Two years ago I reached a pivotal moment in my life. Smiling at my computer screen, I navigated the Common App to apply to NYU. I confidently selected Journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. However, my attention was then drawn to a checkbox labeled Liberal Studies Core. Intrigued, I clicked it, unaware this decision would transform my academic journey.

On December 15th, the moment arrived. Anxiously, I refreshed the application status page at 4:00 p.m. sharp. Clicking View Your Admissions Decision, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and opened my eyes again to the message: “Congratulations! On behalf of the admissions committee, it is my honor and privilege to share with you that you have been admitted to the Liberal Studies Core and the NYU Class of 2026.”

Knowing that Liberal Studies was only a two-year program, I needed to transition after completing all core requirements to my school of choice. However, in those two years, would my academic plans change?

Spoiler alert: they did.

Student holding NYU acceptance letter standing in front of a Christmas tree.
The day I got accepted into Liberal Studies at NYU!

From Ancient Papyrus to Modern Journalism: My Liberal Studies Journey

The Arts and Cultures Sequence stands out as my favorite sequence among the three I completed during my time in Liberal Studies. I discovered new passions in literature, art history, and music from the ancient world. A mere month into the semester, a research project flipped my entire academic journey.

In Bobst Library’s Special Collections, we each received an ancient, undeciphered papyrus leaf. I successfully translated this leaf, uncovering its origins as an ancient Greek marriage contract. Though seemingly small, this project revealed my profound love for the arts of the classical era, complementing my passion for journalism.

Additionally, the Global Works and Society Sequence delved into philosophy, religion, political and social theory, and history. I learned to think beyond the surface and seek answers outside the norm, grounding my concentration in critical thinking.

The two-semester writing sequence especially provided the freedom to explore and expand my writing horizons. Specifically in my first writing course, I visited the High Line in Chelsea, an elevated public park, documenting my hour-long walk in an essay. This experience pushed me beyond my comfort zone so I could foster innovation in my writing.

Since I began planning my schedule with my academic adviser, I ensured at least one free elective every semester. I used this time to take journalism classes, confirming that my love and interest in the field persisted. Now, it serves as the focal point of my concentration to ground the rest of my interests.

The front side of my ancient papyrus leaf
The front side of my ancient papyrus leaf from Liberal Studies.
The back side of my ancient papyrus leaf
The back side of my ancient papyrus leaf from Liberal Studies.

Craving an Interdisciplinary Journey Beyond Traditional Majors

Through the Liberal Studies Core, I discovered a craving for educational freedom. The Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where students design their concentration (Gallatin doesn’t have majors!) by connecting disciplines, perfectly matched my desire.

Realizing a double major wouldn’t suffice, my concentration examines journalism as an art form, connecting concepts instead of treating them separately. Surprisingly, this plan of study works only at Gallatin.

Driven by the core’s interdisciplinary nature, I wanted my education to explore diverse cultures, rooted in liberal arts. Gallatin’s unique requirements, like premodern, early modern, global cultures, and critical race studies, help ground students’ studies.

Thus, Gallatin is the perfect fit for a student like me.

The CPW I filled out.
The CPW I filled out.

Gallatin Bound: Navigating the Transition

The first step was attending an information session to understand Gallatin’s unique approach, clarifying information I had found online. Sharing my concentration ideas, I found Gallatin to be a surprising fit.

Next, I joined a Liberal Studies-specific workshop, gaining insights into Gallatin’s goals and collaborating on future concentrations. We discussed the crucial step of submitting the Concentration Planning Worksheet (CPW) by November 1st or December 1st. Generally, students submit by December 1st for fall transition, but since I will be in Gallatin next semester I submitted by November 1st.

Despite what seems like an overwhelming process, filling out the worksheet was a breeze. The CPW includes an essay explaining the concentration and a proposed course schedule. However, it doesn’t bind you to exact courses, but guides you toward the concentration’s goal.

After submission, the waiting game began. Before registration, my transfer adviser emailed, “Congratulations! The Gallatin advising team was impressed with your CPW, officially inviting you to transition for Spring 2024.” Thus, the start of my new journey began!

Class of 2026 banner hanging among NYU campus buildings.
Class of 2026 banners that we hung across campus.
Pink and blue sky peeks through New York City buildings as the sun sets.
A sunset on campus.

It’s Official!

After my acceptance email, I met my temporary adviser over Zoom, discussing Liberal Studies credits counting toward Gallatin. It was a relief to know many of my classes would transfer. He congratulated me and wished me luck in my first semester at Gallatin.

Following the meeting, I delved into planning next semester’s classes, aiming for 16 interdisciplinary seminar credits and 16 Gallatin credits. Opting for two Gallatin-specific classes, I enrolled in Politics of Portraiture at the Tisch School of the Arts, leveraging Gallatin’s flexibility to take courses at other NYU schools.

Ultimately, the next step involved filling out a form for a permanent adviser. Gallatin provides specialized advisers who are matched to our interests. During this process my favorite question was about the best thing experienced in the year. We have two advisers: a faculty adviser, an intellectual mentor for concentrations, and a class adviser supporting our cohort.

Completing course registration, my Albert account now reads “UG-Gallatin Sch of Ind Study” as my new program. I’m smiling the same way I did when I found out I got into NYU.

I’m proud of my tailored academic journey and grateful for the Liberal Studies Core for guiding me to interdisciplinary and individualized study.

Molly Koch (they/them) is a senior in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study studying a combination of journalism, art history, and classical archeology. Originally from Maryland, Molly came to NYU aspiring to earn their degree in the city that never sleeps. When they are not working on campus as an Admissions Ambassador, Molly can be found working chapter-by-chapter on their novel or running down the West Side highway. They are an Opinion Editor for Washington Square News, Service Chair of NYU’s Torch Chapter, National Residence Hall Honorary and a Residential Assistant.