A student types at a computer beside a cup of coffee

NYU's new recommendation policy aims to reduce barriers and increase flexibility for applicants, while still allowing multiple letters to be submitted.

Last year, NYU introduced its new recommendation policy for first-year applicants:

“NYU requires one letter of recommendation from a teacher, counselor, coach, supervisor, or anyone else in a position of authority.”

Immediately, we received questions from students eager to understand how this would impact their admissions process. As you’ll see, it doesn’t change much.

Why the change?

In two words, reducing barriers. NYU receives applications from all over the world. School systems and their resources vary greatly. Not all students can easily obtain a recommendation from both a teacher and a counselor, and for some students, the teachers and counselors that they have access to might not be the people who can best speak to their readiness for college. By reducing our requirement to one letter and expanding who could write that letter, we hope to ease this pressure point for applicants.

I already have two letters of recommendation. Can I submit both?

Yes! Many colleges and universities still require two letters of recommendation. So don’t feel you need to withhold a second letter just because we only require one. NYU will happily accept up to three letters of recommendation.

But even though we will accept up to three, if you feel one recommender is truly the best advocate for you, there is no need to obtain additional letters just for NYU.

Will I be disadvantaged in the process if my recommender is not a teacher or counselor?

No. When we say your recommendation letter can be written by anyone in a position of authority, we mean it. For some students, their strongest supporter may be someone outside the classroom:

  • athletic coach
  • artistic director
  • club advisor
  • employer
  • CBO (community-based organization) mentor
  • leader from faith-based organization

Make sure they understand the assignment. A babysitting reference and a college recommendation are not interchangeable. And your recommender will need to address your potential to grow, succeed, and achieve in a college environment. We look forward to learning more about you through their letters.

Because teacher recommendations are still required by other schools, the majority of letters we received last year were written by teachers. And that’s okay! So if you’re excited for admissions to read your teacher recommendation, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

I want a teacher to write my recommendation. Any advice you can offer?

Whenever possible, choose a teacher who taught you in a recently completed school year (for instance, 11th grade in the United States). This way the recommendation reflects the most challenging coursework you completed so far and represents the perspective of someone who witnessed your development over a full year.

In essence, a teacher recommendation serves as a “highlight reel” for your performance in their class. Your teacher should be able to speak to things like:

  • How you engage with the academic material
  • Your strengths
  • How you approach challenges or setbacks
  • Your contribution to the classroom experience (e.g., if you were absent from class one day, what would be lost)

So if you got A’s in two different classes, but you felt like your passion for one subject shined through more than the other, that might help you decide which teacher to ask. A quality recommendation consists of much more than what grade you received on the final.

I am homeschooled. Can my parent write my recommendation?

Yes, as long as they are your primary instructor or the person who assesses your academic performance.

How can my recommender submit their letter?

The Common Application allows you to select who will submit your recommendation letter(s). If your recommender is unable to submit their letter through the Common Application, they can email it directly to [email protected]. Please have them include either your date of birth or Common App ID.

Any more recommendation tips?

Three keys to a thoughtful recommendation letter are TIME, SPACE, and GRACE. Give your recommenders ample time to write your letter without constant reminders of the looming deadline. Once the letter is on its way, express your gratitude for their advocacy and keep them posted on your progress. They appreciate the opportunity to support you in your college journey and look forward to celebrating your success.

Risa Harms returns to NYU Undergraduate Admissions after working locally as a college counselor for several years. She recruits prospective students throughout New York City and in her home state of New Jersey. A second-generation Thai-American, Risa relishes the opportunity to demystify the admissions process and extol the virtues of college fit. In her free time, she enjoys exploring the city with her family, playing the baritone ukulele, and performing improvisational comedy.