Two students working together

*This article was originally published in June 2021 and has since been updated and republished.

A Gallatin degree brings together academic rigor and flexibility for creative and self-driven students. At the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, you work with a faculty adviser to build a unique curriculum and create a concentration (they’re not called majors at Gallatin) that fits your interests. Do you know exactly what your interests are? Great. Not so sure? That works, too. Gallatin can be a great fit for you as long as you’re motivated to be in charge of shaping your academic path.

But what does that look like in practice? Although every Gallatin degree is different, all students follow a similar process throughout their four years at NYU. It is specifically designed to help you explore your interests and hone your curriculum.


A group of students and a professor sitting at a large conference table

Before You Arrive

There is no "typical" Gallatin student

The independent curriculum of a Gallatin degree works well for two very different types of person, says Ryan Walker. She’s a Gallatin sophomore concentrating in photography and social justice. “When applying to Gallatin, I wish I knew that students who thrive often fall in two categories: pointy or round,” she says. “A pointy student is one that has a primary interest that dominates their life. It is their main passion in life, and everything revolves around it. In contrast, rounded students have multiple passions that they devote their time to evenly.”

Gallatin is an equally good fit for both kinds of student. And with so many ways to succeed, there’s no such thing as a “typical” Gallatin student. That’s something you should keep in mind as you prepare your application. If you’re not sure what you want to study, the school’s independent nature offers lots of room to explore. You can pursue all of your interests at their intersections. However, if you know exactly what you want to pursue, a Gallatin degree helps you focus your academics through that lens.

Your First Year

A faculty advisor guides you the whole way

All students get a primary academic adviser when they start at Gallatin. You will meet with this faculty member several times each term and they will help you ensure that your coursework has depth, breadth, and coherence as you shape your individualized program of study. Advisers also offer support and resources during the first-year transition to college.

Sarah Khan is a Gallatin senior whose concentration is in medicine and beyond: healing through a comparative perspective. She credits her adviser with helping her overcome the challenges of meeting all of NYU’s pre-health requirements while also exploring her interests in other areas. “My college science courses were tough. But I had an incredible adviser in Professor Sinan Antoon,” she says. “He was really supportive. He’s been there for me since I was a first year student and he’s seen me grow.”

First year courses set you up for success

During this time students also participate in the First-Year Program, three courses that prepare them for the rest of their Gallatin degree. Through the first-year interdisciplinary seminar, the first-year writing seminar, and the first-year research seminar, students cement their understanding of an individualized education, even as they are also encouraged to explore their interests by taking courses throughout other NYU schools and colleges.

Sophomore and Junior Years

Putting your plan onto paper and into action

During your sophomore and junior years, you solidify your program of study and continue taking interdisciplinary seminars at Gallatin. At the end of your sophomore year, you’ll write an Intellectual Autobiography and Plan for Concentration (IAPC). In this short essay you’ll reflect on your educational journey. You’ll also articulate a plan for your concentration. After receiving faculty approval, you’ll continue working on your now well-defined concentration.

A group of students walking around Shanghai
Bringing the world into your education

In addition to taking courses at other NYU schools and colleges in New York City, many Gallatin students study abroad in the NYU Global Network. These global experiences range from short individual travel courses and summer programs to full-semester or year-long study away programs. Gallatin creates customized seminars around the world for its students.

Internships and other real-world experiential learning can also be formative for Gallatin students. Junior Yijia Chen’s summer internship as a data analytics and product management intern at the IT consulting firm Techwave helped him figure out his direction. “I didn’t necessarily like doing the hardcore data science and coding,” he says. “But I did enjoy, much more, the analytical and solution-oriented parts of data science consulting.” Looking at this human side of data has been crucial for developing his concentration in data science and business strategy. He now studies how data is visualized and presented, as well as how business leaders read that data to make key decisions and strategize for the future.

Senior Year

Synthesize what you've learned

Interdisciplinary seminars and internships continue in your final year. But seniors also have several options for tying together their research and putting a finishing touch on their Gallatin degree.

Fall brings the senior colloquium. This two-hour oral exam and intellectual conversation covers at least 20 ancient and modern texts that have contributed to your concentration. It’s a great time to reflect on your journey. It’s also an important opportunity to synthesize your experiences into an integrated discussion. It is the capstone event of every Gallatin degree.

In the spring, students have the option to undertake a senior project. This work can be academic or creative and is an intensive independent study. Not surprisingly, projects typically grapple with themes from your colloquium. Your goal: to make a new scholarly contribution to your field.

Through this intensive process, Gallatin students often experience the education of a lifetime. Building an individualized concentration and charting a completely new educational path, Gallatin students take advantage of all of NYU’s resources—and make them all their own.