Image by Netflix

NYU Admissions Counselor Zani lets you know what’s fact or fiction about college admissions in the hit Netflix show Never Have I Ever. Spoilers Ahead!

Like so many others, I recently binge watched the final season of Netflix’s hit show Never Have I Ever. This season was all about college admissions as Devi and her friends applied to highly selective colleges. As someone who works on the other side of the college admissions process at NYU, I noticed both true and false things about the admissions process as represented in the show. If you’ll be applying to college soon, read ahead to get the truth about what to expect!

FALSE: College Fairs are Make-or-Break Interviews for Your Dream School

In the fourth episode of this season, we see the students nervously prepare to meet with college representatives at a college fair. The crew dresses in their most professional business attire and prepares elevator pitches for their college representatives.

“I’m Devi Vishwakumar … I’m at the top of all my classes, I’m president of eight different clubs, and I’ve read like every single book in the school library.”
Image by Netflix

The show makes it seem like their fate rests in the hands of the admissions officers standing before them. In reality, college fairs are NOT interviews. Admissions representatives are not evaluating each student we meet on the spot. Sometimes we meet with hundreds of students at these events! There’s no way to keep track of them all. There’s no need to dress to the nines or prepare extensive speeches on why the university needs “a [student] like you.” (Although it’s probably best if you don’t come with a shirt covered in yellow paint!)

College fairs are an opportunity to learn more about several different universities at once. Come prepared with a few questions, but don’t feel pressured to make a perfect first impression!

TRUE: Evaluating the Right School for You

Devi and her classmates take a trip to New York to tour different colleges in the area. While their classmates tour NYU, Devi and Ben meet up with a few current students at other nearby schools. Touring colleges and talking to current students are both great ways to see if you’d be a good fit for a school. It is really important to find a school where you will feel comfortable, challenged, and supported. In your college search consider touring different types of schools, attending information sessions, and doing some online research.

The Empire State Building lit up in purple for NYU graduates.

I especially love how Fabiola approaches her college search. She isn’t married to one institution before starting her search process. She says, “I wanna cast a wide net so I find the absolute perfect school for me.” When she’s doing her research, her questions aren’t only focused on student life. She asks about things like the student-to-faculty ratio and the quality of professors. Although she is initially excited about one school, she changes her mind because she likes the engineering program at another school and she feels it will be a better fit. I hope more students can go into their search with the openness and flexibility that Fabiola demonstrates.

FASLE: Only One Student Gets Admitted Per High School

So much drama ensues when Fabiola applies Early Action to the same school as Devi! The problem (according to the show) is that there can only be one admit per school at highly selective universities right? Wrong!

Typically, colleges do not have quotas for how many applicants we can admit from one high school or another. I completely understand Fabiola’s fears. When my friend and I applied to NYU years ago, I worried there would only be one spot from my school. When I asked my admissions representative, she assured me that that was not the case. And she was right! My friend and I were both admitted.

Zani and her friend hug while wearing an NYU sweater
My high school friend and I finding out that we got into NYU together!
Zani and her friend pose with an NYU sweater

At NYU we evaluate applicants within the context of their school, but that doesn’t mean that there is a competition for any number of spots. It means that we’ll look at what kind of academic opportunities students have available to them. We will determine if your school offers honors or AP classes and how many. We’ll also look at what kind of extracurricular activities are available to you. Information on how students at your school perform in classes and on standardized testing is also available to us. We will compare your application to this information, but we won’t necessarily compare students one-to-one.

So you shouldn’t worry that if you apply to a school that your friend wants to go to that it may hurt their chances. In reality, it won’t make a difference.

TRUE: Apply To a Number of Schools

Unfortunately Devi learns the importance of applying to “safety schools” the hard way. She initially scoffs at her school counselor for even suggesting it. But after a not so clean sweep of denials and one waitlist, she is full of regret.

Three characters from Never Have I Ever gather around a cell phone looking concerned
Image by Netflix

College admission is never guaranteed, so it is always a good idea to apply to “safety” schools, or schools that you and your counselor agree represent a high likelihood of acceptance. You want to make sure that you have the most options available to you after April 1st. Selectivity should not be the most important factor in your decision to apply to a college. In your college list, make sure to include some schools that are a good fit for you, with a high acceptance rate. Learn from Devi’s mistake and apply to some safeties.

FALSE: Regular Decision is for the “Gen Pop”

In a meeting with her school counselor, Devi groans at the thought of applying to colleges in the regular decision round. She and Ben laugh that regular decision is for “gen pop.”

In reality, there is nothing uncool about applying to college Regular Decision.

There are generally three decision plans that universities offer: early action (EA), early decision (ED), and regular decision (RD).

  • Early Action is a plan where students apply for an earlier decision deadline and receive a decision sooner. This plan is non-binding, so students can apply to other colleges and choose to accept or decline an admissions offer.
  • Early Decision is also a plan where students apply early and receive a decision sooner, but this plan is binding. The expectation is that admitted students will withdraw any applications to other colleges and commit to the university. 
  • Regular Decision is a non-binding plan where students apply and receive a decision by April 1st.

Generally if a university that is one of your top choices offers an early action plan, it may be a good idea to apply early (check in with your guidance counselor). However some universities, like NYU, only offer ED and RD. You should only apply ED if you’re absolutely sure that you want to attend that university. If you’re not sure where you want to go, or you’d like to keep your options open, there’s no shame in the RD game.

TRUE: College is an Adjustment

I really appreciate how Never Have I Ever shows that college is not just some happily ever after. The truth is that adjusting to college life can come with some difficulties. We see this many times throughout the season, from Paxton dropping out after having trouble making friends to Blair Quan’s struggles to remain academically focused, and even Ben’s insecurity about fitting in at his school. One of my favorite moments from the show was when Nalini helped Devi pack up her suitcase.

"I think I'm feeling overwhelmed thinking about leaving this house"
Nalini and Devi hug each other in this film still from Never Have I Ever
Image by Netflix

It is really hard to pack up your life and move to a new school, make new friends, and start a new academic journey. I really love how the show shed light on this, and I think it’s important to also mention that if you feel this way there are resources that you can tap into.

If you’re feeling homesick at NYU, we offer free counseling services to students through the Student Health Center. We also offer academic support and tutoring through the Academic Resource Center. Your resident or commuter assistant also can connect you to a broad array of university resources, and they plan fun events where you can make new friends!

Devi and Ben in graduation gowns smiling
Image by Netflix

Best of luck on your college application process! Hopefully it goes smoother than Devi’s. If you have any questions about applying to NYU, feel free to email us at [email protected] or call our office at +1 212-998-4500 Monday – Friday 10am – 4pm.

Zani is an Assistant Director of Admissions for NYU Abu Dhabi and the Global Admissions team, based in New York. She is also a NYU Tisch alumna, former RA and Admissions Ambassador. She is a travel enthusiast and vegan foodie. In her free time you can catch her directing independent documentary films.