As part of this year’s first-year application, you’ll have the option to answer a new NYU supplemental essay question. This year, we’re asking something brand new:

We are looking for peacemakers, changemakers, global citizens, boundary breakers, creatives and innovators – Choose one quote from the following and let us know why it inspires you; or share a short quote and person not on our list who inspires you, and include why (250 words).

  • “We’re used to people telling us there are no solutions, and then creating our own. So we did what we do best. We reached out to each other, and to our allies, and we mobilized across communities to make change, to benefit and include everyone in society.”  Judith Heumann, 2022 NYU Commencement Address


  • I encourage your discomfort, that you must contribute, that you must make your voice heard. That is the essence of good citizenship.” Sherilynn Ifill, 2015 NYU Commencement Address


  • “If you know how to fly but you never knew how to walk, wouldn’t that be sad?” Lang Lang, 2015 NYU Honorary Degree Recipient


  • You have the right to want things and to want things to change.Sanna Marin, Former Prime Minister of Finland,  2023 NYU Commencement Address


  • “It’s hard to fight when the fight ain’t fair.” Taylor Swift, “Change,” Released 2008, 2022 NYU Commencement Speaker


  • Share a short quote and person not on this list, and why the quote inspires you.


a student writes in a notebook at a table

No matter your initial reaction to this new question (perhaps “How or where do I start?!” or  “Hmm, nobody has answered this before…” or even “Woohoo! I get to be the first to take this on– no expectations!”), we want this question to give you a chance to shine.

Remember that there are real people (like me!) on the other side of the screen reading your application, and no matter what you write, we are grateful that you’re willing to share with us. 

We encourage you to approach the (optional!) NYU supplemental essay question with a sense of curiosity and excitement– because, after all, it’s all about YOU! 



Everyone’s writing process is distinct and personal. To begin, it might be helpful to jot down some ideas about what inspires you in each of these quotes. Even if one jumps out immediately, give some thought to them all! Is there a common theme that comes up in the ways you relate to each? Do they remind you of another quote that inspires you? Brainstorm in the way that works best for you, but give yourself a fair opportunity to consider your best answer.

Once you’ve chosen the quote you’ll reflect on, get all of your thoughts on paper. Sometimes the best writing comes from fragmented and unedited ideas, so try to stay away from judging your own writing before it’s time to edit.


While each of the selected quotes has a specific connection to NYU, we want your answer to be about YOU. We assume you’re excited about NYU because you’re choosing to apply, so there’s no need to use this as a way to tell us about your interest in the school. You also don’t need to give us a literary or academic analysis! We’re confident you’re developing these skills in school. Rather, this is our opportunity to read about what inspires you as an individual (because we’re inspired by these quotes, too)!

Finally, think about how your answer might enhance what you’ve already shared with us through the rest of your application. Remember, you only have 250 words to answer the NYU supplemental essay, so start big and then narrow your ideas down to their most succinct form. Pick an idea and get right to it.


There is no right or wrong way to answer as long as your answer is genuine to you. 

Remember that this question is completely optional (we promise). If you decide that you don’t want to answer the question, you will not be penalized in the admissions process. 

All of us admissions counselors are wishing you the very best of luck as you complete your college applications. We are already looking forward to learning more about the unique and dynamic class of 2028!

Katie is a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions based in New York City. Raised in Washington State, she grew up loving the outdoors. These days, you can find her in one of the city’s many museums or parks, watching a new play, reading on her roof, or beating her friends at the New York Times daily games. She is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree at NYU.