Is It OK to Apply Undecided to NYU?

Here are some tips on how to tailor your application when you have zero idea what you want to study

Phoebe Kingsak

Travel season has begun! Our admissions officers are traveling all over the world to share information about NYU’s global opportunities. I love being able to provide insight on how to best apply to NYU. A question I get on the road often is, “What if I’m undecided?” I wanted to advise the MeetNYU-niverse how to best apply when you’ve got no idea what you want to study (no pressure!) a.k.a. “How to apply undecided to NYU”.

On the Common Application, you’ll select one, two, or all of the three degree-granting campuses. You’ll get to rank them in order of interest. For NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai, you don’t apply directly to a major, but you’re welcome to mention one in your “Why NYU?” essay

If your main campus of interest is New York, you will then select one of the ten undergraduate colleges. Within that school/college, you’ll select a major. And there’s so much to choose from with over 230 options!

So how do you narrow all your interests into one academic area?

Many students think “Undecided” in the College of Arts and Science is the only option, but that’s far from true! You can be an undecided student in five of our colleges and schools. But where to start?

It helps to consider what sort of profession or industry you want to enter after you graduate, and work backwards from there. But if you’re at a loss, ask yourself one simple question: What academic areas am I excited about?

Are you more engaged with the humanities and social sciences? Or are you leaning more toward math and sciences? It doesn’t have to be an either/or. In fact, there are plenty of ways to include both through electives and minors down the road. But here’s a framework for thinking through the different ways you can enter as undecided at NYU.

I Think I'm Leaning Toward the Humanities

Those who relate with humanities and social sciences should consider selecting “Undecided” in the College of Arts and Science on the Common Application, or the Liberal Studies Core Program. In both programs, students will focus on their Core Curriculum courses for their first two years at NYU. CAS students will declare their major(s) by the end of their sophomore year, while LS Core students will transition into one of the other NYU colleges with a declared major.

Another option for those interested in the liberal arts is the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. At Gallatin, students create their own concentrations by choosing from among the 4,000+ courses available to undergraduates. They work closely with their faculty adviser to determine which classes best match their curriculum. While it’s great if you know what areas you’d like to meld together in your concentration, it’s totally OK to be unsure! In your “Why NYU?,” talk about the appeal of an individualized curriculum and how you’ll thrive in it.

But STEM or Business Could Also Work

For the students who find themselves more business- and S.T.E.M.-focused, they can apply to either the Stern School of Business or Tandon School of Engineering undecided. Stern students must declare at least one of the 13 concentrations available by the end of their junior year. In Tandon, students are advised to declare an area of study by the end of their first year. While these technically allow you to enter as undecided, you’ll still end up with a business/S.T.E.M. degree. So your interest in the academic area should be pretty strong.

I also want to note that there’s more than one way to study business at NYU.

Students often think "Business = Stern," but did you know there are three other NYU schools that house business programs?

The School of Professional Studies offers Sports Management, Hotel and Tourism Management, and Real Estate. Our Tandon School of Engineering offers Business and Technology Management. And don’t forget our amazing Music Business program at the Steinhardt School. These programs are more specialized, but if you’re thinking you might be interested in some sort of business program, they’re worth pointing out.

On our side in admissions, we consider undecided applicants as we would any other student applying to CAS, Liberal Studies, Tandon, Stern, or Gallatin. There’s no disadvantage for not knowing your major right out of high school!

Remember that everyone finds their academic interests at their own pace. NYU’s academic advisors are here to help you find your path! 

As always, if you have questions, reach out to us on social media or at admissions@nyu.edu. I’ve got some tips on how to answer the “Why NYU?” question you might find helpful if you’re undecided.

So march on, future applicants, whether you’re undeclared or have your exact major in mind! Good luck with your applications, friends!