Dozens of purple-jacketed student Admissions Ambassadors pose for selfie.

My fellow Admissions Ambassadors and me during the 2023 Weekend on the Square!

This guide aims to make your NYU application journey a bit easier. From choosing a major (or deciding to be undecided) and acing the essays to getting the best recommendation letter, GPA, and test scores and prepping for college in general, we’ve got some tips to help you shine. And it’s not just for high school seniors; it’s also a guide for ALL first-year applicants!
An NYU flag hanging from a building.

Hey there, future NYU Violets! This is Andrew! A second-year student at NYU, majoring in Music Theory and Composition with a concentration in concert music, while also navigating the prehealth track. OK! First of all, congrats on getting this far. You made it to senior year—give yourself a big cheer! Time really does fly. I’ve definitely been in your shoes before…the stress, the excitement, the suspense. But breathe, and maybe let me help you make this process a bit easier for you. So grab a snack, get comfy, and READ THIS.

Choosing Your Major vs. Liberal Studies

Choosing Your Major: The World Is Yours

It is completely OK if you don’t have your entire life planned out yet. NYU offers more than 250 areas of study. That’s a playground of opportunities, y’all! If you’re confused, think about what subjects or activities interest you or make you lose track of time. Trust me, the “right” major is out there waiting for you. Also, feel free to scroll through Meet NYU and browse the articles from each NYU school or follow along on Instagram takeovers so you can learn what life is like for students across a variety of majors.

Liberal Studies: Navigating a Multifaceted World

NYU Liberal Studies (LS) is a great option for incoming students! It’s designed for those who want a strong academic foundation in the liberal arts before choosing a major. You’ll take the core curriculum for the first two years and then transition to a major in another NYU school. Also, the First Year Away program sets LS apart. Imagine spending your first year in cities like London, Madrid, Florence, or Washington, DC, while earning credits toward your degree. This unique experience allows you to expand your horizons and analyze your field of study from a global perspective right from year one.

Students in the lobby of the Paulson Center at NYU.

The Essays: Yes, We Want to Know Your Story!

Well, let’s get into the nitty-gritty: essays! If you’re like me, the thought of writing an essay about yourself might be a bit…well, let me just say that it is not the most pleasant thing to do. But let’s shift that mindset, shall we? The application essays are your opportunity to step into the spotlight. No filter, just you, as a high school senior or first-year applicant!

The Common Application Essay

Think of the Common App essay as the opening act of your play, the intro of your music, and the teaser trailer of your film. This is where you set the stage and give us a glimpse of who you are. It’s not just about listing your accomplishments or backstory. NOPE. Dive into an experience, a lesson, or a moment that shaped you. Make it personal.

The NYU Supplemental Essay

Next up, the NYU supplemental essay. This is where you have to shine again. This year, the NYU supplemental essay question asks you to respond to quotations from commencement speakers. Also, you are more than welcome to pick your own quote!

Recommendation Letter(s): The More Personal, the Better

One letter is required, but submitting two or, at most, three works as well if each letter paints a fuller picture of who you are as an applicant. Aim for someone (e.g., high school teacher, counselor, coach, supervisor, or anyone else in a position of authority) who knows you well and can write to your strengths passionately. Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT, just pick someone who gave you an A for everything. For more information regarding recommendation letters, read this article written by an admissions counselor!

Let’s Cover GPA, Test Scores, and All Those EXTRAcurriculars

So, you might be wondering, “Is my GPA good enough? Do I need a perfect SAT score?” Let’s set the record straight: while your GPA matters, it’s not the be-all and end-all. NYU gets it; you’re so much more than just numbers on paper. Remember, we are test optional. That means NYU analyzes your academic performance in the context of who you are as a person. To learn more about NYU’s test optional policy, read “Test Optional at NYU: What It is and Isn’t.”

Now, for those extracurriculars. You don’t need to be a jack-of-all-trades, but you definitely want to show some spark outside of academics. Whether you’re the high school newspaper editor, a music club star, a science competition winner, an organizer of community service events, or someone who helps do chores for the family, it all counts! Also, it’s better to be really involved in a focused amount of things, rather than spreading yourself so thin over a dozen clubs. Love, there are only 24 hours in a day—it’s OK to admit that we can’t do everything.

Two people wearing scrubs in a doctor’s office.
Two people in front of a chalkboard filled with music notes.

You've Got This!

As we wrap this up, I want you to know that I get it. As a high school senior, the stress, the late nights, that feeling like you’re carrying the weight of your entire future on your shoulders, it’s a lot. College applications make everyone a bundle of nerves, myself included. But here’s the thing: you’re more resilient than you give yourself credit for.

Remember, this stressful journey of applying is just a single moment in the bigger picture of your life. So don’t sweat it too much; you’re way more than just an application.

And when you finally press that “submit” button, take a moment. Tell yourself, “I’m reaching for the life I want, and yeah, it does involve taking some risks, but I’m up for it.” Trust me, life has a funny way of working itself out. As someone navigating NYU who has gone through the whole application process, I’m rooting for you, every single step of the way! You’ve got this! You are amazing!

Sincerely, Andrew Zihao Wang
The author and his mother standing in front of the ocean.
My MOTHER and me!

PS: I’d like to shout-out my family, parents, friends, and mentors, especially my super supportive mother during my high school senior year. Yes, it really takes a whole village to get to where you are! Like my mother always told me, “Remember, always be a blessing to others.”

HI Y’ALL! My name is Andrew and hope you are having an awesome day! I am a sophomore at NYU studying Music Composition and Theory in Concert Music while pursuing my interests in Pre-Health. I’m an Admissions Ambassador, Hall Council Member (22-23), Composer Collective E-Board Member, Music Tutor at a Music Academy, Hospital Emergency Room Volunteer, Medical Assistant, and proud NYU Student. Outside of class, I love traveling, listing to music and grab food and coffee with my friends and family! I hope my articles can shine a light to help people navigating through their Pre-NYU, During-NYU, and Post-NYU Journey! Thanks!