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    How to Respond to the 2023-2024 NYU Supplemental Essay

    By Cece Gilmore

    Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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    Reviewed by Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: February 5th, 2024
    How to Respond to the 2023-2024 NYU Supplemental Essay

    New York University is located in the heart of the city that never sleeps, New York City! Due to its ideal location in the Big Apple, NYU has an acceptance rate of 13%. Your NYU application will need to impress if you want to gain an education in NYC!

    NYU applicants are offered the opportunity to submit an optional essay to better showcase who they are. NYU states that students who do not submit the optional essay will not be penalized in their admissions review process. Students who are set on NYU might want to take this extra step to impress. Keep reading to learn how to ace the NYU supplemental essay question!

    Don’t miss: Top New York scholarships

    The NYU supplemental essay: The prompts

    Get excited, because NYU only requires one optional supplemental essay response! Students will respond to the following statement from NYU:

    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) 

    Applicants may choose from the following list:

    1. “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 Heuman, 2022 NYU Commencement Address

    This quote can be a little overwhelming due to its length but ultimately it is just stating that teamwork can create beneficial solutions. So, if you have any experience working with others whether it be an organization or just one other person to help you solve a problem, this is the perfect quote for you! To begin responding to this essay prompt you should firstly describe what this quote means to you. How do you interpret this quote? Next, you should detail a story from your life in which you came together with others to solve a problem. Be creative and descriptive in detailing this experience! You want the admissions officer to understand your situation and get a good gauge of the type of person you are especially in difficult situations in which a problem needs to be solved. Don’t forget that this response is only 250 words so be as detailed in as few words as possible! 

    Questions to consider

    • When was a time in which you had to work with others to solve a problem? 
    • Does collaboration help you solve a problem more effectively? 
    • What problems are you passionate about solving? What steps would you take to ensure that you can solve these issues? 

    2. “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

    This quote is very similar to the first one in that it wants to know how you have benefited your community. To begin, try and think about a time in which you stood up for something or someone that was against the grain or norm for your community. Or, think of a time in which you made your voice heard within your community. Once you decide on a moment no matter how big or small, describe it! You should detail what led up to you sparking a change and how exactly you went about it. Additionally, you should describe what happened after the fact. Did you spark a movement in your community? Did you get ridiculed? Would you stand up again despite the discomfort you faced? This reflection is the most important part of your response as this will show the admissions officer what you have learned from your experience. You want to prove to the admissions officer that you will better the NYU community due to your prior experiences and lessons learned. Don’t forget that this response is only 250 words so be as detailed in as few words as possible! 

    Questions to consider

    • Have you ever stood up for something in your community? 
    • What have you learned about yourself from making your voice heard? 
    • Do you think people should stand up for what they believe despite the uncomfortableness they may feel? 

    3. “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

    This is a hard quote to digest! Lang Lang is a musician and said this quote in response to an interview question about how he likes to tackle the most difficult music pieces first. Knowing this background, it is easier to digest the quote! Ultimately, Lang is detailing that learning the basics and not jumping ahead to the difficult and rewarding parts first can be extremely valuable. Therefore, try to think of a time in which you may have started something ambitious without gaining a good understanding of the topic. Or perhaps a time in which your own pride got in the way of you succeeding because you wanted to skip ahead without going over the mundane intro-leveled steps. No matter what this activity or skill is, it is important that you focus on what you learned in your essay response. You should be detailing how learning the basics actually could provide you with a solid foundation to become an expert in this skill despite not realizing this at the moment. Additionally, you should describe what you learned from this experience and how you will take this skill of learning to walk before flying with you to NYU in order to succeed. Don’t forget that this response is only 250 words so be as detailed in as few words as possible! 

    Questions to consider

    • Can you describe a time in which you learned to fly before walking? 
    • Have you ever been ambitious and tried to complete something with no prior background experience in the topic? 
    • What have you learned from trying something without practicing the basics first? Would you do it again? 

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

    There are a lot of things you may want to change whether that be something small in your personal life or something large in the world. So, for this response you should try to narrow down your options to selecting a problem that you have taken action to change within your community and life. Meaning, this may not be the best time to discuss a large problem that humans are nowhere near solving. Rather, choosing something you are passionate about that you have actively tried to change in your life can show admissions officers the type of person you are. Remember, this problem can be something as small as wanting to exercise more or something a little bigger such as wanting there to be less litter in your neighborhood. Once you select your problem, you should describe what you have done or are planning to do to change it. You can and should even discuss any obstacles you have faced or criticisms to show that you truly want this change to occur despite any setbacks. Ultimately, make sure that you are detailing your want to change something in your life or community and how you go about actually creating change. Don’t forget that this response is only 250 words so be as detailed in as few words as possible!  

    Questions to consider

    • What is something you have been actively involved in trying to change in your life or community? 
    • Is wanting to change enough? Or do you believe you need to act in order to initiate change? 
    • What have you learned from creating change in your life? Will you continue to fight for change at NYU? 

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

    If you’re a Swiftie then this may be the quote option for you! This quote is from a Taylor Swift song called “Change” that she wrote in 2008 that is still just as applicable to 2023. Change is a song all about overcoming obstacles while still being hopeful. So, try to think of a time when you had to overcome a challenge that felt too big for you to overcome. How did you manage to overcome this challenge? Was it an easy or difficult path? What did you learn from this experience? Describe in greater detail about how this unfair fight made you feel and what you did to overcome those feelings. Ultimately, you want to show the admissions officer that you are a strong individual who can overcome even unfair obstacles or at least have a positive attitude about it similar to the way Taylor Swift does in her song “Change.” Don’t forget that this response is only 250 words so be as detailed in as few words as possible!  

    Questions to consider

    • Have you ever had to overcome an obstacle that seemed insurmountable?
    • What have you learned about yourself from unfair situations? 
    • Do you believe that someone can win a fight that isn’t even? 

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

    If another Taylor Swift song lyrics speaks to you or you read a specific quote every morning, this is the essay option for you! However, it is important to note that NYU went out of their way to provide you with a list of prior commencement speaker’s quotes that demonstrates their values. Therefore, unless you are super excited and passionate about a different quote, you should select one from their list. This will ensure you are providing an answer that NYU wants to hear from its candidates. If you end up selecting this option, just ensure that you are detailing new information about yourself and revealing some below-the-surface attributes you demonstrate. Additionally, make sure you are describing characteristics you will bring to NYU if you are accepted and how you plan to make NYU a better place. 

    7. Not answering this optional question.

    This is an optional question!! Therefore, you will not be penalized for not responding to this prompt by NYU. However, if NYU is a dream school or high on your college list, you should definitely be responding to this prompt. These 250 words could be the difference between an acceptance letter and a rejection letter. Here are some benefits to responding to this optional prompt: 

    • You can highlight desirable traits and experiences that can make your application well-rounded
    • You can mitigate any weaknesses in your application such as a low GPA or test score
    • You can form a connection with the admissions officer based on your heartfelt response

    A helpful tip on choosing your prompt 

    When choosing your prompt, you should also be noting what you have already discussed in your application. If you already wrote your Common App essay about one piece of your identity or theme – do not write about this again! Rather, choose something else in order to emphasize who you are and your broad range of interests. 

    Next steps after applying to NYU

    Congratulations! Your NYU supplemental essay question is completed! Be thankful that NYU was so kind in only making applicants answer one question. Now, what should you do next? Instead of waiting what feels like a lifetime for NYU to reach a decision on your application, be proactive! Show demonstrated interest in NYU to prove that you are committed to attending their university. 

    How can you show demonstrated interest? Well, it is quite simple! Follow any NYU social media accounts, reach out to an admissions officer about any questions you may have and schedule a tour! Doing this will show NYU that you truly want to attend their university because you are making the effort. 

    Best of luck and enjoy New York City – it is famous for a reason! (Grab a slice of $1 pizza–you will not regret it!)

    Additional resources

    As a student working on college applications, you’ve got a lot on your plate. Fortunately, we have resources to help you through every step of the way. Check out our guides on how to write an essay about yourself, how to respond to the Common App prompts, and how to write 250 and 500 word essays. We can also help you decide how many schools to apply to and how to find safety, reach, and match schools.

    If you’re wondering whether to send test scores to test-optional schools, we’ve got a guide for that as well. And once you start hearing back, we can help you create a college comparison spreadsheet to make your college choice. Finally, check out our free scholarship search tool to help fund your education and keep all of your college options open. Good luck!

    Other colleges to consider

    Frequently asked questions about the New York University supplemental essay

    Should you answer NYU optional supplemental essay?

    If NYU is a top choice school, it will only help to complete the optional essay. Look at it as a bonus opportunity to make yourself stand out and wow the reader!

    Is the NYU supplemental really optional?

    Yes, there is a clear option to check off that states “Not answering this optional question.” 

    Did the NYU supplemental essay change?

    Yes, the essay changed for the 2023/2024 application cycle. As shown above, students have the option to respond to a quote of their choice. The previous prompt asked how students’ experiences would help NYU diversity.

    How many supplemental essay prompts does NYU have?

    NYU requires applicants to respond to only one optional supplemental essay! Yup you read that right! Only one optional essay! It’s your lucky day! 

    When are the application deadlines for NYU?

    Application deadlines for NYU can vary depending on whether you’re applying for Early Decision or Regular Decision. Make sure to check the university’s official website for the most up-to-date information.

    Are there any helpful tips for making my essay stand out from other applicants?

    Focus on telling a unique story that reflects your personality and experiences! Avoid cliches and be specific in your responses.

    Is there a right quote option to select for the NYU essay prompt?

    There is no right option! Rather, you should select the quote that best resonates with you and your personal experiences! One helpful tip is to read over the quotes and select whichever one you can immediately answer the question with! Additionally, if you have a quote you are extremely passionate about you should share that rather than selecting a quote from the list! Ultimately, choose whichever quote option you feel most confident you can ace the essay with! 

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