Students walking on rocks in water.

“I feel more confident about the admission process. I am more aware of certain terminology like ED I, ED II, and RD. Truly, this course has given me a different perception on colleges.” —Yazan, UPP Participant
What is the University Prep Program?


Following the very successful College Access Leadership Institute program in New York City, NYU Abu Dhabi started the University Prep Program (UPP) in 2015. It has since welcomed close to 600 participants, both on campus and virtually. First created to give aspiring college students in the Gulf region an opportunity to discover higher education options at no cost, UPP has evolved over the years.

UPP’s Curriculum

UPP started as a four-day on-campus program. A small cohort of preselected local junior and senior high school students attended. The event ran every summer, sometimes twice.

These dedicated UPP sessions aimed to help participants:

  • Understand their options within the higher education landscape
  • Find the right “fit” in their college search
  • Think about how to put their best application forward
“Thank you for this great opportunity and for the immense amount of help that you have given us through this stressful time in our lives. Thank you so much for your time and as well as the other admissions council members. I could have never asked for better hosts and guides.” —Haifa, UPP Participant
Helping Students Put Their Best App Forward

In 2020, 2021, and 2022, UPP was offered remotely, which extended its reach to international students. Still as successful as ever, this year’s program will be held in-person on NYU Abu Dhabi’s beautiful Saadiyat Island campus, over two busy days in August. The programming will focus on supporting rising high school seniors and students taking a gap year. UPP helps them find the right college fit and gather all tools and resources to put together the best college application possible.

UPP lead Hanan Abed tells me, “The best part [of UPP] is to see the lightbulb turn on. For some students, it’s the first time they are thinking about university. They are motivated enough to give up part of their summer to do this. They’re on the right track!”

“Besides all the useful sessions and tips offered, I got to meet some amazing people. You have made this daunting process seem a lot more manageable than I had thought it was. It’s now more like ticking off boxes on a checklist instead of not even knowing where to start.” —Nashwa, UPP Participant
Applying to UPP

To apply to UPP, you need to be a high school student going into your last year (rising senior) or a recent graduate. You should also be in good academic standing. Beyond your usual biographic details, the application asks you to write a couple of short essays about your interest in UPP and where you see yourself in the future. Sessions offered in 2023 should include: Finding Your Fit; Discover What’s Important; holistic admissions, Common Application, and essay workshops; and an NYU Abu Dhabi student panel.

Abed says, “The holistic admissions discussion blows students’ minds. They come in thinking their test score is all that matters [in college admissions]. We alsohelp them understand fit and consider class size, student diversity, climate, and geography—many things beyond rankings.”

“I just wanted to extend my gratitude for you giving your time and effort to us over the past week. Your program was not only enlightening but enjoyable and a memory I will never forget. I look forward to seeing you all in the future and becoming a part of the NYU Abu Dhabi family. Inshallah!” —Christian, UPP Participant

If you are interested in joining the next UPP cohort, check out UPP’s website for more information on how to apply! Hurry, the application deadline is June 21, 2023.

Lisa is a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions for NYU Abu Dhabi and the Global Admissions Team, based in the London office.
Born and raised in France, Lisa also lived in Denmark and spent a couple of years in leafy upstate New York.  She is a dedicated gardener, a keen traveler to India and Japan, and loves watching the tennis at Wimbledon. She now spends her free time playing with her little rescue terrier dog, Cooper.