How to Write the NYU Supplemental Essays

male nyu student with nyc in background
May 6, 2024
7 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the NYU supplemental essays. 

Located in the heart of one of the most iconic cities in the world, New York University (NYU) is known for its vibrant and diverse community. To be successful as an applicant, you must use all the opportunities available to showcase your unique qualities and experiences. 

One way you can do this is through your supplemental essays. Your responses give the admission committee a better understanding of who you are outside of your academic profile, and how you will fit into their community.

In this article, we’ll break down each prompt and provide key tips to help you draft essays that will impress the admissions committee. We’ll also provide a few NYU supplemental essay examples you can use as inspiration to craft your own compelling responses. Let’s get started!

NYU Supplemental Essay Prompts 2023-2024

Students are only required to answer one of the NYU essay prompts. Here are the options you can choose from for the current admissions cycle:

Option A

"We're used to people telling us there are no solutions and then creating our own. So we did what we do best. We reached out to each other and our allies, and we mobilized across communities to make change, to benefit and include everyone in society.” Judith Heuman, 2022 NYU Commencement Address.

Option B

“I encourage your discomfort, that you must contribute, that you must make your voice heard. That is the essence of good citizenship.” Sherilynn Ifill, 2015 NYU Commencement Address.

Option C

“If you know how to fly but never how to walk, wouldn’t that be sad?” Lang Lang, 2015 NYU Honorary Degree Recipient.

Option D

 “You have the right to want things and to want things to change.” Sanna Marin, Former Prime Minister of Finland, 2023 NYU Commencement Address.

Option E

“It’s hard to fight when the fight ain’t fair.” Taylor Swift, Change, Released 2008, 2022 NYU Commencement Speaker.

Option F

Share a short quote and a person not on this list and why the quote inspires you.

How to Write the Essay Prompt for NYU

In this section, we will analyze the prompt and provide a few tips to help you write impactful responses.

How to Write the NYU Supplemental Essay Option A + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Option A: This first quote is a powerful statement that emphasizes resilience, collective action, and the ability to overcome challenges. Heuman describes a community's response to adversity, rejecting the notion that there are no solutions. 

The admissions committee likely chose this quote to gauge how applicants perceive and respond to challenges, as well as their commitment to inclusivity and positive change. For your essay, you might want to explore how this quote aligns with your personal values and experiences. 

Consider discussing instances where you've seen the power of collective action or have been part of a solution-oriented community. You could also reflect on your role in fostering inclusivity and change, either in your local community or within a specific context.

Here are some tips you can consider if you choose to write about Option A:

  1. Personal Connection: Start by reflecting on a personal experience or a situation where you've witnessed individuals coming together to create positive change. Share a story that resonates with the themes in the quote, demonstrating your understanding of its significance in real-life scenarios.
  2. Actions Speak Louder: While discussing why the quote inspires you, provide concrete examples of actions you've taken to contribute to positive change. Whether it's involvement in community projects, advocacy work, or initiatives that promote inclusivity, showcase instances where you've translated inspiration into tangible efforts.
  3. Relate to NYU Values: Align your response with NYU's values and mission. Highlight aspects of the quote that resonate with the university's emphasis on diversity, inclusivity, and global citizenship. This will show the admissions committee that you not only understand the quote but also see its relevance to the NYU community.

How to Write the NYU Supplemental Essay Option B + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Option B: This quote emphasizes the importance of discomfort in contributing to societal change. The admissions committee expects applicants to reflect on their understanding of civic responsibility and showcase experiences where they've actively engaged in making their voices heard for positive transformations.

Take a look at these tips before you start writing:

  1. Choose a Genuine Experience: Select an experience where you genuinely felt discomfort but embraced it as a catalyst for positive change. Authenticity is crucial, so pick a situation that resonates with you personally.
  2. Highlight Personal Growth: Discuss how the discomfort you encountered led to personal growth and contributed to your development as an individual. Admissions officers are interested in understanding your journey and the lessons you've learned.
  3. Reflect on the Essence of Good Citizenship: Dive into what "the essence of good citizenship" means to you. This is an opportunity to share your philosophy on active citizenship and how you see it shaping your future endeavors.

How to Write the NYU Supplemental Essay Option C + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Option C: This quote suggests the importance of grounding oneself in fundamental skills and practical knowledge, even when possessing exceptional talents or abilities. It calls for a balance between grand aspirations and the essential, foundational elements of any pursuit. 

The admissions committee is likely seeking applicants who understand the value of humility, continuous learning, and the importance of mastering the basics before venturing into more complex realms.

  1. Choose a Personal Anecdote: Share a specific moment or experience from your life where the quote's message resonates. For example, you could describe a situation in which you had to balance ambitious goals with the need for foundational skills.
  2. Reflect on Challenges: Discuss any challenges or obstacles you faced when tempted to focus solely on "flying" without considering the importance of "walking." Reflect on what you learned from these challenges.
  3. Discuss Long-Term Perspective: Discuss how your commitment to learning fundamental skills aligns with your long-term goals. Illustrate how this philosophy contributes to your personal and professional development.

How to Write the NYU Supplemental Essay Option D + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Option D: The quote suggests that individuals possess the right to desire change and the right to actively seek change. It implies a sense of agency, empowerment, and a call to action. Admissions officers may want to see how this perspective aligns with your values and aspirations.

Applicants are called to consider their aspirations, the changes they wish to see in the world, and how they intend to exercise their agency. It invites reflection on personal values, social consciousness, and the willingness to contribute to positive transformations.

  1. Identify Personal Desires for Change: Reflect on your personal desires for change, whether in your life, community, or globally. What issues resonate with you, and why?
  2. Highlight Values and Principles: Articulate the values that underpin your desire for change. Whether rooted in empathy, justice, or other principles, explaining these values provides depth to your essay.
  3. Express Optimism and Determination: While acknowledging the need for change, convey optimism and determination. Admissions officers are likely looking for candidates who approach challenges with a positive mindset and a determination to make a difference.

How to Write the NYU Supplemental Essay Option E + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Option E: This quote suggests a theme of resilience, determination, and the challenges inherent in pursuing one's goals. The admissions committee is likely interested in understanding how applicants navigate adversity, their tenacity in the face of challenges, and their perspectives on fairness and justice.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind for this option:

  1. Reflect on Growth: Reflect on how facing unfair challenges has contributed to your personal and intellectual growth. Admissions committees are interested not just in the challenges themselves but in how you've evolved as a result.
  2. Relate to Taylor Swift’s Journey: If you're a fan of Taylor Swift, consider drawing parallels between her journey and your own. Discuss how her experiences or advocacy efforts have inspired you and influenced your perspective on fairness.
  3. Link to Societal Issues: Explore how the quote reflects broader societal issues. Discuss your awareness of social injustices and your commitment to addressing these challenges, either through advocacy, volunteering, or future career plans.

How to Write the NYU Supplemental Essay Option F + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Option F: This prompt gives applicants the flexibility to choose a quote from any person beyond the provided list, allowing for a more personalized response. Admissions committees are likely looking for insight into the student's values, influences, and the ability to make thoughtful connections.

If you choose this option, make sure to:

  1. Select a Meaningful Quote: Choose a quote that holds personal significance. It could be from a favorite author, a mentor, a historical figure, or anyone whose words have had a profound impact.
  2. Explain Your Connection: Clearly explain why the chosen quote inspires you. Share personal anecdotes or experiences that highlight the significance of these words in your life.
  3. Showcase Reflective Thinking: Demonstrate reflective thinking by discussing the evolution of your understanding or interpretation of the quote over time. This showcases your capacity for self-reflection and growth.
  4. Relate to NYU Values: Connect your chosen quote and the associated person to values that align with NYU. This could include themes of diversity, innovation, social justice, or any aspect that resonates with the university's ethos.
NYU students walking on campus

Examples of NYU Supplemental Essays That Worked

In this section, we will provide a few NYU supplemental essay examples that have allowed students to successfully secure admission into the university. We will also discuss why each sample was effective and highlight what made them stand out.

Sample Essay #1

Prompt: “NYU was founded on the belief that a student’s identity should not dictate the ability for them to access higher education. That sense of opportunity for all students, of all backgrounds, remains a part of who we are today and a critical part of what makes us a world-class university. Our community embraces diversity, in all its forms, as a cornerstone of the NYU experience.

We would like to better understand how your experiences would help us to shape and grow our diverse community. Please respond in 250 words or less.”

Outside of spacetime, in my mind’s eye, on the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) Florida “Orange Bowl” courts, I imagine Roger Federer serving to Caroline Wozniacki, who returns it back across the net. Except, Caroline’s return doesn’t go to Roger (who’s since dissipated back into my ethereal daydream), but rather to Coco Guaff, who hits a forehand back to Andre Agassi, and so on in an infinite rally between tennis legends who’ve played in the same tournament on the same court on which I’m now standing. Time to go to work!
Like a businesswoman entering the building for a productive workday, I set my bag down as I walk in - in this case, on the courtside bench - and survey my surroundings. Nerves like butterflies flutter in my stomach watching other tennis players from around the world warm up… but I know better by now to just trust my preparation and let it fly. Breathing deeply, I step into my office: the tennis court.
For my first match against an Australian opponent, I’m blessed with two pep talks: one from a [ETHNICITY] coach advising me to “expect everything and adjust to anything” and the other from my [STATE] coach saying to “be proactive, be persistent, play through to the finish.” Given that we’ve worked together longer, the latter words of wisdom stuck with me more, helping me win that first match, go onto qualify for the main draw, and, with your acceptance, share my play-through-to-the-finish pertinacity with my fellow Violets.

Why Essay #1 Worked

This essay is successful because it effectively connects the applicant's experiences in tennis to the values of diversity and community at NYU. The writer uses a creative and imaginative approach, describing a scenario of playing tennis with legends and drawing parallels between the advice received from coaches of different ethnic backgrounds. 

By vividly portraying the tennis environment and incorporating advice from diverse mentors, the applicant showcases their ability to navigate and appreciate diverse perspectives. The essay demonstrates how these experiences would contribute to the cultural richness and inclusivity of NYU's community, aligning with the university's emphasis on diversity as a cornerstone of its identity. 

Sample Essay #2

Prompt: 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 school, college, program, and/or area of study? We would like to understand why NYU? (2500 character maximum)

Though the brain, in all actuality, is not like any other muscle in the human body, the fact that I tend to view my brain as one would view any other muscle is something that must be acknowledged before analogizing how I’ve recently gone about challenging myself intellectually. Simply put, I take my brain to the gym; I analyse its power through its capability to ‘lift’ (fully comprehend) intellectual weights of varying mass and attempt to broaden the reach of its abilities by consistently exercising it, repeatedly pushing it just past its limits until it grows stronger and is thus ready to load on even heavier weights. While I’m by no means claiming here to be some sort of bodybuilding guru – in fact, I weigh roughly the same as most large dogs – this particular process of meticulous brain-training is something I’ve found myself doing in an endless quest to satisfy my insatiable thirst for an understanding of the bigger picture. 
Although attending my current institution has provided me with a stimulating academic experience, and one where I’ve jumped at the opportunity to more deeply explore my interests in both familiar and unfamiliar subjects alike, I find myself at a level of intellectual strength and vitality today where I’m confident in my capacity to take another step forwards – or better yet, a quantum leap into the academic equivalent of an Olympic-level gymnasium that is NYU.
How exactly I plan to utilize the variety of resources such a 'gym’ would provide is a question I’ve spent years eagerly pondering: for one, continuing on my path of pursuing degrees in economics and philosophy at a school ranked 11th and 1st in those subjects respectively would be an absolute honour, as would the experience of studying beneath Professor Alberto Bisin, whose HCEO lecture on Cultural Inequality I’ve now watched countless times. Tantamount to my commitment towards fully exhausting NYU’s academic resources is the level to which I aim to immerse myself in the school’s diverse community; whether it be by driving Tandon’s Formula SAE racecar in competition or volunteering for the noble Change the Imbalance Initiative, I want to ensure that my character undergoes as much development as my intellect in being an NYU student. What stands above all, though, is my desire to give back to the Violet garden of intellectual growth by putting my voice into play within NYU’s academic arena, both inside and outside the classroom. 

Why Essay #2 Worked

This essay effectively articulates the applicant's intellectual curiosity and eagerness to engage with NYU's academic and community aspects. The analogy of treating the brain like a muscle and taking it to the "gym" showcases the writer's disciplined approach to intellectual growth. 

The essay is well-structured, with a clear narrative that transitions from the current academic experience to the desire for a more challenging environment at NYU. The applicant expresses a specific interest in economics and philosophy, aligning their academic goals with NYU's strengths in those subjects. 

The writer goes beyond academics by highlighting their intention to actively participate in the diverse community, referencing specific activities like driving Tandon’s Formula SAE racecar and volunteering for the Change the Imbalance Initiative. Overall, this response successfully conveys the applicant's motivation to contribute both intellectually and personally to NYU's vibrant academic environment.

Sample Essay #3

Prompt: “NYU was founded on the belief that a student’s identity should not dictate the ability for them to access higher education. That sense of opportunity for all students, of all backgrounds, remains a part of who we are today and a critical part of what makes us a world class university. Our community embraces diversity, in all its forms, as a cornerstone of the NYU experience.”

We would like to better understand how your experiences would help us to shape and grow our diverse community. Please respond in 250 words or less.”

What I’d add to the NYU menu is time-tested tradition translated into battle-tested characteristics and skills that make for seasoned leaders and entrepreneurs. This tradition spans not only academic excellence in school but also entrepreneurial prowess in DECA and even empowers me personally when it comes to my Jewish faith. Since I can remember, Friday nights have always been spent at my grandparents’ house. The euphoric smells of challah and kugel diffuse from the kitchen as the familiar faces of close family sit hungrily around the dinner table, eager to begin the Shabbat prayers. As the last blessing concludes, my grandpa raises his glass. L’chaim, “to life”, echoes throughout the dining room and is accompanied by the sounds of clinking glass and tikvah, “hope”. And finally, it’s time to eat. 
These Shabbat memories have ultimately fueled my ever-growing Jewish identity. The traditional Ashkenazi Jewish recipes that cover the dinner table, symbols of the strength of my ancestors who migrated to America from war-torn Poland during the Holocaust, and the gathering of family each Friday night, symbols of a surviving legacy, have inspired me to hold these traditions close to my heart as I forge my own path through both Judaism and life. 
Today, involvement in my synagogue’s youth program has continued to fuel my ever-growing Jewish identity by allowing me to channel my enthusiasm through civic engagement initiatives that aim to foster change within our community and beyond, such as the [NAME OF EVENT] and other fundraising events within our synagogue. 

Why Essay #3 Worked

This essay effectively communicates the applicant's commitment to their Jewish identity and its connection to their academic and entrepreneurial pursuits. Through vivid details of Friday night Shabbat gatherings and the cultural significance of traditional Jewish recipes, the essay paints a compelling picture. 

The applicant skillfully links their involvement in DECA and synagogue youth programs to civic engagement initiatives, showcasing a commitment to community betterment. The use of Hebrew terms adds cultural authenticity. 

FAQs: How to Write the NYU Supplemental Essays

Here are our answers to a few frequently asked questions about the NYU supplemental essays:

1. Does NYU Have Supplemental Essays?

Yes, NYU has supplemental essays as part of the first-year application process.

2. How Many Essays Does NYU Require?

NYU only has one supplemental essay. You can choose from the options available or come up with your own.

3. How Important Is the Supplemental Essay for NYU?

These essays are very important; they allow you to highlight what makes you unique and how you will contribute to the NYU community. It’s your chance to convey your passion, interest, and commitment to the university. A well-crafted essay can set you apart from other applicants and increase your chances of admission.

4. How Long Should the Supplemental Essays Be?

Your response should be no longer than 250 words. 

5. Can I Reuse the Essay from Other College Applications for NYU?

No, reusing the essay from another college application is not advisable. It’s important to ensure your essays are school-specific and align with the values of each institution. Admission committees seek unique and genuine stories and your fit for their school.

6. How Should I Respond to the NYU Supplemental Essay Prompt?

To answer the prompt, ensure you are innovative by tailoring your response to the exact prompt, which should be at least 250 words. You can choose any option and tell your story to show that you are deeply invested in the issue you are discussing.

Final Thoughts

The NYU supplemental essays allow you to convey your passion, values, and aspirations to the admission committee. A well-crafted application can help you stand out and convince the admission committee that you are a perfect fit for the university. 

To successfully meet NYU's essay requirements, it is crucial to delve into prompts that explore your reasons for applying, your specific interest in NYU, and how your experiences align with the university's commitment to fostering a diverse community. 

Therefore, thoroughly understanding the prompts will empower you to create a narrative that reflects your individuality, ultimately increasing your chances of admission. Good luck!

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