A Guide to NYU Undergraduate Programs: The Dos and Don’ts

Danielle McColgan, NYU Former Admissions Officer

A Guide to NYU Undergraduate Programs: The Dos and Don’ts

As one of the most diverse and globally integrated universities in the world, approaching New York University (NYU) can be as daunting as it is exciting. As a Former Admissions Officer, I’m here to provide some context about the NYU undergraduate programs, as well as demystify the undergraduate application process. A critical factor in being a successful NYU applicant is to fully understand the breadth of undergraduate programs that the school offers. NYU has 10 schools and colleges and over 250 major offerings. At first glance, such a wide range of available programs and majors can make it difficult to convey to the admissions committee that you would make the best addition to the next incoming freshmen (or transfer) class. 

When you apply to NYU using the Common Application, you will be asked to select your primary interest in one of the 10 schools and a major within that school - meaning that your application will be evaluated in the context of that specific school and program. The colleges within NYU that accept undergraduates are:

  • The College of Arts and Sciences
  • Gallatin School of Individualized Study
  • Global 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

Choosing the school and major that complements your existing application persona - the theme of your application - is a huge factor that can impact your candidacy.To differentiate yourself from the competition, think beyond the ubiquitous College of Arts and Science or the Stern School of Business and explore the vast offerings of this global university. Think about where you will fit the best based on your application persona and demonstrated interests. To help you get started, here are some Dos and Don'ts of applying to each of the 10 schools, alongside unique NYU undergraduate programs that you might be interested in exploring further: 

College of Arts and Science 

Unique Majors: Dramatic Literature, Social and Cultural Analysis 

  • Do utilize the extensive major offerings in the College of Arts and Science to your advantage and make sure you select a major that truly fits your interests and future plans. For example, instead of applying as an English major, if you have a specific passion for combining theatre and English, consider the Dramatic Literature major. The more specialized you can be when selecting a major, the better your chances will be to impress the admissions committee.
  • Don’t select the “Undeclared” option unless you have a strong reason for not choosing one of the 55 available majors! Thousands of students apply under the “Undeclared” option every year, when it makes much more strategic sense to try to align your prospective major choice to your application persona. Take advantage of the versatility of the NYU undergraduate programs.

Tisch School of the Arts

Unique Majors: Interactive Media Arts, Performance Studies 

  • Do submit your Common Application at least 2 weeks before the stated deadline for your decision plan. Most programs within Tisch will only generate portfolio or audition package submission options after you have submitted your Common Application. Therefore, the earlier you submit your Common Application, the more time you will have to carefully upload your portfolio and avoid the last day rush replete with website crashes and glitches. 
  • Don’t forget to explain to the admissions committee why you’re seeking an arts-focused degree within the context of a liberal arts university. Make sure the connections between your artistic interests and academic goals are clear. Why are the offerings at Tisch more aligned with your interests and goals than NYU undergraduate programs at the College of Arts and Science?

    Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

    Unique Majors: Education Studies, Brass Studies, Communicative Sciences and Disorders 

    • Do look at the school’s unique majors available especially if you are interested in public health, psychology, or education. For example, you may find that instead of applying to the more general Psychology major within the College of Arts and Science that you are actually better fit for the Applied Psychology program within Steinhardt that is tailored towards producing students who want to pursue a more clinical psychology route rather than a research-focused, academic path. 
    • Don’t submit your application to the Media, Culture, and Communications major without fully understanding that the program is not a traditional communications major! Do your research. This highly competitive and popular program at NYU will attract students who want to learn about communications in a liberal arts setting - it is not a strictly pre-professional degree

    Stern School of Business

    Unique Concentrations: Actuarial Science, Sustainable Business 

    • Do use your “Why NYU?” supplemental essay to describe what you plan to do with a degree from Stern over other undergraduate business programs, especially focusing on what kind of social impact you plan to incorporate into your professional future. Social impact is huge at Stern, and the admissions committee wants to admit students who are interested in using business to improve the world, instead of those who want to own their own companies simply for the sake of making money (yes, there are applicants who state this is their only goal!). 
    • Do ensure that you are taking the most rigorous math courses available to you at your high school (at least through AP Calc AB or IB Math HL). Naturally, Stern is looking for numbers enthusiasts who will easily be able to understand statistics, economics, and other quantitative subjects. 

    Tandon School of Engineering 

    Unique Majors: Sustainable Urban Environments, Business Technology Management

    • Do conduct careful research about the major you select within the Tandon School on your application, and be sure to reference why you’re excited about that specific field of engineering in your “Why NYU” supplemental essay. As you think about NYU undergraduate programs, consider why Tandon is the school for you.
    • Don’t assume that just because the School of Engineering is housed in downtown Brooklyn that you won’t be fully integrated into the NYU campus community! 


      Global Liberal Studies 

      • Do check out the Liberal Studies core program. For students who are unsure of what they want to study, this is a great option for you to get your general education requirements across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences completed in your first two years of study. Once you’ve finished your first two years, you are guaranteed transfer into your major of choice at any of NYU’s Schools and Colleges (pending satisfactory completion of some prerequisite courses for certain majors)!
      • Do thorough research on the outcomes for students graduating from the Global Liberal Studies degree program. This unique program can be an excellent option for students who want to pursue interdisciplinary careers in the arts, culture, and humanities, who also want the opportunity to study abroad in their first and third years at one of NYU’s many global campus locations.  

      Gallatin School of Individualized Study

      • Do be specific about what areas of study you intend to pursue through Gallatin, highlighting your potential concentration/program of study within Gallatin would also be useful for the admissions committee, and that could really be a place to use your creativity in regards to what you hope the next four years of your life will look like academically.
      • Don’t apply if your interests could be easily combined into one of the existing NYU undergraduate programs or majorsFor example, thinking about combining interests in music and business? Look into the Recorded Music program at Tisch or Music Business program at Steinhardt. Interested in studying Business and Politics? Try Business and Political Economy at Stern. The ideal Gallatin School applicant will be combining areas of study in ways that do not currently exist at NYU, so it is critical to do your research and create a compelling case for why your interests can only be explored through the highly interdisciplinary and individualized program at Gallatin. 

      In addition to the above schools, many prospective applicants don’t know that there are several pre-professional programs housed within the Rory Meyes College of Nursing, the Silver School of Social Work, and the School of Professional Studies (Hotel and Tourism Management, Real Estate, and Sports Management) for students who want to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in one of these specialized areas. 

      Becoming an expert on the NYU undergraduate programs and majors takes admissions officers hours of training and experience, so don’t think that you need to understand every major option available. However, using your research skills to determine what programs/majors are available in your desired field of study will greatly enhance your ability to articulate why NYU is the right school for you - and ultimately lead to a better application!

      Schedule a free consultation

      to find out how we can help you get accepted.