A student of color taking photos next to large sculptural letters that spell “NYU.”


For many high school seniors, college marks the next phase of their lives. With thought-provoking courses and endless social events, they dream of the day they arrive on campus. But for some students, the experience isn’t exactly what they thought it would be. In fact, NYU transfer students Daniella Rodriguez, Rebecca Levy, Jake Gainey, and Matthew Reyes Lee felt compelled to switch paths and move to a new school after starting college. And according to all four, rewarding experiences await those who follow their gut and pursue their dreams.

“Every student deserves to have a good college experience,” says Daniella. “These four years are a huge part of your life, so if you have an inkling that you should transfer to a different school, go for it.” We recently connected with Daniella, Rebecca, Jake, and Matthew about transferring to NYU, their future goals, and their advice for other students. While each of their stories is different, their transfer process began the same way: by submitting a transfer application to NYU. Below, we explore their individual experiences in greater detail.

“Going to those transfer student meetings made me feel at ease because I could hear other people’s stories. It opened my eyes to the fact that this is a normal process that a lot of students go through.” —Daniella Rodriguez
A theatre stage filled with performers.
Daniella Rodriguez, Tisch School of the Arts, Class of 2023

Drama major Daniella always knew NYU was her dream school. But when she didn’t get in the first time around, she completed her first year at a university on the West Coast. She knew almost immediately that it wasn’t her forever school. “I didn’t want to take a gap year,” she explains. “So I decided to make the most of it and pursue acting and drama and everything I love. I had a lot of great experiences there, but I ultimately felt like I wasn’t artistically fulfilled. NYU was always the goal.”

The second time around, Daniella found the application process a lot less daunting since she could build upon her original application materials. She did, however, still need to audition. “My audition was on Zoom during the height of COVID-19,” she recalls. “That was a little scary because it’s always easier to read the room in person. But I was surprised at how smoothly it went. I connected with the person I auditioned for, and it felt like everything fell into place.”

During Welcome Week, Daniella attended several meet and greets. These sessions were specifically for transfer students and helped ease her anxiety during the transition. “When I was transferring to NYU, I felt like a black sheep,” admits Daniella. “I felt like the normal thing for most high school students was to apply to a college, commit to that college, and then stay there for four years. Going to those transfer student meetings made me feel at ease because I could hear other people’s stories. It opened my eyes to the fact that this is a normal process that a lot of students go through.”

As a student at NYU Tisch, Daniella feels like her future is in good hands. With 10 professional training studios, an abundance of networking opportunities, and endless internship possibilities, she has had a vast array of resources at her disposal. “At my old school, I couldn’t see the possibilities,” she says. “I didn’t see myself going anywhere, and that scared me. At NYU, there are so many opportunities. That’s something I really appreciate because I want to dabble in everything.”

A student working on a project in the NYU Tandon MakerSpace.
Rebecca Levy, Tandon School of Engineering, Class of 2023

Before transferring to NYU in 2019, Sustainable Urban Environments major Rebecca spent her first year of college at a different university on the East Coast. From day one, she knew it wasn’t the right fit. “I felt disconnected,” she explains. “I spent the year taking classes, but I knew the whole time that I didn’t love it.” As she explored new opportunities, Rebecca searched for three things: a campus within a vibrant community, an environment where she could meet new people, and a major that resonated with her goals. She found all three at NYU.

“I chose NYU because of the Sustainable Urban Environments (SUE) major at the Tandon School of Engineering,” says Rebecca. “At my old school, I was double-majoring in Economics and Environmental Science, but neither of them aligned with what I wanted to do. When I researched the SUE major, every class appealed to me. At my old school, I dreaded almost every class I had to take.”

During orientation, Rebecca spent most of her time in the Tandon transfer student pods, fostering connections with her new peers. Once classes began, these connections made NYU feel more personal. “I would bump into people from my transfer pod all the time. It was very comforting, even if they weren’t my best friends,” explains Rebecca. “It was nice to just know people. At my old school, I felt like I didn’t know anyone because it was so massive.”

At NYU Tandon, Rebecca has taken courses on topics ranging from energy to civil engineering. She’s served as the faculty and alumni commissioner for the Tandon Undergraduate Student Council and worked as a geographic information systems consultant at NYU Data Services. Now she works as an enrollment management assistant at Tandon. After graduation, Rebecca will take a three-month trip to Asia as she awaits responses to her fellowship applications.

“I didn’t get in the first time I applied to NYU, but it was a dream I held onto. Don’t sell yourself short. If you know your dream and you know you want it, you can get there.” —Jake Gainey
A busy staircase in the NYU School of Professional Studies building.
Jake Gainey, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Class of 2024

The first time Jake applied to NYU, he wasn’t admitted. While the dream remained, he went to a small liberal arts college closer to his home in California instead. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jake spent his first year living at home and taking courses online. When campus reopened in 2021, he immersed himself in college and campus life as much as possible. “I spent the first semester of sophomore year on campus in Los Angeles,” he says. “But it wasn’t NYU. I still wanted to make that change. So I applied to NYU that semester and began classes in January 2022.”

Before starting his journey at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Jake worked with his transfer adviser to make sure his credits transferred from his previous school. “They were my biggest resource,” he shares. “When I was first admitted, there were eight courses on my transcript that weren’t going to transfer. But after reviewing each course with my adviser and finding connections between my old school and Gallatin, we were able to narrow down that list to only one course. That saved me a lot of time and money.”

With interests in architecture and real estate, Jake developed a Gallatin concentration that merges his passions: sustainable architecture and real estate development. Instead of pursuing a more traditional course of study, Jake (with encouragement from his advisers) explored his interests further by taking environmental courses at Gallatin and real estate courses at the NYU School of Professional Studies.

Beyond the classroom, Jake serves as a Gallatin ambassador and leadership committee member for the 1831 Fund. In addition, he’s a member of the Gallatin Business Society and the Urban Design and Architecture Society.

Reflecting on his experience transferring to NYU, Jake is glad that he persisted. “I didn’t get in the first time I applied to NYU,” he says. “But it was a dream I held onto. Don’t sell yourself short. If you know your dream and you know you want it, you can get there.”

“I just kept thinking, ‘If I don’t at least try, then I’ll never know my answer.’” —Matthew Reyes Lee
A statue in the center of a busy roundabout in Madrid, Spain.
Matthew Reyes Lee, College of Arts and Science, Class of 2023

The first time Matthew applied to NYU, he wasn’t able to devote much time to his application. Originally from the Philippines, he decided at the last minute to attend college in the United States, which didn’t leave him much time to prepare. Although he was not admitted on that first go-around, NYU stayed top of mind. “I just kept thinking, ‘If I don’t at least try, then I’ll never know my answer,’” he explains. “I wanted to give myself the time to focus on my application since I wasn’t able to do that in the beginning.”

Matthew transferred to NYU in the fall of 2020. Most of his courses were online due to the pandemic, but he still made many connections in his transfer group during orientation. “I tried to make the most out of the cards I was dealt,” he says. “Regardless of the situation, I tried to stay present so I could make the most of any experience or opportunity I had.”

With a strong interest in human rights, Matthew is now pursuing a degree in International Relations. He’s also studied Mandarin and taken several literature courses. Outside the classroom Matthew has served as a residential assistant, worked as an office assistant, studied away at NYU Madrid, and joined the International Filipino Association student club. After graduation, he hopes to work for a year before going to law school.

Matthew’s advice to transfer students? Give yourself the chance to put your best self forward, just as he did on his transfer application to NYU. “At the end of the day, you need to try your best, seize the day, and make the most of your time,” says Matthew. “Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone is going at their own pace, and everyone has their own story. The last thing you want to have is regrets. Just do the best that you can and everything will fall into place.”