and School of Design. If you’re a musician, you’ve definitely heard of Juilliard, one of the most prestigious performing arts schools anywhere in the world. Cooper Union, on the other hand, offers a wide range of options across disciplines, from Studio Arts to Mechanical Engineering. 

Applying to the Different Colleges in NYC

Some colleges in NYC can be applied to through a single portal - if you’re applying to multiple CUNY or SUNY campuses, both come with their own application systems. When you register for CUNY for example, you can apply to six CUNY schools at a time with a single application fee. Alongside being asked about basics such as your name, contact information, school information, you will be asked to choose which colleges you want to apply to, and for which major:

Once you’ve made your choice, you’ll also have to let the colleges know about your test scores and extracurricular activities. CUNY schools do not ask for supplemental essays.

For the majority of the other colleges, you will be able to use the Common Application or the Coalition Application, and answer school-specific supplemental essays. Some examples of supplemental questions for NYC colleges are outlined below:


What factors influenced your decision to apply to Barnard College and why do you think the College would be a good match for you? (100-250 words)

Pick one woman in history or fiction to converse with for an hour and explain your choice. What would you talk about? (100-250 words)


In 150 words or fewer, please list a few words or phrases that describe your ideal college community.

Please list the following (150 words or fewer for each question):

  • The titles of the required readings from courses during the school year or summer that you enjoyed most in the past year
  • The titles of books read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year
  • The titles of print or electronic publications you read regularly
  • The titles of the films, concerts, shows, exhibits, lectures and other entertainments you enjoyed most in the past year.

    Please answer the following short answer questions (300 words or fewer for each question):

    Please tell us what you value most about Columbia and why.

    If you are applying to Columbia College, tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. If you are currently undecided, please write about any field or fields in which you may have an interest at this time.

    If you are applying to The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section.

    New York University: 

    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)

    For all of these essays, you must carefully research what student experiences at the college entail and write in as specific detail as possible. Make sure your engineering essays for Columbia and NYU aren’t identical and talk about the exact same features that are common for multiple schools instead of demonstrating that you’ve done the research and talked about unique opportunities you can find at the respective schools that you can’t anywhere else. 

    How Much Should You Talk About NYC in Your Application Components?

    Another point to keep in mind if you’re interested in applying to multiple colleges in NYC is that New York should not be the sole point of focus in your “why school" essays. Yes, it could be a major reason behind your application, but like you saw, there are so many options available for students who want to attend college in the Big Apple. You shouldn’t say, “I want to attend NYU because I’ve always wanted to live in NYC.” 

    Instead, you should spin it in a manner that connects NYU’s resources to its convenient location. For example, if you dream of attending the Stern School of Business, you would have access to specific courses and professors, as well as have the opportunity to network with firms which are located in the city. Don’t use the location as the chief component of your essay but include it in a way that benefits your application and clearly outlines your goals to admissions officers. 

    Regardless of what you’re hoping for as a prospective major or career, the Big Apple has a variety of academic options for any incoming college student. Because so many of the colleges in NYC are highly competitive, you’ll need to bring your A-game throughout your application. Good luck!

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