Is It OK to Apply Undecided to NYU?

Here are some tips on how to navigate the application process when you have zero idea what you want to study

Photo of David Querusio

Sometimes it can feel like you are the only person in the world who has no idea what to study in college. Love Biology but too squeamish to be a doctor? Are you passionate about writing but you’re worried about your job prospects as an English major? You’re in good company. The truth is, each year many students apply Undecided to college. In fact, anywhere from 20% to 50% of students apply as Undecided to college from high school.

From an admissions standpoint, we view applicants who apply directly to a major and those who apply undecided on the same playing field. It is a lot to ask students to declare their path before finishing high school. The admissions committee cares less about your formal major and more about what you are most excited to learn — and why NYU is the best place for you to do that learning.

On the Common Application, you’ll select one, two, or all of the three degree-granting campuses. You’ll get to rank them in order of interest. For NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai, you don’t apply directly to a major, but you’re welcome to mention one in your “Why NYU?” essay

If your main campus of interest is New York, you will then select one of the ten undergraduate colleges. Within that school/college, you’ll select a major. And there’s so much to choose from with over 230 options!

So how do you narrow all your interests into one academic area? It helps to consider what sort of profession or industry you want to enter after you graduate, and work backwards from there. But if you’re at a loss, ask yourself one simple question: What academic areas am I excited about?

“I know I want something in the Humanities…”

Those who connect with the humanities and social sciences should consider selecting “Undecided” in the College of Arts and Science on the Common Application. You can also look into our Liberal Studies Core Program. In both programs, students will focus on their Core Curriculum courses for their first two years at NYU. CAS students will declare their major(s) by the end of their sophomore year, while LS Core students will transition into one of the other NYU colleges with a declared major. Both options are great for students who want a flexible curriculum with rigorous academics.

“But something in Business sounds cool…”

Business programs may seem to be the same no matter where you go, but not all business programs are built equally. At NYU, students constantly redefine what it means to be an entrepreneur, marketer, accountant, and more. The Stern Business Core has the essentials for students interested in a traditional business route. Recently, however, Stern has expanded their business degree options to be more interdisciplinary. Business and Political Economy and Business, Technology, and Entrepreneurship both investigate business through the lenses of politics and technology, respectively. These are great options to explore if you want to take a more unique approach to business.

Our School of Professional Studies also has programs designed for today’s aspiring pioneers in more specific industries. If you have your heart set on the business practices in the fields of Real Estate, Hospitality & Tourism, and Sports Management, our SPS programs will set you up for success. You will network with industry leaders and actually report to work with top companies in the field…all for class!

“Maybe engineering is the field for me…”

In our Tandon School of Engineering, students are advised to declare an area of study by the end of their first year. Many undecided students call our Tandon School of Engineering home thanks to its variety of program offerings. Unique Tandon programs (such as their own English minor designed for engineers, for example) give more flexibility for engineering students interested in fields outside of STEM. The Game Center partnership with our Tisch School of the Arts encourages interdisciplinary thought and lets you create with logic and imagination.

“Ah! None of these majors fit what I want to do!”

If nothing I have outlined sticks with you, then our Gallatin School of Individualized Study might be your home. At Gallatin, you carve your own path that evolves with you as you progress as an NYU student with a faculty advisor. Students create their own concentrations by choosing from among the 4,000+ courses available to undergraduates. They work closely with their faculty advisor to determine which classes best match their curriculum.

While it’s great if you know what areas you’d like to meld together in your concentration, it’s totally OK to be unsure! In your “Why NYU?,” talk about the appeal of an individualized curriculum and how you’ll thrive in it.

Being Undecided at NYU

Remember that everyone finds their academic interests at their own pace. In fact, because we have so many programs, majors, and minors at NYU, we fully expect you to change your mind at least one after you enroll. And that is great! There is no such thing as wasted knowledge. Our advisors work with you every step of the way to make sure you land in a major that is perfect for you.

This freedom is one of the many benefits of being an NYU student. No matter what major you ultimately land on, chances are you’ll find your home at NYU instead of having to transfer out altogether.

So march on, future applicants, whether you’re undeclared or have your exact major in mind! Good luck with your applications, friends!