Once upon a time, I was a senior in high school preparing to apply to college. I started my Common Application early and saw that most schools ask applicants to indicate a potential major or concentration. I was convinced I wanted to be a diplomat—the type who flies around the world for work and speaks multiple languages. The election of 2016 also made me feel empowered, energized, and passionate about the future of American politics. So, as one would expect, I decided to apply to college as a Political Science major.
Now, no one told me how difficult this would be. According to Niche.com, there are upwards of 800 undergraduate political science departments in the country. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of an undergraduate school that did not have a political science department. How was I supposed to choose?
As I would come to find, there are a million ways to make ANY major or degree track fit your larger goals.
First and foremost, I focused on applying to schools for more reasons than just offering a political science major. As I would come to find, there are a million ways to make ANY major or degree fit your goals. I applied to NYU because I knew that New York City would give me the connections and resources that I needed. I’m a first-generation college student and daughter of immigrants. I don’t have those casual connections that many people do! I needed a school to open doors for me, and knew that I’d be brave enough to walk through them. When I got my letter of admission, it didn’t take me long to decide to take the leap.
I wanted to be taught political science in diverse ways, with perspectives much larger than just New York City, or even just the United States.
I’ll be honest—I severely underestimated the politics department at NYU. When applying, I knew that the department at NYU would be different from other schools, especially with NYU’s global presence. I wanted to learn political science in diverse ways, with perspectives larger than just New York City or the United States. Now, NYU lived up to this expectation, but gave me so much more than I could have even dreamed of.
Yes, there are hundreds of political science departments in the country. But how many of them have entire faculties of professors who are leaders in their fields? We learn from professors who work at the United Nations, professors who were former White House advisors, and professors who do research at the US Supreme Court. As a top graduate department in the country, even the teaching assistants for my classes are graduate students at the top of their field.
My politics degree is about so much more than the isolated department at NYU—it’s about the intersections of my resources throughout the whole university to make my education fulfilling and well-rounded.
I am taught every day by world renowned faculty in my department, and I still get to use the resources of all of NYU. The Wasserman Center for Career Development helped me get incredible internships and help with my professional development. I used it to get a US Senate internship and then a US Department of Justice internship. I use NYU’s incredible global network to study away, which I did at NYU Washington DC (read more about NYU DC here!). The university-wide Pre-Law Advising Office helps me in my academic journey to law school. My politics degree is about so much more than the isolated department at NYU—it’s about the intersections of my resources throughout the whole University to make my education fulfilling and well-rounded.
And yet, I wouldn’t even have to be a Politics major in the College of Arts and Science to get the most out of a political science education. NYU is a huge school with a world of opportunities and flexibility for every student to make their education unique. I could’ve chosen to study Business and Political Economy in the Stern School of Business. I might’ve tried Politics, Rights, and Development in the Global Liberal Studies program. Our Wagner School of Public Service has a wonderful undergraduate public policy program. I even could have created an individualized political science concentration in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. You can look through the lists of academic programs here!
My friend Nick says this about his particular path in studying politics: “I’m a Gallatin student studying the intersection of extremism, surveillance, and policy with a minor in Peace and Conflict Studies. Politics is a major part of my degree, between the study of war fighting and peace building, to understanding the political power structures that guide the actions taken as response to new situations. ” Nick chose to create his own path in his political science education, without the limits of one particular major. This flexibility is as NYU as it gets.