How to Get Into NYU

Padya Paramita

How to Get Into NYU

You might always have wanted to attend the Tisch School of Arts as an aspiring dancer. Or, you might have become interested in the Stern School of Business when your commitment to entrepreneurism developed. Regardless of how long it has been one of your top choices, you’ve got your eyes on New York University. It will be important to express this interest to their admissions officers - just saying you want to go to school in New York City isn’t specific enough. To understand how to get into NYU, you must present an application that will help admissions officers understand why you’d be a perfect fit for one of their academic programs.

The overall acceptance rate at NYU is 12.2% - so you know the school is selective. Because NYU offers so many specialized majors, you need to build a strong, angular profile that reflects your interest in your field of choice. To guide you through how to get into NYU, I’ve provided an overview of the different NYU colleges, the numbers for admitted students, how to take advantage of your extracurriculars and personal statement, how to write the supplemental essay, and finally, the deadlines and protocols you must follow in order to get your NYU application submitted correctly. 

The Different NYU Campuses and Colleges

When you choose New York University as one of your colleges in the Common App, you’ll also have to specify which campus you want to apply to between the ones in New York City, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai. Both the campuses outside the US are extremely competitive. The breakdown of acceptance rates is:

  • Abu Dhabi: 4%
  • New York: 16%
  • Shanghai: 5%

The difference in the number of spots available is very clear from these rates. Every admitted student to the Abu Dhabi campus also receive a full ride for college, while every student who is admitted to the Shanghai campus is considered for both merit and need-based aid. If you’ve got your eyes on one of the non-US campuses, you’ve got to step up your game.

how to get into NYU

As you can see, if you want to apply to more than one campus, you’re welcome to do so.

If you select the New York City campus as one of your choices, you’ll find an additional drop-down menu which allows you to choose between the following colleges and programs:

  • The College of Arts and Sciences
  • Gallatin School of Individualized Study
  • Liberal Studies
  • Meyers College of Nursing
  • School of Professional Studies
  • Silver School of Social Work
  • Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
  • Stern School of Business
  • Tandon School of Engineering
  • Tisch School of Arts

how to get into NYU

Once you’ve chosen your campus, you’ll be asked to select what you’re thinking about as your primary major:

how to get into NYU

Since you only have the opportunity to choose one college and one major, think as specifically as you can about what you plan to study. Would your interests be defined by the broader “Cinema Studies” major at the College of Arts and Sciences or is your profile more suited towards the “Film and Television” or “Interactive Media Arts” programs at the Tisch School?

NYU pays careful attention to your demonstrated commitment within your field of study as well as your potential to make an impact. Once you’ve decided which campus and which college or program best suits you, it’s time to make sure you’ve got what it takes to impress the admissions officers through your grades, scores, activities, personal statement, and supplemental essays.

Academic Requirements

Your transcript is always essential when applying to any college, and it’s no different for NYU. As you explore how to get into NYU, you must maintain a strong GPA. Most incoming freshmen rank in the top 10% of their high school class and the average GPA for admitted students is a 3.7. If you live outside the US, you’ll be pleased to know that NYU has the highest number of international students anywhere in America, so your chances could be looking good if you work hard and bring top grades. 

If you’re thinking about how to get into NYU, you probably already know that NYU has a flexible testing policy. Alongside being test optional, this also means that if you believe your SAT or ACT scores won’t boost your profile, you don’t have to submit them. You can satisfy the testing requirement with any of the following scores:

  • SAT; or
  • ACT; or
  • International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma; or
  • Three (3) SAT Subject Test scores; or
  • Three (3) AP Exam scores; or
  • Three (3) IB higher-level exam scores if not an IB Diploma candidate; or
  • Other international examinations that show you completed, or if submitting predicted results show you will complete, your secondary education.

So, for example, if you’ve taken AP tests and scored well on them and you’re not as happy with your SAT results, you can just send your AP numbers to NYU. To know whether your SAT or ACT scores are strong enough to compete with other applicants, you first need to know the median range for admitted students across all schools and campuses:

  • SAT Reading: 660-740
  • SAT Math: 670-790
  • ACT: 30-34

If you’ve taken three SAT subject tests and those numbers are better, that can certainly serve as a way to impress admissions officers by showcasing your prowess in particular areas. If you choose to go this route, NYU wants to see at least one score from the following academic areas:

  • Literature & humanities (Literature, US History, World History)
  • Math & science (Biology E/M, Math I, Math II, Chemistry, Physics)
  • The third subject test may be in any subject area.

Other requirements to make note of:

  • The Stern School of Business requires one of the subject exams to be Math Level 1 or Math Level 2.
  • The Tandon School of Engineering requires one literature or humanities score, one math score, and one science score.
  • For applicants to the Steinhardt and the Tisch School, testing is optional, and a required audition or portfolio can be submitted in place of standardized testing. 

Think about the major or the college within NYU you’re applying to and which subject tests (or AP or IB exams) would best benefit you. Or, if you’re applying to the Tandon School of Engineering, you’re expected to ace the Math II and Physics subject tests. Use your discretion to figure out the best way to utilize the test-flexible policy. 

That said, strong scores and grades aren’t enough. Many students have those. So, you must differentiate yourself by stepping up your game when it comes to your extracurriculars and essays.


Since the colleges within NYU are so specialized, your extracurriculars need to reflect interest geared towards the school of your choice. If you’re wondering how to get into NYU Stern, for example, your activities list must demonstrate how you’ve flourished as a leader in business. As one of the top undergraduate business schools, Stern expects candidates to do more than just participate in their high school’s business club. If you can launch your own business in high school, that’s a great start. You can also seize opportunities to take charge in your community. Business is all about collaboration and innovation. Think about building a list of extracurriculars that seamlessly showcases why you would make a great entrepreneur in the future. 

Similarly, with art, film, music, writing, engineering - no matter what your chosen program focuses on, make sure your activities reflect your passion. It’s all about letting the admissions officers know that you’re not just a strong student inside the classroom. How have you gone out of your way to meaningfully establish yourself as a leader? The NYU schools are designed to help undergraduates thrive in their chosen field. How have your interests and activities prepared you for this experience? Be actively involved in unique activities tailored to your area of interest to distinguish yourself from other candidates. 

Personal Statement

You can also elaborate on your identity, what you’re passionate about, and what perspective you bring through the Common App personal statement. This 650-word essay is a chance to share your story and what you can bring to college that others can’t. Although the essay is not NYU-specific, if you’re applying to one of the more specialized colleges, you can easily use this component to talk about your love for your choice of discipline. However, it doesn’t have to be academic - you might want to reflect on a part of your background that you believe admissions officers should know about you. Either way, this is an opportunity to let admissions officers understand what makes you an applicant they want to admit.

Supplemental Essay

Students wondering how to get into NYU must take advantage of NYU’s single supplemental essay question to reflect on the campus and academic program they’ve chosen, and show why they’re a strong fit for the university. The prompt asks:

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 word maximum)

Answering the Prompt

This is a classic “why our school?” question, but somewhat more nuanced. Admissions officers don’t just want to know why you’re applying to NYU generally; they expect you to go into greater detail about the campus(es), school, and major you’ve picked. While 400 words might seem to be a luxury compared to the word limit for many schools, it’s not a lot when you have to talk about the campus, the college, and the program.

Carefully divide up your answer. Think about what makes you excited to attend college in Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, or NYC. But, don’t over-fixate on the location because your main focus should lie in explaining why NYU is the best place to pursue your interests and goals. Think about specific resources that are available within your chosen department that you can’t find elsewhere.

Notice that this essay should mainly cover academics. NYU’s clubs and student organizations may make it an alluring place for you, but the question explicitly asks about your choice of study. Look through the website and think about what you can write about that won’t be common in other students’ essays. Is there a professor whose research resonates with you? Would a particular acting class perfectly fit in with your 10-year plan? Remember that admissions officers are trying to figure out why you’d make the most of your experience on campus. So, talk elaborately about how you would take advantage of the facilities and give them a sense of the ways in which you’d make a valuable addition in the classroom.

Deadlines and Requirements

When thinking about how to get into NYU, you must consider the dates that you have to stick to in order to successfully submit your application. If you can’t follow the instructions, you might miss a deadline, which is the last thing you want if NYU is one of your top choices.

The Early Decision I deadline for NYU is November 1, while the Early Decision II and Regular Decision deadline is January 1

Knowing these dates can help you start working on filling out the Common App, answering the Common App and NYU essay prompts, and providing your recommenders enough time to write their letters. The material you need to submit for your NYU undergraduate application is outlined in the table below:

Requirements for NYU Application Deadlines and Notes
Common App personal statement The word limit is 650 words.
NYU-specific essay This will appear on the Common App once you’ve chosen NYU as one of your colleges.
Official high school transcript This must be submitted directly from your school.
School report This should be submitted by your counselor to summarize your academic performance, including your official transcript.
Counselor recommendation This letter is very important to help you stand out from your peers.
Letter(s) of evaluation from teachers These letters are also crucial, as admissions officers want to know what you are like in the classroom. The number you need to submit depends on the policy of the NYU school you’ve chosen.
Mid-year report This is due March 1 for all applicants.
SAT or ACT The last tests students can take for ED are the October ACT and November SAT. The last tests students can take for ED II and RD are the December ACT and December SAT.
SAT subject tests (recommended) The last test students can take for ED is the November session and the last test students can take for ED II and RD is the December session.
Interviews (optional) NYU occasionally invites candidates to interview with them online (not on campus). NYU will contact you if you are invited; applicants cannot request interviews. Applicants who are invited to the competitive interview process for the Abu Dhabi campus are flown into the city.
Audition or portfolio Steinhardt requires an audition or portfolio for all applicants to the Music Department with the exception of Educational Theatre, and a portfolio for those applying to Studio Art; Tisch requires an audition or portfolio for applicants to all programs with the exception of Interactive Media Arts. This is due one month before the application deadline.
Financial aid documents U.S. citizens and permanent residents applying for aid must fill out the FAFSA, the CSS Profile, and signed tax returns of parents and student.

Next Steps

  • Apply Early Decision  - If you’re wondering how to get into NYU and it’s your dream school, let the admissions officers know by applying Early Decision. An added advantage of NYU being your number one choice is that it offers the option of ED II.  Both rounds are seen in the same light, and applying ED conveys that you’re avidly enthusiastic about NYU, since you’re making a binding commitment to attend if accepted. It’s important to note that a lot of students end up applying ED II to NYU after not getting into their top choice ED I. If you truly love the school, show that through ED I.
  • Attend One of the NYU Summer Programs - One of the most effective ways to gain a picture of what life at NYU is like would be to attend one of NYU’s summer programs for high school students. Depending on your interest, you can attend summer programs in the arts (including music, film, drama, writing, and game design!), business, and various types of engineering at Tisch, Stern, and Tandon respectively. You can also take classes for credit, in the form of NYU Precollege and experience life as an NYU student. You can include more details on these experiences to strengthen your supplemental essay.
  • Demonstrate Your Interest - NYU is one of the schools that tracks your demonstrated interest. This means that if you’re considering how to get into NYU you need to step up your game and let them know that you’re actively seeking out information about the school. Ways to convince them include requesting further information on the admissions process, visiting campus, and attending information sessions (especially school-specific sessions). You can do a variety of activities when touring campus, such as sitting in on a class, talking to current students or a professor, taking a self-guided tour, or attending an open house. If you’re not able to travel to Manhattan, Shanghai, or Abu Dhabi you could look for regional events near you. NYU values all of these - making the effort to show them you’re interested adds a small boost to your profile!

As you look more into how to get into NYU, you’ll discover that the students who’ve been admitted bring interesting perspectives in their own ways. If you wish to attend this prestigious university, you’ll have to excel across your schoolwork and activities, especially when it comes to showcasing your passion for your chosen field. Strive towards focusing your activities, aiming for leadership positions, and presenting strong essays, and you’ll be in a good place to compete against the best. You've got this!

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