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College Essays


If you're applying to New York University, you'll need to submit both the regular Common App materials as well as the NYU supplement, which includes a short essay. At its heart, the NYU essay prompt asks you to answer a single straightforward question: why do you want to go to NYU?

In this article, we'll fully analyze the "Why NYU?" essay prompt and what successful essays need to accomplish. We'll also go over potential topics to write about and look at the essay that got me into NYU's College of Arts and Science.

First, however, we'll begin with a quick discussion of why schools ask students to write "why this school?" essays

feature image credit: Sagie /Flickr


Why NYU Essay 2022 Update

NYU has discontinued the "Why NYU" for the 2022-2023 admissions cycle . That means there won't be an NYU-specific writing supplement provided as part of the Common Application process. 

However, students can submit an optional 250-word response as part of NYU's additional questions section. This response deals with students' perspectives on diversity. Here's the prompt for 2022: 

NYU was founded on the belief that a student’s identity should not dictate the ability for them to access higher education. That sense of opportunity for all students, of all backgrounds, remains a part of who we are today and a critical part of what makes us a world class university. Our community embraces diversity, in all its forms, as a cornerstone of the NYU experience. We would like to better understand how your experiences would help us to shape and grow our diverse community. Please respond in 250 words or less. 

Make sure you visit our expert post on how to write diversity essays to learn more about how to answer diversity prompts  like this one. 

What's the Point of "Why This School" Essays?

While the Common App essay gives students a chance to showcase something of who they are that might not be evident elsewhere in their application, the "why [school]?" essay allows students space to explicitly state why they are such a good match for the school.

Presumably, if you're applying to the school, your test scores, grades, course rigor and curriculum, extracurriculars, and volunteer experience all put you at least somewhat in line with other students at the school.

The "why this school?" essay is your opportunity to discuss not just why you could excel at the school, but why you are a good fit (and why you want to go there).

"Why this school" essays are also a useful way for schools to judge student interest in a school (which can indicate whether or not a student will attend if admitted). Based on students' "why this school?" essays, colleges can distinguish students who are specifically interested in attending that school from students who clearly applied just because of the school's location or ranking

Writing a strong "why [school]?" essay not only gives you another instance to showcase your writing and reasoning skills, but also tells the school that you care enough to invest time in researching what makes them special. It signifies that you have put in the time to realize whether or not you're a good fit. (And, it secondarily shows that having put in that time, you're more likely to attend if admitted than someone who just wrote some generic statements about why they want to attend college ).

For a more in-depth look at what schools hope to get out of your "Why [This School]?" essays, read this article .


Why NYU Essay Prompt, Analyzed

Here's the complete NYU supplement essay prompt for 2021:

We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. What motivated you to apply to NYU? Why you have applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and or area of study? If you have applied to more than one, please also tell us why you are interested in these additional areas of study or campuses. We want to understand - Why NYU? (400 word maximum)

Besides the standard "what motivated you to apply to [school]?" question that almost every "why this school" essay asks, the NYU prompt gives you one extra nudge for what to focus on in your essay.

Specifically, NYU wants you to talk about what's drawn you to "a particular campus, school, college, program, and/or area of study?" (or, if you're drawn to more than one, why you're drawn to each campus/school/college/program/area of study).

Keep in mind that you should be discussing all of this in the context of NYU . Obviously, if you're interested in NYU because of one of their 10 undergraduate schools, then that's particular to NYU, but the same goes for their campus locations, programs, and areas of study.

For instance, if you're passionate about studying theater, you wouldn't just write that you want to attend NYU because you love theater and NYU has a theater program and is in New York, a city that has theater; that description could apply to half a dozen schools. Instead, you'd go into the details of what attracts you about specific classes and professors at Tisch, or other opportunities that are unique to NYU (ability to do certain kinds of projects, the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration, etc).

This prompt also hints at a few different directions you can go with your "Why NYU" essay:

Why have you expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, or area of study? If you have applied to more than one, please also tell us why you are interested in these additional areas of study or campuses.

If you're already certain of what you want to study in college or have a " spike ", you'll want to go the "particular" route in your essay . This means mentioning specific classes, professors, programs, or how you see NYU supporting your future career/academic plans.

On the other hand, perhaps you're not at all sure what you want to study in college (AKA me in high school). In that case, you'll shape your essay more around how you believe going to NYU will allow you to explore many different avenues to find your passion .

Finally, if you already know that you want to spend time abroad during college in a place where NYU has a campus, you can emphasize your interest in continuing to receive an NYU-level academic education while living in another country .


Potential "Why NYU?" Essay Topics

Earlier, we briefly touched upon some topics that you might write about in your essay, including specific courses/teachers/programs and study abroad opportunities.

We're now going to take those broad topic categories and go into a little more depth for how to write about them in your "Why NYU?" essay.


NYU has the following 10 undergraduate schools, colleges, and programs:

  • College of Arts & Sciences
  • Gallatin School of Individualized Study
  • Liberal Studies
  • Meyers College of Nursing
  • School of Professional Studies
  • Silver School of Social Work
  • Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
  • Stern School of Business
  • Tandon School of Engineering
  • Tisch School of the Arts

Because there are so many different undergraduate programs within NYU, it's a good idea to identify which program(s) you're applying to and why in your NYU supplement essay.

Since you'll need to decide on a program before applying to NYU anyway, you might as well use the time you spend reading about each college to figure out if there are any programs within particular colleges that call out to you.

For instance, if you're interested in the intersection of different fields (like psychology and computer science, or biology and philosophy/ethics) and are self-motivated to create your own program of study, you should talk about that in your application to the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. If you've spent the last 12 years devoting all your extra time in and out of school to theatre and want to attend a conservatory with opportunities to go see live theatre, then write about that in your application to Tisch.


NYU is a world-renowned university for a reason, and it's not just because of its immense real estate holdings; it has a wide variety of courses and professors renowned in their fields. If one of the main reasons you're drawn to NYU is for its academics, then this is a good topic to get into in your supplemental essay.

Flip through the online course catalogs and read about professors in departments you're interested in. Are there any classes you really want to take (that seem particular to NYU)? Or any professors you absolutely have to study with?

You don't need to go so far as to read the professors' research or anything like that (unless you're super excited by it!), but doing even a little research into the courses and professors you'd be learning from and mentioning it in your "Why NYU?" essay will go a long way toward showing the admissions officers that you're serious enough about NYU to check out its specifics.

Extracurricular Opportunities and School Traditions

If there's an extracurricular at NYU that you've been particularly involved in during high school (or are excited to start getting involved in at college), you can write about it, as long as you're clear about why it's something unique to NYU.

In a similar vein, you can also try reading through some of the campus-wide events offered throughout the year and see if there's anything special about them that speaks to you.


NYU Essay: Topics to Avoid

The "Why NYU" essay prompt makes it pretty clear that you should focus your 400 words around a specific college/program/area of study.

What you absolutely should avoid is gushing about NYU's location (whether you're applying to the New York campus or not).

Back when I applied to NYU, the "why NYU?" essay prompt was even more blunt about not centering your essay around New York City:

"Many students decide to apply to NYU because of our New York City location. Apart from the New York City location, please tell us why you feel NYU will be a good match for you."

If New Yorkers have heard it all and seen it all before, NYU admissions officers have certainly read any and all paeans you could care to write to New York City.

It's fine to write about how being in New York gives you access to opportunities relevant to your course at NYU (e.g. you can get amazing internship opportunities for journalism and theatre there that you wouldn't be able to get anywhere else). However, you need to be clear to center your essay around the program at NYU, with the New York location (and its opportunities) being an added bonus.

Unless you have a unique take on why NYU's location is so important to you (e.g. your grandparents used to live in a building that was demolished to make way for Bobst law library and you were brought up on vengeance that has since turned to adoration), stay away from NYU's location in your explanation of why you want to go there.


Brainstorming for the Why NYU Essay

Before you start to narrow in on what angle you'll take in your "Why NYU?" essay, you should first examine your reasons for applying to NYU. By "examine," we don't just mean "list your reasons"—we mean you need to go a few levels deeper into each surface reason that occurs to you.

For example, this is the list of reasons I had for applying to NYU (roughly in order of importance):

  • My test scores and grades/course rigor make it likely I'll get in
  • NYU has lots of good schools and programs
  • It's easy enough to get from NYU to my family, transportation-wise

On the face of it, none of these reasons are very compelling. If I'd just gone on to write my "Why NYU?" essay (or in those days, essays) with those three bullet points, I doubt I would have been accepted.

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Instead, I went deeper with each reason to see if there was anything there I could mine for the NYU supplement essay.

Surface Reason 1 : My test scores and grades/course rigor make it likely I'll get in.

  • One level deeper : I'm applying to NYU as a safety school, because I'm pretty sure I'll get in there, even if I don't get in anywhere else, and I'd want to go there if I got in.
  • Should I write about this in my "why NYU" essay? Definitely not. No school wants to hear that it's a safety (even if it's a safety you would be fine with attending because it's still a good school).

Surface Reason 2 : NYU has lots of good schools and programs.

  • One level deeper : I'm extremely undecided about what I want to study—I know that I'm interested in English (Creative Writing), Math, Neuroscience, Chinese, and Music, but I might end up deciding to study something entirely different in college. It's important to me that I go somewhere that I'll have the opportunity to explore all of my interests (and develop more), which I can do at NYU.
  • Should I write about this in my "Why NYU" essay? This reason is definitely promising, although I'll need to do more research into the particular programs and courses at NYU so I can namedrop (and in the process, double-check that I'm right about being able to study all these things there!).

Surface Reason 3 : It's easy enough to get from NYU to my family, transportation-wise.

  • One level deeper : My parents want there to be good transportation options for me visiting home (or them visiting me). NYU's location (New York City) definitely makes that possible (there's easy access to planes, trains, buses, rental cars, fixed-gear bikes…).
  • Should I write about this in my "Why NYU" essay? Probably not. The prompt asks me about why I've expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and/or area of study, not a geographic area. Plus, it's not like there aren't plenty of other New York schools. I maybe could throw in this reason if I'm running short on things to say, but as it is, it looks like my second reason is going to be the best bet for the "Why NYU?" essay.


Why NYU Essay Sample

Below, I've created a "Why NYU?" essay example that draws verbatim from what I used in my (successful) NYU application. (The essay requirements were slightly different then, with different word counts, so I had to expand a little upon what I originally wrote.)

I feel NYU would be a good match for me because of the number and kinds of programs it has. I am very interested in a variety of subjects, and NYU seems to encompass everything. In fact, I'm applying to the College of Arts and Sciences because I can’t specify my interests any more than that at this time. I have so many things that I want to learn that I can’t imagine limiting myself before I even enter college.

Take Chinese, for example. I'm learning Mandarin now (and have been for the last five years), but I would also like to learn Cantonese. There are not many other schools that offer Cantonese classes that can boast trips into Chinatown as part of the curriculum! Furthermore, I am excited by the possibility of studying abroad at NYU Shanghai. I'd not only be able to go to China for a semester for a year and immerse myself in the language and culture, but I'd be able to do so with the continuity of being on an NYU campus, even halfway across the world.

The music theory program in the College of Arts and Sciences also really interests me. I've picked up some theory here and there, but I haven't had all that much formal training. I'm also really intrigued by NYU's early music ensemble and the chance to explore different modes and tunings. At the other end of the spectrum, while I've written a few pieces on my own and taught myself a little bit about MIDI, I have not really had a chance to experiment very much with computer/electronic composition, and would really like to use those Steinhardt facilities that would be available to me at NYU to help remedy this.

Finally, I cannot stress enough how important reading and creative writing are to me. Because of how much the two feed into one another, I'm excited by NYU's Reading Series and the potential to be able to attend organized events for interacting with other writers outside the classroom.

The opportunity to expand my Chinese language abilities beyond Mandarin (and have the chance for practical application) is what first intrigued me; the chance to explore computer music and get my hands on NYU's facilities was the next breadcrumb; but the breadth and depth of the courses for writing lure me in even more, until I can resist no further.

This essay isn't necessarily the best piece of writing I've ever done. However, it still effectively conveys my desire to attend NYU because I mention a few key reasons I want to attend NYU:

  • The variety of courses available . I began by stating that I'm undecided and part of what attracts me to NYU is the opportunity to get to do lots of different things. I then go on to discuss several different examples.
  • Specific NYU opportunities . I looked up various courses, events, and opportunities offered by different departments and mentioned a couple of them specifically (the Reading Studies program for creative writing, Cantonese classes, studying abroad in China).
  • While I did mention a New York City thing (going into Chinatown), it was linked with something that's relatively NYU-specific (the opportunity to study Cantonese as well as Mandarin).


Tips for the Why NYU Essay

To wrap up, we've summarized our top four tips for writing the "Why NYU?" essay.

#1: Look over the descriptions of the different schools/programs. This will help you figure out both which one you want to apply to as well as what makes those schools interesting for you to apply to.

#2: Read through the course catalog and look up professors in departments you're interested in. As the NYU Admission blog states , you don't have to go overboard in stating exactly what course you want to take with what professor at what time, but you should demonstrate that you're aware of what kinds of things you will be able to do and learn while at NYU

#3: Look into whether there are any extracurricular activities or NYU traditions that particularly appeal to you--and explain why they matter specifically to you.

#4: Avoid writing odes to New York City. If there are particular opportunities you're interested in that are only available in New York (e.g. internships at the American Museum of Natural History, research into immigration history at Ellis Island) you can mention it, but don't lean too heavily on the location.

#5: Remember that while you should make it clear why you want to attend NYU with your essay, you don't need to agonize for hours over it. Ultimately, other parts of your application (including your test scores and grades/course rigor, letters of recommendation, and personal statement) are more important factors to your acceptance than your NYU supplement essay is. You just need to show that you've done at least a little research into NYU and why you want to apply there in particular.

And if along the way you find that you don't really have a super good reason that's getting you excited to apply to NYU? It might be worth reconsidering whether or not you should apply there.

What's Next?

Have a bunch more college-specific supplement essays to write? Be sure to check out our overview of the "why this college" essay .

Looking for application tips for other selective schools? Read our complete guides to the University of California system and to the Georgetown application .

Should you apply early or regular decision to college? Find out the pros and cons of early decision in this article . ( And read up on the distinctions between early decision, early action, and the different kinds of each here. )

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Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.

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The Admissions Strategist

Why nyu how to write the nyu supplemental essay (examples included).

After much consideration, you’ve decided to apply to NYU. Why NYU? You don’t know where to start. This post will help take you from start to finish.

This past application cycle proved to be historic and selective. While the school admitted the largest number of international students as well as the largest percentage of African-American and Latino students in 16 years, the NYU acceptance rate dropped to 28% , its lowest acceptance rate since 2001.

NYU (short for New York University) is a private university located in the heart of New York City, with satellite campuses found in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai.

  • Offering over 230 areas of study and 2,700 courses across 17 schools, NYU ensures that there’s something for every student.

While NYU may not be impossibly difficult to get into, it’s become more selective.

This means you’ll need to spend some extra care and attention on your application, especially on the supplemental essay “Why NYU?”

NYU Essay Requirements

Every freshman applying to NYU will have to write the standard Common App essay. Otherwise known as your personal statement, we created an entire Common App guide so you can write the best essay.

When you’re applying to NYU, you’ll need to write one supplemental essay.

  • The supplemental essay has a 400-word limit and requires that you express your interest in NYU as artfully and concisely as possible.

This guide will walk you through the question and tips for crafting your essay to help you put your best foot forward!

So, let’s get to it: Why NYU?

Step 1: Read the question and break it down.

This is an extremely important step! A question like this one, with several parts, requires that you understand and address the entire question in your 400-word response.

Let’s walk through the question breakdown together.

“We would like to know more about your interest in NYU”

Translation : Why do you want to attend NYU? You have thousands of other choices in schools, and you used one of your choices on NYU. Why?

“We are particularly interested in knowing what motivated you to apply to NYU and more specifically, why you have applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and/or area of study.”

This is a meaty one, so let’s break it down into two parts.

“We are particularly interested in knowing what motivated you to apply to NYU…”

Translation: We want to know more about you as an individual.

  • What is it about you that makes you think NYU is a good choice?
  • Are you a good fit for NYU? If yes, tell us why
“We are particularly interested in knowing….why you have applied or expressed interested in a particular campus, school, college, program and/or area of study.”

Translation:  Why are you interested in what you’re interested in, and why did you apply to the school that has your chosen major?

For example, if you’re interested in acting, tell us why you’re interested in acting and why you’re applying to the Tisch School of the Arts.

“If you have applied to more than one, please tell us why you are interested in each of the campuses, schools, colleges or programs to which you have applied”

Translation : If you have more than one interest and want to pursue more than one major or degree, please tell us why and help us to make sense of your interests.

For example, if you want to study Acting (Tisch School of the Arts) and Computer Engineering (Tandon School of Engineering), we want to know how your interests fit together and why you want to do both.

“You may be focused or undecided, or simply open to the options within NYU’s global network; regardless, we want to understand – Why NYU?”

Translation: You understand that NYU has a global network, right? Tell us why you want to come to our school.

If you are unsure of what exactly you want to study, rejoice!

Why NYU? How to Write the Why NYU Supplemental Essay!

Click above to watch a video on the NYU Essay.

NYU is saying that you don’t need to have your major all figured out. You just need to have a clearly articulated interest in NYU.

Think about the issues and the questions that interest you.

  • Maybe you wonder about the way our dress (fashion) sustains or challenges the way we see world culture (anthropology)?
  • Consider, then, how NYU could help you explore anthropological questions about fashion.

Click deeply into NYU’s website to find an avenue – a school, a program, or even a class – that will help you pursue this interest. You don’t need to commit to a career, or even a major, but you do need a good sense of the questions that guide you. Even if you’re uncertain, lean into a vision for your future.

Your supplemental essay isn’t binding, so you can operate in hypotheticals.

  • If you’re interested in economics, imagine yourself as a business student.
  • What type of business student would you be?
  • Would you care about sustainability?
  • Would you have other social or ethical concerns?
  • What kind of career would this prepare you for?

And, in case you didn’t notice, they highlighted that they have a “global network.” This is important information, and the next step will tell you why.

Get personalized advice!

Step 2: research nyu’s values and special traits..

If you’ve decided to apply to this school, then you’ve likely already done your homework. Just in case you haven’t, study their website.

From studying the website, you can gain a clear sense of the school’s values, what they look for in an applicant, and if you share similar values.

Even if you’re uncertain, pretend that you’ve “fallen in love with the school,” and focus on the particulars of your new infatuation. To extend the metaphor, the application process is a kind of courting in which you make the first move.

  • If you’re interested in digital media, research programs like the Brooklyn Experimental Media Center.
  • Describe how its resources will convert your interests into an abiding passion or a career orientation.
  • A good rule of thumb for “Why This College” essays is that you should have several names (in capital letters) of particular programs at the university.

This research will help you immensely in answering the “Why NYU?” question.

If they have blogs and/or social media accounts, look through those to get a feel for the school. Bonus points if you are able to visit, because an on-campus visit (especially during a regular weekend when they’re not trying to impress you) is the best way to determine what a campus feels like, what their culture is like and what they truly value.

Here’s a great way to research NYU’s values and traits:

  • NYU has an online magazine called NYU Q for prospective students. You can find the online magazine by clicking  here . NYU Q showcases the interesting people, places, and things that make NYU special.
  • A quick look through the NYU Q site illustrates that NYU as a campus deeply values building a global community with people from diverse backgrounds, geographic locations, academic interests, and life experiences.
  • You can find out that NYU boasts of having a higher number of international students than any other campus (their international student population is  20% ). They also have three international campuses and a robust study abroad program.

Additionally, because the question asks you specifically, “Why have you applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program and/or area of study,” you owe it to yourself to become familiar with the culture of the particular school or college to which you’re applying, and even the department of the major you’re interested in studying.

It’s important to ensure you aren’t picking NYU for generic traits. Generic traits are dangerous to mention in your essay because they can be applied to any college campus.

Here’s a useful checklist to make sure you are highlighting the special elements of NYU:

  • Don’t say NYU is the “perfect” place for you. Perfection is impossible to achieve, and the admissions officers are well aware.
  • Instead, pick five elements of NYU (departments, professors, events, on-campus groups) that appeal to you. Picking real names and titles forces you to perform research and stay specific.
  • Your “Why NYU?” essay should not be a retelling of your Common App essay. Use this opportunity to pair NYU with your values and personality (covered later in this piece).
  • Make sure your essay couldn’t be true of any other school. This demands that you do your research and dive deep into the school’s website.
  • Make sure you never write about how you want to attend school in New York City. There are dozens of universities both in and near NYC, so this reason is cliche and tiresome.

Still having trouble? Ask yourself these questions to help you find specific elements of NYU that you find appealing:

  • What are classes I’d like to take?
  • What are some questions I’d like to ask in these classes?
  • Name some on-campus groups and activities that I’d like to participate in.
  • What are NYU-sponsored events I’d like to attend?
  • Which academic department at NYU do you want to study in? And what are the department’s noteworthy achievements?
  • What is my ideal major or double major at NYU?

The admissions officers at NYU want to see that you are well-informed about what they are offering, and that you’ve thought hard enough about whether or not you would be a good fit.

You want to mention, for example, that you’re interested in the Tisch School of the Arts. You also want to go a step further and describe how you’re excited, perhaps, about their internship opportunities and classes on animation.

You can’t determine if you’re a good fit if you haven’t done your research.

Under the Academics tab is a full listing of NYU’s academic programs, schools and colleges, and other academic offerings. Make sure you click through to find your particular school and major.

Step 3: Free-write

The worst thing you can do as you’re writing your response is to agonize over every single word at the beginning of the process.

  • Instead, just start writing.
  • For each question they ask, write down whatever comes to mind and don’t hold back.
  • Use our translation to each question to simplify what you should be writing about.

It’s through answering these questions in an unrestricted flow that patterns can emerge.

Be sure to  write down any memories that come up   – even the bad ones! The refining will come later, but for now, put all the words you can on paper.

They key here is to organize your thoughts. This task seems farcical, but it’s important to perform because “Why NYU?” is such a broad question that countless thoughts will fly through your mind at first read.

  • Find stories that embody your personality.
  • Record stories that highlight your sense of grit.
  • Write stories that personify your wonder and curiosity.

Perform this task three times. You want at least three stories. The more stories, the more options you have.

Step 4: Brainstorming Powerful Essay Ideas

Once again, you never want to write about how much you want to live in New York City. There are plenty of schools that share NYU’s geographic location. Furthermore, there are thousands of students who want to live in a city as diverse, resource-rich, and historic as New York City.

Your goal is to set yourself apart from the rest of the applicants. Your story will help you do this.

Dig deeper.

Write down what you care about. What…

  • …makes you happy?
  • …makes you angry?
  • …bores you to death?
  • …are you inspired by?

Don’t hold back here either. Be completely honest with yourself.

In the college admissions process, you may be able to lie to yourself, but it’s hard to lie to the college admissions committee. It’s not worth the risk.

Be honest about what you care about, and it will shine through in your essay. Once you’ve come up with your list, look through your research from Step 2. What does NYU care about? Perhaps, you’ve learned that they care about the arts, curiosity, intercultural exchange, and open-mindedness.

  • … care about the arts? Are you curious?
  • …enjoy learning from and learning with people from cultural backgrounds different from yours?
  • …consider yourself to be open-minded?

Why, or why not? Once again, the key here is to be honest.

Dig deeper. Explore your values, memories, interests, and hobbies.

  • Is there a setback you’ve learned from? Is there a challenge burned into your memory?
  • What issues are you passionate about?
  • What are you endlessly curious about? Do you love reading about a particular subject?
  • What talents do you want to offer the world? Is there a specific reason you want to share your gift with the world?
  • What drives you? Deep down, is there something that makes your blood flow and brain click?
  • Are there special items in your house that hold sentimental value to you?

All told, think about anecdotes: What stories from your life have inspired your interests and passions. Think about lessons learned, personal themes, and the challenges and setbacks that made you who you are today.

Students often say that their anecdotes aren’t interesting. That’s fine!

What matters is how you explain them within the context of your experiences. That means you should be honest and specific about your experiences. Authenticity goes a long way for the Why NYU essay.

Step 5: Picking an Effective Essay Premise

Look over your free-write responses, and pick up particularly interesting memories that are related to your values and tell a story.

Almost everyone likes a good story.

  • Review your free-writing document. Find memories that highlight an important aspect of your personality or values.
  • Find a common thread between each of your stories and one or two values per story.
  • Match one of NYU’s values or special traits with each story.
  • Structure your essay around these three parts.

College admissions officers have to read hundreds of applications a day, and the ones that stand out are the ones written in the form of a good story.

The good news is that you don’t have to be J. K. Rowling or John Green.  The best stories are authentic  (that means they are true to who you are), descriptive (you help the reader experience your experience with their own senses), and clear (the reader understands exactly what you’re trying to say).

Talk about your experience, how that relates to your values and NYU’s values, and, most importantly, how your experience has impacted your choice of NYU as a potential college.

It’s likely your “Why NYU?” essay will flow as such:

  • This is a story that highlights an important aspect of who I am.
  • This value connects to the story.
  • It just so happens this value connects with NYU’s special value.
  • And that’s why I’m a great fit.

Remember the million-dollar question: Why NYU?

And then rethink the question: Why am I a good fit for NYU?

Why NYU Essay Example Outline

Here’s an excellent outline of a Why NYU essay. Before reading the outline, keep in mind that you have many options for crafting this essay.

What counts is telling an effective story.

  • As such, one way to tell an effective story is to start your essay with an anecdote.

Your anecdote can begin with one of the following:

  • A quote from someone that helps you preface your story
  • Cold hook: Something almost random that captures the reader’s attention
  • Bold statement: A statement that your story will support with details
  • Obvious statement: A line that makes the reader say, “Yes, of course. Why would you say something that obvious?” This is the segue to the next part of your essay.

Once you add your anecdote, frame it with details immediately. You have 400 words to work with, so get right into your essay. Your anecdote should comprise 10-15% of your essay.

Once you get into your essay, explain the actions you took to pursue an interest. This should comprise 30-40% of your essay.

  • What are you interested in?
  • Describe the action steps you took to further your passion and take initiative.

Then, spend the rest of your essay discussing the resources at NYU that will help you accomplish your goals and sharpen your skill set. You can mention examples of the following:

  • Fellowships
  • Internships
  • Professors and their classes
  • On-campus groups
  • Study-abroad programs
  • New academic initiatives
  • Externships

Without further delay, here’s what a good Why NYU essay would look like:

  • You grew up in a lower-income household and can recall a conversation with your sibling about how your family couldn’t afford health insurance.
  • Disappointed in our country’s health care options, you were inspired to volunteer in clinics, where you learned more about bloat and inefficient business processes within insurance companies. This adds to costs for would-be consumers like your family.
  • You shadowed a doctor during your junior year in high school to learn about technologies that could be provided at scale for low-income citizens.
  • This is why you want to study at NYU Stern: to engage in NYU-sponsored internships both in the city and abroad that will help you learn more about healthcare technology at scale.
  • You then want to establish a startup with the help of a specific professor, who will advise you with raising capital, hiring talent , and pivoting when necessary.

Step 6: Get Critiques & Make Revisions

An English teacher, your favorite teacher (which may or may not be your English teacher), and a friend who is always honest are great choices for additional readers.

A great English teacher knows the mechanics of the English language very well and will be honest with you about how your essay looks and sounds.

  • Bad punctuation is a death knell, and awkward words and phrases could move your essay from the “wow we’ve got to take him/her” pile to the “snooze/meh” pile.

Pick an English teacher with whom you have a good/neutral relationship, and approach them with the utmost respect and humility.

  • Remember, they don’t have to read your essay. They’re doing you a favor.
  • Ask them to mark it up for you, if they have time, and to give their honest thoughts and opinions.
  • If they really like you, they may do this several times. After the process is said and done, be sure to send them a thank you card.

Your favorite teacher may not be your English teacher, but they’re just as valuable because they usually have a really good sense of your likes, dislikes, as well as your authenticity. In other words, they can tell if you’re lying or trying to be something you’re not.

You need someone who knows you well and can tell you if you’re being honest in your essay. Your favorite teacher may also be able to remind you of things about yourself that you’ve forgotten.

  • Let’s face it, when you’re taking 6-8 classes a quarter among all of your other responsibilities, you might lose a memory or two.
  • A friend who is always honest with you is infinitely better than a friend who just wants you to be happy/flattered.

Pick a friend who isn’t afraid to tell you that your writing is terrible, or that you could have worded things a little better.

You need as much constructive criticism as possible while crafting a college essay that is authentic and compelling.

Step 7: Final read-throughs

If possible, do your final readings at least 24-48 hours after your last revision , in order to give your brain a break.

Make sure to read your essays out loud, just in case you have a typo in there that you and your other readers missed.

Two final read-throughs should be sufficient for assurance sake, but any more than that, and you could end up making yourself a bit anxious.

Trust yourself and trust the process. When you’re done, let go and submit.

Why NYU Essay Examples

We’ve provided some examples of Why NYU essays. Please remember to never plagiarize – we take this quite seriously.

These Why NYU essay examples are here to provide you with a visual on what a good essay looks like. Your essay should look different.

A version of Why NYU by a student:

Se-mi-llas de Es-pe-ran-za y A-mor. These were the words written on the school wall I visited as a member of The Hillsdale Effect an organization that fundraises microloans for businesswomen. Seeds of Love and Hope. During my six days in Guatemala, I had the opportunity to speak with students, teachers, and businesswomen about the struggles they face every day. My journey in Central America not only shaped my college and career goals, but they have also guided the direction in which I want to use my skills. Semillas de Esperanza y Amor is a school that brings in street children and offers them a free education. I asked one student, a young girl, about her aspirations. To my greatest surprise, she wanted to study at Guatemala’s only public university to become a doctor and return to her village to help her community. Afterward, a teacher explained that despite the students’ aspirations, a college education would be financially out of reach for their parents. This was a call to action. Later, I spoke to a local organizational director, who described an application they had tried to develop that would allow the businesswomen they serve to connect with business educators. Unfortunately, due to the lack of a strong Internet connection in some regions and the overall complexity of the user experience, the application failed. It was abandoned by all the local directors, who no longer saw it as a beneficial endeavor. To me, this seemed like a lost opportunity. If done right, the application could radically simplify communication and make the loaning process more effective. Which would then allow more women to participate in the program to empower themselves, transform their businesses, and help their children get an education. I want to dedicate my education to building technology that makes a social impact. My passion for international affairs has allowed me to help people in a drastically different community than my own. And by pursuing a computer science education at NYU while also participating in one of the multitude of study abroad programs offered, I know I will be able to develop the technical and global skills that will allow me to construct technology that will break the cycle of poverty, allowing little girls like the one I met to make their dreams come true.

Here’s another example of the Why NYU essay from the same student:

“Comienzo! Alto!” As the young students and I kicked the soccer ball back and forth on the Guatemalan field, I peered toward their village, San Mateo Miltas Alpas, and envisioned change. Change to improve infrastructure and help the businesswomen of their community. This is why I want to study computer science at NYU. In high school, I have been a leading member in The Hillsdale Effect, an organization that fundraises microloans for businesswomen in Guatemala. Our goal is to empower women entrepreneurs in hopes of breaking the cycle of poverty. I was given the opportunity to travel to Guatemala on a study tour and meet the individuals we were helping. When visiting a local headquarters in Antigua, the director explained how microloans are processed through their office: Business educators working for the organization contact their users. The educators then utilize a smartphone application to simplify the rest of the communication process between the businesswomen and educators. Unfortunately, due to the lack of a strong Internet connection in some regions and overall complexity of the user experience, the application failed. It was abandoned by all the local directors, who no longer saw it as a beneficial endeavor. I quickly realized I wanted to construct my own application that would connect the educators with the users. Of course, my application would need minimal service, and its simpler interface would be accessible from anywhere in the country. By utilizing images and multiple audio explanations, the language barrier could be broken, allowing individuals of any age or background to use the application. My goal is to integrate the solutions to these problems into a new application. After studying computer science at NYU, I want to apply my learned skills to build the Internet infrastructure of villages around the world. Furthermore, I want to partake in one of the multitude of study abroad programs offered so I can again travel to developing countries and learn more about the various benefits technology can provide in addressing infrastructure needs. This past year, we broke our school fundraising record, earning over $8,000 in two weeks for the businesswomen of Guatemala. As I look forward to the conclusion of high school, I know I can do more by learning at NYU. As my coding skills improve, I want to use them to go back abroad and do my part to build communities, like San Mateo Miltas Alpas.

From a student who wants to go to NYU to study public health:

As a Lacinda First Aid Team leader, I applied my interest in public health within my school community. During weekly shifts, I supported the nurse by patrolling the fitness center and common areas for ill students. After initiating partnerships with other school clubs, my team and I organized informational health fairs and visits from physicians, pharmacists, physical therapists, and surgeons. I trained noncertified members and supplied bandages, heating pads, and antiseptic swabs to injured students. My training culminated during competitions, where I treated patients in unconscious victim, heart attack, stroke, and choking simulations. NYU’s College of Public Health provides students with opportunities to blend academic rigour with clinical experience, just as I delved into my zeal for helping others as a member of the First Aid Team. As a global public health major, I would complete an Experiential Learning course where I would step out of the classroom using a tactile approach. Then, I would take Health and Societies in a Global Context to learn how factors such as age, gender, culture, and race impact health on a global scale. I could take this knowledge to engage in team-based learning, where I would address the severity of mental illness on NYU’s campus. Learning to tackle problems as a team is a vital skill, especially when working closely with public health organizations. A project that captivates me is the Applied Global Public Health Initiative led by Dr. Chris Dickey. As a future program member, my goal is to discover improvements for the universal health coverage policy of the World Health Organization and the development of online public health programs. Under Dr. Dickey’s tutelage, I would apply my newfound knowledge to create an interactive fellowship experience that promotes collaboration with experienced NYU professionals while tackling issues that impact vulnerable communities. This work would create tools that better manage health accessibility to all. One day, I would like to become involved with Doctors Without Borders. NYU gives me the optimal resources combined with engaging experiences to work toward my goal. I believe a person’s health is the fundamental pillar of stability and sustainability; thus, I want to dedicate my time to improving both on a global scale. I aim to work in developing countries to spread the knowledge I acquire through internship opportunities, projects, and stimulating curriculum. NYU offers an immersive academic experience while supporting its students through personal growth and innovation.

Written by another student who wants to study health:

A year ago, my grandmother was a fiery, sharp-witted woman. Since then, a progressive neurodegenerative disease called Lewy body dementia (LBD) has caused her to deteriorate rapidly. Due to medical complications and worsening of symptoms, she has been forced to transition in and out of residential, rehabilitative, and hospital facilities, resulting in a constant battle to adjust to new environments. Witnessing my grandmother’s downward spiral has opened my eyes to the inadequacies of our healthcare system, fueling me to seek solutions.  At NYU, I will make progress towards an LBD cure by studying neural science and develop evidence-based policies to improve dementia patients’ lives through my public policy studies. This double major will allow me to absorb the scientific understanding necessary to create effective legislation, as will embarking on a health policy summer internship in Washington, D.C. where I can network while fusing my scientific and policy interests . The unique neural science major at NYU will fulfill my fascination with the brain’s function, while providing a strong natural science foundation. I am enthusiastic about elective courses, like Learning and Memory , w here I can examine memory formation and the pathophysiology of dementia. It will be thrilling to apply my classroom-based knowledge during a summer research project at the Center for Neural Science, ideally working alongside a faculty member to develop my own LBD-focused research project. With the Alzheimer’s Disease Center located on campus, I can frequently attend special events like the Alzheimer’s Disease Lunch and Learn series, supplementing my studies with current brain research and furthering my journey towards my desired career.  While neural science will develop my understanding of LBD, public policy will teach me the skill of employing legislation to solve issues that face dementia patients. I am eager to immerse myself in five health policy electives, in addition to classes such as Medical Ethics , where I can engage with peers that are passionate about patient rights. The Senior Seminar experience will allow me to utilize knowledge from both of my majors, honing in on a pressing policy issue facing dementia patients today.  Neither in life nor in academics have I stayed within a confined box. NYU’s liberal arts education promotes exploration, making it the perfect place for me to pursue my bursting passions. 

Final Why NYU essay example:

As a Macona First Aid Team leader, I applied my interest in public health within my school community. During weekly shifts, I supported the nurse by patrolling the fitness center and common areas for ill students. After initiating partnerships with other school clubs, my team and I organized informational health fairs and visits from physicians, pharmacists, physical therapists, and surgeons. I trained noncertified members and supplied bandages, heating pads, and antiseptic swabs to injured students. My training culminated during competitions, where I treated patients in unconscious victim, heart attack, stroke, and choking simulations. NYU’s College of Public Health provides students with opportunities to blend academic rigour with clinical experience, just as I delved into my zeal for helping others as a member of the First Aid Team. As a global public health major, I would complete an Experiential Learning course where I would step out of the classroom using a tactile approach. Then, I would take Health and Societies in a Global Context to learn how factors such as age, gender, culture, and race impact health on a global scale. I could take this knowledge to engage in team-based learning, where I would address the severity of mental illness on NYU’s campus. Learning to tackle problems as a team is a vital skill, especially when working closely with public health organizations. A project that captivates me is the Applied Global Public Health Initiative led by Dr. Chris Dickey. As a future program member, my goal is to discover improvements for the universal health coverage policy of the World Health Organization and the development of online public health programs. Under Dr. Dickey’s tutelage, I would apply my newfound knowledge to create an interactive fellowship experience that promotes collaboration with experienced NYU professionals while tackling issues that impact vulnerable communities. This work would create tools that better manage health accessibility to all. One day, I would like to become involved with Doctors Without Borders. NYU gives me the optimal resources combined with engaging experiences to work toward my goal. I believe a person’s health is the fundamental pillar of stability and sustainability; thus, I want to dedicate my time to improving both on a global scale. I aim to work in developing countries to spread the knowledge I acquire through internship opportunities, projects, and stimulating curriculum. NYU offers an immersive academic experience while supporting its students through personal growth and innovation.

Conclusion: Why NYU?

You did it! You made it through all 7 steps.

By now, you understand the importance of breaking down the essay questions and putting them in your own words, researching the school, reflecting on your own values, and finding places of commonality between your values and the school’s.

In order to get to your story, you need to let yourself write without restriction. In addition, you know the importance of crafting a coherent narrative and having several people read through your work.

Hopefully, you have written a superb essay in response to NYU’s question.

Remember that you are more than enough, and all the support you need is out there if you would look for it.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. We wish you all the best on your applications!

Learn how we can help you with college and career guidance! Check out our YouTube channel!

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Stern at NYUAD One-year Full-time MBA essay questions give students the opportunity to more fully present themselves to the Admissions Committee and to provide insight into their experiences, motivations, and goals.

Essays must be written entirely by the applicant. An offer of admission will be rescinded if an applicant did not write their essays.

Essay 1: Change: _________ it

(350 word maximum)

In today’s global business environment, the only constant is change. Using NYU Stern’s brand call to action, we want to know how you view change. Change: _____ it. Fill in the blank with a word of your choice. Why does this word resonate with you? How will you embrace your own personal tagline while in the Stern at NYUAD One-year Full-time MBA program?

Change: Dare it. Change: Dream it. Change: Drive it. Change: Empower it. Change: Manifest it. Change: [Any word of your choice] it.

Essay 2: Why the Stern at NYUAD One-year Full-time MBA Program?

(500 word maximum)

What fuels your interest in pursuing the Stern at NYUAD One-year Full-time MBA Program? How does it support your short and long-term career goals?

Essay 3: Additional Information (optional)

(250 word maximum)

Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee. This may include important aspects of yourself not otherwise apparent in your application, current or past gaps in employment, further explanation of your undergraduate record academic transcript(s), plans to retake the GMAT, GRE, Executive Assessment, IELTS or TOEFL, or any other relevant information.

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why nyuad essay

How to Write the NYU Essays 2023-2024

why nyuad essay

NYU has just one supplemental prompt this year, which allows you to choose from six different options. Although this prompt is technically optional, NYU’s prime location in the heart of downtown New York City, campuses all across the globe, and affiliation with excellent graduate schools in a range of subjects make it highly competitive to gain admission. So, we strongly encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to share something new about yourself with admissions officers.

Read these examples of past NYU essays about diversity and “Why NYU?” to inspire your writing.

NYU Supplemental Essay Prompts

Prompt: 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, optional)

  • Option A: “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
  • Option B: “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
  • Option C: “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
  • Option D: “You have the right to want things and to want things to change.” Sanna Marin, Former Prime Minister of Finland, 2023 NYU Commencement Address
  • Option E: “It’s hard to fight when the fight ain’t fair.” Taylor Swift, Change, Released 2008, 2022 NYU Commencement Speaker
  • Option F: Share a short quote and person not on this list, and why the quote inspires you.

“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 (250 words)

Brainstorming Your Topic

Although the framing is a little more particular, this prompt has similarities to two supplemental prompt archetypes: the  “Global Issues” essay and the “Community Service” essay. Basically, you want to show NYU that you’re able to not just identify a problem in the world around you, but actively work towards solving it.

That second piece, of showing that you’re someone who acts when you see injustice, rather than merely observing, is crucial. So, you should have a personal connection to the issue you write about, as the point of your essay ultimately isn’t to teach admissions officers about a particular issue, but rather show them what your passion for that issue says about your potential as an NYU student.

So, don’t write about how aboriginal people in Australia struggled during the 2020 wildfires if you don’t know anyone in that community and have never been to Australia, as your essay will likely end up sounding overly factual and academic. Instead, think about issues that have directly impacted your own life. 

Maybe that’s a social media campaign you spearheaded to help abandoned animals get adopted when the shelter was overcrowded. Or working with your friends from Spanish class to ensure the local soup kitchen always had a Spanish speaker working, to make the environment more welcoming to immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries.

Keep in mind that the story you tell should have some component of “reach[ing] out to others,” as this quote highlights the importance of collaboration when solving big issues. So, while creating a statistical model on your own to show the viability of solar polar is certainly something to be proud of, it may not be the best anecdote to write about for this prompt. If you then hosted webinars sharing the model with local business owners and answering their questions, however, that could be an effective way of aligning the story with the spirit of the prompt.

Tips for Writing Your Essay

Like any good college essay, your response should show, rather than tell, your readers what you did. What that means is to use descriptive writing, with strong sensory details, to paint NYU admissions officers a picture, rather than just saying “I did x, y, and z, and learned a, b, and c.” The more detail you can include, the more immersive your story will be, which will make your essay both more engaging and more fun to read.

The other key to a strong response is having takeaways that are both clear and personal. You don’t want your essay to feel like a Hallmark card, so avoid clichés like “This experience showed me the power of diversity” or “I realized that deep down, we’re all the same.” The point of the college essay is to distinguish yourself from other applicants, and relying on generic tropes won’t accomplish that.

Instead, think about how you can take one of these overused ideas and creatively reframe it through the lens of your story in particular. For example, if you write about the soup kitchen example above, you could talk about how you bonded with one person who attended frequently because you discovered you both enjoyed crocheting, and how that taught you to look for shared experiences even with people who may outwardly seem quite different from you. 

The general idea of diversity as a unifying, rather than divisive, force is the same, but by connecting that idea to something specific that happened to you, you’ll give NYU admissions officers of how that idea tangibly impacts your day-to-day life. Ultimately, they’re trying to figure out how you would fit into their classrooms, clubs, dorms, dining halls, and so on, and specificity gives them a much clearer idea of that than just big-picture ideas.

Mistakes to Avoid

There isn’t really any major pitfall to keep an eye out for here. Just make sure you’re conscientious of how you frame your issue. Even though NYU, like most colleges, is much more liberal than society as a whole, you still want to use discretion when discussing politics in a college essay, as you have no way of knowing exactly what context your readers are coming from.

So, if you’re writing about a fundraiser you and your friends organized after the overturning of Roe v. Wade to help women from red states afford travel to states where abortion would remain legal, keep the focus on your efforts and what this experience taught you. Don’t talk about your feeling that anyone who opposes abortion is a misogynist, as, for all you know, the person reading your essay may have a loved one who is pro life, or they may even be themselves. 

You can talk about controversial topics in this essay, but do so in a way that’s introspective and acknowledges the complexity of the issue, rather than in a way that celebrates your own moral superiority.

why nyuad essay

“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 (250 words)

Like Option A, this prompt has elements of both the “Global Issues” essay and the “Community Service” essay. However, the scope here is a little broader, as you’re being asked to talk about a time when you made “your voice heard,” rather than one when you were an active part of helping solve a particular problem. That means you have a little more flexibility in what you write about.

For example, you could describe the time when a conversation with a Jewish friend of yours made you realize Christmas-centric your school’s holiday decorations were, and how that motivated you to accompany her to talk to the principal about it, as she felt uncomfortable going alone. You could also take a similar angle as the one described above, with Option A, and talk about service work, like advocating for preserving wildlife habitat over expanding the boat launch at a nearby lake, or something else on a slightly larger scale that you spoke up about. 

However, don’t talk yourself out of writing about a more personal story like the Christmas example. Although this approach may seem less “impressive,” in reality talking about that kind of smaller moment in daily life can do a lot to show admissions officers what you’re like when nobody’s watching. Just about everyone applying to NYU will have an impressive resume, so you can really distinguish yourself by telling them a story that you’re still kind, altruistic, and thoughtful even outside the context of a particular project or organization.

That being said, both approaches can work incredibly well, so long as they honestly reflect your desire to speak up about the things that matter to you.

Once you’ve picked a particular moment to focus on, you want to think about what lessons you took away from that experience. NYU admissions officers care about who you’re going to be for the next four years, not who you were in the past, so they want to get a sense of how this experience is going to impact your contributions to their community.

There’s no one right way to do this, so if you immediately see a way to tell your story in a reflective, informative way, go for it! If you’re having writer’s block, though, one reliable approach would be to explain what happened, what you learned, and then include a second, much briefer anecdote that shows how you’ve utilized what you learned in the time since. 

For the Christmas example, after you finish describing the principal’s willingness to include menorahs and dreidels alongside the Santas and Christmas trees, you talk about how this experience showed you most people do want to be inclusive, they just might not know exactly how, so we all have a responsibility to speak up when we see a way to be better. You could then talk about how this realization then motivated you to talk to your manager at your part-time job about adjusting shift start times to align with the bus schedule, as she didn’t know that some employees didn’t have their own car.

250 words isn’t a lot, so depending on how much space you need to describe the original anecdote, you may not have space for the second one. That’s completely fine–as long as your takeaways are framed in a personal way that directly connects to the story you have just told, your readers will understand the significance of this experience to who you are today.

Letting your main anecdote breathe is the most important thing, as if you rush through things, your reader might not have enough details to properly anchor your eventual takeaways, which could make your essay feel impersonal or generic. 

For a somewhat extreme example of this, say you wrote about the day you noticed your school had changed their holiday decorations, and how happy that made you, but totally glossed over your own involvement in driving that change. Having a takeaway about the importance of standing up for what you believe in would then make no sense. So, make sure the details you include at each point in the essay work together to create a single, cohesive unit.

“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 (250 words)

This prompt may come across as overly philosophical at first, but before you rule it out, take a second to think about what it’s actually saying. Flying is more glamorous, exciting, and magical than walking, but walking is what we all do every single day to move around the world. While practicality never makes any headlines, daily life wouldn’t work without walking. 

Connecting that idea, about the value of practicality, to NYU’s focus on difference-makers means that you’ll want to discuss the importance of small, seemingly insignificant actions to driving broader change. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day: for every figurehead of a major, earth-shattering movement, there are thousands or even millions of people who spent years paving the road so that the leader could one day walk down it. These people rarely get fame or recognition, but the movement never would have succeeded without them.

Of course, to write a strong, engaging response here, you don’t want to write about a huge historical movement that happened generations before you were even born. Instead, apply the same general idea to your own life. Think about what you do, or observe, on a daily basis that shows you the value of sometimes just taking things one step at a time. If there’s something you’ve been passionate about for a long time, that can be a great starting point, as you’ve probably made many small contributions over the years, compared to something where you were just involved in one, big, “flying” project.

For example, maybe you’ve always loved animals, and as a child you used to talk to your mom about flying around the world and rescuing all the endangered species. Once you got older, you realized you couldn’t do that, but what you could do was start a blog featuring a different endangered species every month, along with nonprofits dedicated to helping that species survive. You’ve even established partnerships with some of these groups, and helped organize fundraisers such as bake sales and 5Ks.

As this example shows, ideally you want to show how you’re finding a way to contribute to a much bigger cause. NYU wants to accept difference-makers, and although most of us aren’t able to donate millions of dollars or spearhead new technological initiatives, you can still show that you’re dedicated to finding ways to help however you can. 

Remember, as we noted in Option B, describing your grassroots efforts can in some ways demonstrate your dedication to a cause more than a high-level accomplishment or accolade, because that kind of work truly shows who you are on a day-to-day basis. So, if something comes to mind, don’t sell yourself short by saying “Oh, but they won’t care about that.” If whatever it is was meaningful to you, we promise they will 🙂

This is the kind of prompt where the brainstorming, if you do it well, is 90% of the work. Since the prompt is more abstract, you’re going to have to spend more time up front thinking about exactly what you want to say, or else you may end up sitting down to write and realizing you have no idea where you want to go. So, if you find yourself staring at a blank page, we would suggest rewinding, and spending a little more time brainstorming.

Once you have a clear sense of the story you want to tell, all you really need to do is actually put the words on the page. As you do that, remember that you want to include strong sensory details, to make your essay as immersive and engaging as possible. Focus less on what you did, and more on how you felt and what you learned from the experience. You may or may not do something similar to, for example, raising awareness for endangered species during your time at NYU, but you want to show admissions officers that, whatever you get involved with, you’re going to bring a thoughtful, dedicated perspective to your work.

For example, rather than saying just “My post on the work done to get manatees from ‘endangered’ to ‘threatened’ got 5,000 views, from places as far away as Italy, Kenya, and New Zealand,” take the next step, and describe how that success made you feel. That might look something like: 

“When I saw the number, I went back to the first post I ever did, on the African Bay owl. That post didn’t get a single view from someone who wasn’t related to me. But as I flipped back to the manatee post, I realized that we’re all related to each other in ways other than blood, as we all share this planet, and reminding people of that can be as simple as putting up a blog post and letting them come find it.”

NYU would be impressed by your outreach alone, but what will truly take your essay to the next level is including this next layer of reflection, and showing them the broader lessons you learned from this experience. That will prove to them that you’re not just talented and motivated, but also that your values align with theirs.

We noted at the beginning of this prompt breakdown that you shouldn’t get scared off just because it’s a little more philosophical than some of the others, and we stand by that. However, its more abstract nature will likely make the brainstorming process take longer, and it’s possible you do end up just feeling stuck. 

If you don’t think you have the time right now to give this prompt the attention it needs, that’s completely fine! The advantage of option prompts is that you have, well, options. Even if you’re initially drawn to this prompt, if you find yourself beating your head against the wall and not getting anywhere, don’t be stubborn–just pivot to one of the others.

“You have the right to want things and to want things to change.” Sanna Marin, Former Prime Minister of Finland, 2023 NYU Commencement Address (250 words)

Like Options A and B, this prompt is, roughly, a version of the “Global Issues” essay. That means you should have two main goals here. First, identify an issue that matters to you. Second, explain what your interest in that issue says about you as a person. 

Note that, unlike the first two options, the problem you choose doesn’t have to be one you’ve taken a lot of tangible action towards resolving. Obviously, you should have some level of personal investment in your issue, as otherwise your essay could come across as disingenuous. But if you have a cause you’re passionate about, but for whatever reason haven’t been able to get involved in directly, that would still be fair game here.

For example, maybe you’d like to increase access to healthy food options, as you live in a remote area and grow a lot of your own food with your family, so you know what a difference high-quality produce makes, but you also know how frustrating it can be to simply not have access to certain things, as your supermarket’s stock is limited. Because you don’t live in a city, you haven’t had the chance to get involved in any volunteer work related to this issue, so instead you’ve done your very best to learn everything possible about the process of growing your own food, so that you’ll have a wealth of hands-on experience to draw on when you are eventually in a situation where you can discuss theoretical, bigger picture solutions to this issue.

This hypothetical student hasn’t been able to take much concrete action towards addressing food inequality. However, they’re still demonstrating a genuine desire to help fix this issue, as well as forethought and motivation, by explaining how they’re finding a way to build up their skill set now, so that when the time comes, they are prepared to create tangible change. Any NYU admissions officer would feel confident about this student’s potential to become a difference-maker.

Of course, you are also more than welcome to write about an issue you have already done some work to help solve. We only want to highlight that already contributing to the solution isn’t a prerequisite for this prompt, so you can cast your net a little wider in your brainstorming than you would for Option A or B.

Once you sit down to actually start writing, the key is to make sure you aren’t just discussing your personal connection to this particular issue, but also highlighting admirable personality traits that will serve you in any of your future endeavors, whether related to the same issue or not. To see what we mean here, look back at the example we gave above. That student shows several traits admissions officers will find attractive, including:

  • They are able to extrapolate from their own lived experiences to better understand a broader, societal issue
  • They can appreciate the nuance of a big-picture issue
  • They can critically evaluate their own skill set and determine the best way for them to contribute to a resolution

These qualities come across because of the (hypothetical) level of detail the student provides. If they were to instead just give a general sketch of the situation, along the lines of “I care about food inequality, and although I haven’t yet been able to combat this issue, hopefully I will one day,”  then admissions officers have a lot of blanks to fill in. 

Instead, you should do the work for them: build a concrete connection between this issue you care about and certain, broader attributes that are fundamental to who you are. That will show them not just that you’re passionate about this one issue, but that you’re an overall thoughtful, mature person who’s ready to take advantage of all NYU has to offer.

If you choose to write about an issue that you haven’t taken much concrete action on yet, just be careful that your essay doesn’t become more about the issue, and your interest in it on a theoretical level, than about your own personality. In the context of the example given above, that might look like a bunch of statistics showing how lack of access to healthy food disproportionately impacts lower income people. 

While that is certainly informative, remember that this isn’t an academic essay. It’s a personal reflection, so even if you’re still figuring out how you can best contribute to tangible change, you still want to highlight specific experiences or moments that showcase the strengths you will eventually use to make a real difference. Otherwise, NYU admissions officers may come away from your essay knowing more about the issue you’re highlighting, but not much about what you’d bring to their community, which is ultimately the question they’re trying to answer.

“It’s hard to fight when the fight ain’t fair.” Taylor Swift, Change, Released 2008, 2022 NYU Commencement Speaker (250 words)

Like the previous prompt, this quote wants you to discuss a cause you are currently fighting for, or would like to fight for during your time in college and beyond. But the angle is a little bit different, as this quote is centered around the challenges of fighting for something in unfair circumstances.

If you choose this prompt, you’ll want to talk about an obstacle you’ve overcome, or are in the process of overcoming, in your effort to make your communities a little more just. This doesn’t have to be anything intense, like facing harassment or threats after a talk you gave at a school assembly about your experiences with racism. Of course, you are welcome to discuss this kind of extreme hardship if you are comfortable doing so. 

You don’t have to, however. There are a whole bunch of things that make advocacy work difficult, and many of them have nothing to do with physical violence. For example, you could talk about your attempts to research successful city planning projects that incorporate more green spaces, and your frustration upon realizing many of the articles you wanted to read were stuck behind paywalls.

Alternatively, you could talk about how you want to help increase access to affordable education in your city by tutoring, but not having a car makes it difficult for you to reach many of the people who seek out your help. No obstacle is too small–as we’ve highlighted in several of the previous breakdowns, contextualizing a societal issue within your own life is what NYU wants you to do with pretty much all of these prompts, so don’t feel like you need to dramatize anything. Just be honest about your efforts, and the things that have gotten in your way.

The key to writing a successful response is to not focus your entire essay on the challenge itself, as that will result in a rather defeatist tone. Rather, spend the first part of the essay explaining the difficulties you’ve faced in your efforts to resolve some societal issue, and spend the second half explaining what you’ve done to overcome them. That will result in a more positive overall vibe for your essay, which shows your ability to adapt and grow even in the face of challenges, a skill that will be vital to your success in college.

Like with the challenge itself, you don’t have to glamorize whatever it is you did to work around the obstacle you encountered. For example, don’t say you set up a consortium of high school students where everyone pitched in some money so that you could create shared accounts on all the sites you wanted to use, unless you actually did do that. 

It’s okay to say you asked your parents for their credit card, and that you agreed to take on extra chores around the house because being self-sufficient in your advocacy work is important to you. Or that saving up for your own car proved too difficult, so you’ve worked out a schedule with your elderly neighbor to use his car in the evening, since he goes to sleep early anyways, so long as you pick up his groceries on the way home. 

NYU isn’t going to judge you for the particulars of your situation. They just want to see that, when the fight isn’t fair, you still find a way to keep punching.

Taylor Swift may be the biggest pop star in the world right now, but this sadly isn’t an essay for you to talk about your fandom. Keep the focus on the challenges of tackling inequality, not on your Eras Tour outfit or opinions on which (Taylor’s Version) album has the best (From The Vault) tracks 😉

Share a short quote and person not on this list, and why the quote inspires you. (250 words)

While you may initially feel drawn to this option because of the freedom it affords you, we advise against defaulting to it if you don’t immediately feel a connection to one of the other prompts. The other options do have narrower focuses, but you have five to choose from, and all of the quotes are open-ended enough that you aren’t being forced into a box.

Because this prompt is already unusually flexible for a supplemental essay, you should have a good reason for creating your own option. Ideally you’ll already have a particular quote, or at least a particular person, in mind. If you’re just thinking “Oh, I’d like to write about [general topic],” the time you spend googling possibilities is time you could instead be spending on your actual response, so we’d encourage you to look back at the options already given to you and see if any of them could be an inroad to your desired topic.

Additionally, you may have noticed that, while the options NYU gives you all portray slightly different perspectives, and come from a wide range of speakers, they all have something to do with the theme of justice and equity. In the main prompt, NYU even says they’re looking for “peacemakers, changemakers, global citizens, boundary breakers, creatives and innovators,” so your quote should show your potential to become a difference-maker in the world. Avoid writing about, for example, Stephen Hawking’s thoughts on black holes, as that would be jarring for admissions officers.

Obviously, the exact structure of your essay will depend on which quote you select. But in general, many of the points we’ve made in our breakdowns of the other prompts will apply here too. The best advice we can give is:

  • Use anecdotes, rather than speaking generally about whatever your topic is
  • Make sure the essay doesn’t just focus on your topic, and instead teaches your reader about a few tangible personality traits that speak to your potential as an NYU student 
  • Provide enough detail that your story feels personal, rather than like something any old applicant to NYU could have written.

With regards to this prompt specifically, since you’re taking this choose-your-own adventure path, don’t be afraid to be a little unconventional in how you do these three things. Maybe you share a quote of something meaningful your dad once said to you about having a responsibility to give back to others, and then you describe a few moments you have shared with him that exemplify how he embodies this ideal every day, and how you seek to do the same.

Alternatively, say you study Latin in school. Maybe you choose a quote from Ovid, your favorite Roman author, that relates to injustice, and explain how to you, this quote shows that, although it’s easy to get discouraged by all the doom and gloom on the news, humans have been trying to make the world a little bit better for as long as our species has existed.

These two examples both take advantage of the fact that you have a pre-existing personal connection to the actual person who said the quote, not just their words, as that’s something you probably don’t have with any of the options given to you (with the possible exception of Taylor Swift). As a result, NYU admissions officers get to see a level of depth and reflection in your response that they otherwise wouldn’t, which is the benefit of this option–you can pick both the framework and the content of your essay, rather than needing to fit what you want to say into a particular structure.

This isn’t a mistake, but just something to keep in mind if you’re seriously thinking about coming up with your own prompt: you still only have 250 words, and you’re going to have to spend probably about 20 of them just on your quote and the name of the person who said it. So, make sure your quote is relatively short (you can also use well-placed ellipses to save yourself room)–Option A, for example, would be much too long, as you’d be using over 20% of your space just on the quote itself.

Regardless of how short your quote is, however, you’re still going to have less space available than if you had chosen one of the options NYU provides, which is yet more reason you need to be 100% sure that this option will allow you to say something none of the others will. If you choose this option without already having some sense of what you’d like to say, having 20 fewer words may end up really biting you.

To summarize: if you’re feeling bold, and already have a clear sense of how you’re going to channel that boldness, this prompt is a great opportunity to truly set yourself apart from other applicants. But if you’re just choosing it because you can, and coming up with your own prompt sounds fun, we’d encourage you to give the pre-established options another look.

Where to Get Your NYU Essay Edited 

Do you want feedback on your NYU essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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why nyuad essay

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NYU Essay Examples (And Why They Worked)

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The following essay examples were written by authors who were admitted to New York University and are intended to provide examples of successful NYU application essays. All names have been redacted for anonymity. Please note that other has shared these essays with admissions officers at NYU in order to deter potential plagiarism.

For more help with your NYU supplemental essays, check out our 2020-2021 New York University Essay Guide ! For more guidance on personal essays and the college application process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.

We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. What motivated you to apply to NYU? Why have you applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and or area of study? If you have applied to more than one, please also tell us why you are interested in these additional areas of study or campuses. We want to understand – Why NYU? (400 word maximum)

I always had a keen interest in numbers, probability, and finance. Early on, I could run numbers quickly: calculating sales tax, analyzing probabilities, and visualizing complex mathematical models in my head. After taking AP classes in economics and statistics, I became intrigued with the mathematical representations of economic markets and statistical models, sparking my desire to pursue a career in that field. I set my sights on becoming an actuary since risk management intrigues me and allows me to use my talents in quantitative analysis. However, few schools offer a comprehensive study in that field, which makes Stern the perfect fit for me as the curriculum combines my interests and career goals.

At Stern, I will have the privilege of studying actuarial science, while also obtaining a business degree. The ability to tailor my education with the actuarial science concentration allows me to develop skills in statistical analysis. Through the intense rigor of the concentration requirements STAT-UB 21 “Introduction to Stochastic Processes” and STAT-UB 15 “Statistical Inference and Regression Analysis,” I will be given a stepping stone into quantifying social situations while stimulating my mathematical intrigue through advanced fields like stochastic calculus. I am eager to pursue this course of study to enhance my career development.

The Bachelor of Science in Business Program excites me, as it entails a well rounded yet intensive study in core business disciplines. However, what draws me to Stern is the emphasis on gaining a global perspective, which is crucial in today’s rapidly changing world economy. Through the International Business Exchange Program, I will be able to gain a first-hand cultural experience that will mold me into a global citizen and business leader. Not only will I be taking courses in the most prestigious business schools across the globe, but I will also have new doors opened for me to network with alumni.

Why this NYU essay worked: From an ex-admissions officer

This is an extremely compelling essay. It is clear that the student’s declared interests are, in fact, in line with both the student’s background and experiences, as well as in line with what the college has to offer. These essays work best when the reader can feel the student’s conviction and enthusiasm. Admissions officers appreciate when the reader can easily see the impact the student will have on the school community. By going into detail about their passion for business, the student helps the reader clearly visualize how this passion will manifest in the classroom.

Before I began interning for the International Rescue Committee’s refugee youth acclimation program–right in the heart of the Lower East Side–I underwent weeks of training in providing trauma-informed support, reminded repeatedly that these kids have gone through more than I could possibly imagine.

When the kids did show up, however, I could barely relate the image painted for us in training to the bright, bubbly children who I was to mentor. Mahdi and I especially took to each other. He was just like any other nine-year-old kid–a fan of Roblox, pizza, basketball, funny accents, and an acute hatred for anything math-related.

Only, he wasn’t like any other kid–at least not in the eyes of the 49% of Americans who believe he has no place in this country, for no reason other than the color of his skin, his god, the status of his residency here.

There are people here who would hear his name and call him a terrorist. Kids on the playground would mock his accent rather than be amazed at how quickly he picked up basketball–a sport he’d had zero exposure to 6 months back. Adults, on both ends of the ideological spectrum, would see him as a political mascot rather than a kid, allow him to be one–he’d be forced to grow up too soon, as a result of the hatred, having his existence politicized.

To get to my internship every day, I transferred at West 4th, from the A to the M train. Once in a while, I’d take the chance to climb up and walk around Washington Square Park.

Clad in lavender shirts, NYU students were camped out in the center of the park, asking people to write out on little post-its what social justice meant to them. Fire burning in the pit of my stomach, I wrote, “Allowing Mahdi to just be a kid.”

And NYU can help me make that happen–there is groundbreaking research happening on campus regarding racial bias and inequality at CASSR that I can’t wait to contribute to. Pursuing a major of public health policy, I can take fascinating, relevant classes such as Social Policy in Modern Societies and Race and Ethnicity. What’s more, I can join student organizations–like the one handing out the post-its that day in Washington Square–and work with my peers, with NYU, with New York City as a whole, towards social justice from a health perspective, towards allowing Mahdi to just be a kid.

This essay begins with a student who is searching for answers. She has trained to help her community, applied her training to her environment, and then expands on her findings. In her volunteering endeavors, she finds her purpose. She continues with a personal story with Mahdi, and successfully brings us into her world. We are engaged. She is now frustrated because she can’t help enough, and with a bit of karma, she is approached by an NYU student, and at this moment NYU becomes her answer. She then cites why NYU is her solution, which major she will pursue, which classes she will take, and which student organizations will help to accent her goals. This essay succeeds because we see this student as community oriented and ambitious. As readers, we know that she will be a great and focused addition to the campus. This is a student with purpose, and she makes it clear that NYU will propel her to reach her goals.

These essay examples were compiled by the advising team at . If you want to get help writing your NYU application essays from Admissions Experts , register with today.

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admissions essay--WHY DO YOU WANT TO ATTEND NYUAD?

silkesha 4 / 24   Jun 11, 2010   #1 Since the time i started making plans or began setting goals for my future, the one thing that I had in my mind was to acquire high levels of education which would help me to achieve those great heights and those great dreams that I have always dreamed of! In high school, while I was still initiating my future plans, I had one firm or strong thought in my mind: to be in a university where my dreams would acquire a real form, where education would not just be confined to any cultural limits or boundaries, where only those bright minds and faces would be accepted who truly posses the ability of being able to understand, that education is not a tool that makes a straight-cut ditch of a free meandering brook, but, it is a kind of continuing dialog that assumes different points of views. I wish to be surrounded by a faculty who would not just educate me with the wisdom of the world, but, also guide me transforming myself right from head to toe into a responsible citizen, not just of my city, state, or country, but the globe as a whole. I aspire to make a mark for myself on this planet. What better place would there be for engaging my ambitions, than NYUAD? I believe that NYUAD would be the first and the most important step of my career and a place where I could pursue my goals and aspirations in the true sense!

chinhnguyen7 2 / 3   Jun 11, 2010   #2 For a 'Why ABC' essay, I think yours is a little too much focus on yourself, rather than the university that you want to attend. It's better to show the admission committee why their university attracts you that much. Anyway, this is my sole opinion; the content is still up to you.

OP silkesha 4 / 24   Jun 11, 2010   #3 Thank you!...I quite agree with your is focusing more on me, than the univ. I'd try making it better!

why nyuad essay

OP silkesha 4 / 24   Jun 13, 2010   #5 Thank you very much! Thanks a million for helping! I'll try my best in making it better and getting off the vagueness!

nyuadh - / 2   Jun 28, 2010   #6 Hey Silkesha!! Are you applying to NYU AD this coming school year? I am happily, anxiously, and excitedly part of the inaugural class of '14 for NYU AD! When I applied last year, I actually didn't apply directly to NYU AD so I won't have too much specific help to provide, but I can give you a feel tips! Try to be more specific! Honestly, it's written well but it's not extremely distinctive. In my opinion, your best part was the "meandering brooks" which was a nice metaphor of sorts that brought imagery. I would expand upon that and throw in additional extended metaphors. Also, perhaps reflect on an important personal moment in your life that you find demonstrates your global outlook and that you're the right fit for NYU AD. Good luck!!

OP silkesha 4 / 24   Jul 1, 2010   #7 hey, thanks a lot!...i feel so gooood to have received a reply from u (a student at NYUAD)!!!... thanks a lotttt!!!... and yes, I am going to apply to NYUAD this year...(as an RD applicant) this was my first submission, here at was kinda very, kindly excuse me, pls... :S I will submit my original essays in the next few months...hope to receive feedbacks from u... well, one more thing..I've just added u on fb...hope u dont mind.. and once again, thanks a lotttttt!!!... I was actually searching for someone from NYUAD, here! :D THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

am80951 1 / 2   Jul 1, 2010   #8 I love your writing style. So jealous. But I feel as though, when an admissions counselor is reading this, they don't see specific reasons why you wish to attend their school! You can kind of plug in any university instead, and it would work. Why not look up new construction that has been done.. "Due to my interest in blah blah blah, I feel as though NYUAD's recently constructed blah blah blah would be greatly beneficial in comparison to the lackluster departments that are seen at the neighboring school of blah."

nyuadh - / 2   Jul 5, 2010   #9 No problem!! If you're wondering why I've seemed to drop off the planet that is Facebook and haven't accepted your request yet... I'm in China at the moment and consequently behind "THE GREAT FIREWALL OF CHINA" which blocks among many other things, Facebook. So yeah, I'm not purposefully ignoring you. Well good luck with the college process! I won't bother fudging the truth... Senior year 1st semester will be a pain in the arse. To be brutally honest, the acceptance rate for my class was 2.1%. Though it may seem exceedingly daunting, I wish to remind you that hope and action get one much further than despair and wallowing in self-pity and doubt. If you have the time and wish to do some soul searching in order to ascertain whether NYU AD might be a good fit for you, then check out the book Cosmopolitan by Appiah. It's also my class' summer reading assignment of sorts... Hopefully it'll give you much to think about and perhaps tickle your muse and inspire your writing!

OP silkesha 4 / 24   Jul 6, 2010   #10 Thanks a lot Allison ! :D Thank you very much, Harrison ! I'll surely check out this book! :D

why nyuad essay


Why forgetting things is a key part of the way your brain works

Forgetfulness can be frustrating, but cognitive scientists reckon it underpins the brain’s capacity to efficiently process sensory information – and its unique ability to generalise our knowledge

By Alex Wilkins

20 February 2024

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Forgetting may be integral to helping our brain remember

Hans Neleman/Getty Images

THERE are few things more frustrating than trying to recall a fact or memory and finding it has gone missing. You might ask yourself whether it is the start of mental decline or the onset of a degenerative brain condition. What you probably don’t think is that forgetting is a good thing. But it can be. New research into memory suggests that it is actually a healthy and necessary brain function – and one that is becoming increasingly important in our rapidly changing lives. “You want to be able to adapt to your environment because your environment is always changing. But if you’re overly fixated on your first experience, you’re not going to behave adaptively,” says Tomás Ryan at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland. Intriguingly, his research also hints that forgotten memories remain in the brain, so could, if necessary, be restored.

Everyday forgetting – like not being able to recall what you ate for dinner last week – is called natural forgetting. This is in contrast to pathological forgetting, which results from brain injuries or conditions such as Alzheimer’s. Far from being a problem, natural forgetting underpins one of our most unique and powerful traits – our ability to generalise. Though there are times when having an ultra-detailed memory is invaluable, like when revising for exams or acting as a witness to a crime, we can’t generalise without playing fast and loose with specifics, says Edwin Robertson at the University of Glasgow, UK. “For a chair to be thought of as a chair,…

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I n 2019, Art Pereira ran the numbers on his windfall of credit card points, which he’d earned after opening a new card, and realized he had enough to cover two round-trip flights to Hawaii. Pereira couldn’t wait to share his good fortune with his best friend Nick Galluccio, and after the two of them caught up at Galluccio’s apartment, Pereira told him the news. Whatever excitement Galluccio might have felt about a subsidized vacation was trounced by concern. He worried that other people would think he and Pereira were going on a romantic getaway.

They had a type of friendship that was ripe for misinterpretation. The two 20-something youth pastors were close enough that they considered each other brothers and planned to move in together. Galluccio was the person Pereira felt safe telling about an argument he had with his dad before his dad died. Pereira helped Galluccio recover from romantic heartache. They devoted time together through their ritual of Friday morning coffee and board games, which they considered nearly sacred. They were life partners, just without the romance. Scrambling people’s expectations of male friendship further, Galluccio is straight, and, in 2017, Pereira came out as gay.

Few Americans are used to seeing male friends as close as they are. Often, the first question Pereira gets after he’s come out to someone as gay is, “Is Galluccio gay, too?” It’s as if people have a rule in their head: any man who spends a lot of time with a gay guy must himself be gay. Pereira might not have read so much into this moment if several similar situations hadn’t just happened in close succession—incidents where Galluccio openly worried that other people would think he was gay.

The sociologist Eric Anderson calls the fear of being perceived as gay “ homohysteria .” The inclusion of hysteria makes the term sound provocative, maybe uncomfortably so, but the concept is valuable. It helps explain why men like Galluccio constrain their behavior—avoiding activities, people, or organizations that could mark them as gay. A society can have high levels of homophobia—defined as the hatred or prejudice against gay, lesbian, or bisexual people—without men feeling like they must shore up their straightness. It only makes sense for men to adjust their behavior if homosexuality is not only stigmatized but also believed to be prevalent; then, there’s grounds to worry that other people might think they’re gay and that such a label could carry consequences. A turning point in homohysteria in the United States, according to Anderson, was the sexologist Alfred Kinsey’s blockbuster study on men’s sexual practices. The study , released in 1948, claimed that 10% of the population was homosexual—far more common than most people assumed. Around this time, men began to keep emotional and physical distance from one another.

Though homophobia has waned in the last few decades, American men still, by and large, aren’t supposed to get too cozy with other men if they want to fit in. By adolescence , boys learn that their repertoire for physical affection with each other is limited to back slaps and side hugs. They’re trained to act competitively within their male friendships , and they’re expected to bond over activities , not shared intimacies.

Read More: How to Make Friends as a Middle-Aged Man, Even If the Idea Makes You Feel Weird

While reporting on committed platonic relationships like Pereira and Galluccio’s, I saw how men’s friendships get scrutinized differently from women’s. When I’d tell people about a pair of straight male friends, I’d get questions about whether they’re really straight. People didn’t react that way when I’d tell the stories of straight female friends. The subtext was: if a man is too close to other men, his straightness is suspect.

Pereira was freed from these worries over what people might assume about his sexuality because, he says, “as a gay man, I’m not really trying to fit stereotypical views of masculinity anyway. If someone looks at me and thinks I’m gay, they’re just accurate. But for Nick, he wants to be perceived as who he is, which I think he deserves to be.”

Pereira encouraged Galluccio to care less about other people’s potential judgments. When Galluccio would pull back from Pereira because he found some form of physical affection weird, Pereira would point out that Galluccio’s perception of what’s normal between friends is culturally specific. Pereira is Brazilian American, and it’s normal for Brazilian men to kiss each other on the cheek or put their arms around each other. There, these actions aren’t coded as gay.

American ideas of what’s normal between male friends isn’t based on something universal about men. Male friends in Korea engage in “ skinship ,” a term that refers to nonsexual physical affection—music videos for K-pop bands offer plenty of examples. After George W. Bush and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia held hands while taking a stroll together in 2005, American news outlets informed their domestic audiences that it’s common in Arab cultures for men to hold hands. The same is true in India and various countries across Africa. High levels of gender segregation in these societies mean that people often form their most intimate relationships with people of the same gender. Some of these same societies condemn homosexuality, but because it’s treated as an aberration , sometimes even associated with the West , men don’t need to constantly prove that they’re straight. In countries such as Uganda, where physical affection between men is disappearing, scholars and writers link the change to the incursion of Western values .

Up until the early 20 th century in the United States and Europe, you’d have no trouble spotting physical affection between men. In 1851, a young engineer named James Blake described staying up late the night before parting from his friend because “our hearts were full of that true friendship which could not find utterance by words, we laid our heads upon each other’s bosom and wept, it may be unmanly to weep, but I care not, the spirit was touched.” What crossed the line of manliness for Blake wasn’t laying his head on another man’s bosom but weeping. In Picturing Men, a study of thousands of ordinary photographs of men taken between the 1850s and 1950s, California State University, Fullerton professor John Ibson shows how men of all races, classes, and regions openly engaged in physical intimacy with other men. Common poses included sitting on each other’s laps, holding hands, or resting their head on the other man’s shoulder. Physical closeness was once a prime feature of male friendship.

As Galluccio began to examine his intuitions, he started to believe that his discomfort wasn’t always an accurate signal that something was wrong. But this new idea was disorienting. How could Galluccio know what he wanted if he’d been raised in a culture that denied him experiences such as emotional connection with other men? It’s a culture in which it’s common enough for men to be emotionally shut off that there’s a clinical term for what they’re experiencing: normative male alexithymia . Psychologists think some men have such trouble putting their feelings into words because of the way they are socialized to be tough and stoic .

About a year after Pereira accepted that he was gay, Galluccio began to wonder if he was also attracted to men. He was becoming more comfortable in close friendships—“But am I supposed to?” he asked himself. On a hike in a state park in Kentucky, Galluccio told Pereira that he thought he might be gay. Pereira ran through questions to detect desire for men, such as: Did Galluccio ever want to kiss a man? Was he attracted to Pereira? No and no. As far as Pereira could tell, nothing pointed in the direction of same-sex attraction, so he asked Galluccio what made him think he could be gay. Galluccio said he liked it when Pereira hugged him, and he missed Pereira when he was gone for a week. “Oh, that’s just intimacy,” Pereira said. “That’s just loving someone, being close to someone.” Galluccio had equated emotional intimacy with sexual attraction; he hadn’t known that it was possible to experience emotional intimacy in a platonic context—he’d only ever done so with a girlfriend.

Even though American men in the past openly expressed love for their same-sex friends, today, straight men look elsewhere for intimacy. Researchers found that while many heterosexual women felt more emotional intimacy with their female best friend than with a male romantic partner, that was generally not the case for heterosexual men. Their romantic partner was more likely to be their chief source of emotional intimacy. In a survey from 2021 , men were about half as likely as women to report having recently received emotional support from a friend, and married men were significantly more likely than married women to say their spouse is the first person they talk to when they have a problem.

Men shy away from verbally affirming their friendships; about half of women said they told a friend they loved them within the past week, compared to one-quarter of men. Andrew Reiner, the author of a book about masculinity , concluded that the nearly 200 boys and men he interviewed tended to rely on male friends to solve specific problems that were unlikely to inspire judgment—what he called “targeted transparency.” These men and boys worried that their friends wouldn’t want to discuss their emotionally laden issues, or they didn’t want to “burden” others with their problems. If they sought emotional support, they generally turned to their romantic partners or female friends—forcing women to provide care for men that men aren’t giving to one another. One writer called the tendency for straight men to hoist all their emotional needs on their female romantic partners “ emotional gold digging .”

On a webinar in which Galluccio and Pereira discussed their friendship, Galluccio described a dynamic he used to have with Art: “For me as a straight person, it’s been so easy . . . for me to go, ‘Well, I’m uncomfortable, so you need to change because I’m in the majority.’ ” Galluccio said he now knows there are multiple reasons that could explain his discomfort. Maybe “it’s a good and healthy boundary, but maybe there’s homophobia or perception issues or intimacy issues that I’ve just grown up with,” he said. Turning to Pereira, Galluccio said, “Just because I’m uncomfortable doesn’t mean you’re wrong.”

Excerpted from The Other Significant Others: Reimagining Life with Friendship at the Center by Rhaina Cohen. © 2024 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Publishing Group.

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Why Data Breaches Spiked in 2023

  • Stuart Madnick

why nyuad essay

And what companies can do to better secure users’ personal information.

In spite of recent efforts to beef up cybersecurity, data breaches — in which hackers steal personal data — continue to increase year-on-year: there was a 20% increase in data breaches from 2022 to 2023. There are three primary reasons behind this increased theft of personal data: (1) cloud misconfiguration, (2) new types of ransomware attacks, and (3) increased exploitation of vendor systems. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the impact of each of these factors.

For many years, organizations have struggled to protect themselves from cyberattacks: companies, universities, and government agencies have expended enormous amounts of resources to secure themselves. But in spite of those efforts, data breaches — in which hackers steal personal data — continue to increase year-on-year: there was a 20% increase in data breaches from 2022 to 2023 . Some of the trends around this uptick are disturbing. For example, globally, there were twice the number of victims in 2023 compared to 2022, and in the Middle East, ransomware gang activity increased by 77% in that same timeframe.

  • Stuart Madnick  is the John Norris Maguire (1960) Professor of Information Technologies in the MIT Sloan School of Management, Professor of Engineering Systems in the MIT School of Engineering, and Director of Cybersecurity at MIT Sloan (CAMS): the Interdisciplinary Consortium for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity. He has been active in the cybersecurity field since co-authoring the book Computer Security in 1979.

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Published September 10, 2020

Why Choose NYU Abu Dhabi?

Staff Writer

Mohamed Alhosani seated and petting a cat in his lap

Growing up in the UAE, Mohamed Alhosani, ’22, knew he wanted to explore the world—and his passions. So: why didn’t he go to college in another country? Why did he choose NYU Abu Dhabi? NYU Abu Dhabi’s reputation for rigorous academics drew him in. That, along with the broad liberal arts and sciences curriculum originally inspired the computer engineering major to enroll. “A liberal arts education gives me the opportunity to explore by taking a variety of classes outside my major,” he says. “This is exceedingly important to me. It teaches me a broad range of skills that can be useful in any career field. Liberal arts diversify people’s perception of the world and add much more depth to one’s college experience.”

NYU students posing for a group photo on a set of stairs. The students are wearing NYU tee shirts and sweatshirts.

A Diverse Student Body Opens Minds

NYU Abu Dhabi students come from more than 100 countries. Being at a school that is so diverse opened new doors for Mohamed. “I had always been in schools where the majority of the population was local,” he says. As a result of his decision to choose NYU Abu Dhabi “I’ve built connections with many different people, breaking social boundaries and building bridges between friends of different ethnicities and cultures. It has given me a chance to learn about things I never expected, both in and out of the classroom.”

Local College, Global Experience

Though Mohamed didn’t travel far from home when he chose NYU Abu Dhabi, being a part of the NYU global network has led him to journey across three continents. “Coming here and learning about all the different opportunities and resources available to me was mind blowing,” he says. Since starting college, Mohamed has studied in Florence, Berlin, and New York. Moving forward, he plans to keep seizing the opportunity for international study as much as he can. And, like his experience meeting his classmates from diverse backgrounds, Mohamed knows that his experience immersing himself in different cultures offers him deeper insight and understanding of society’s big issues.

The city of Florence seen from overhead

Liberal Arts in Action

Studying in Italy during January term in his first year, Mohamed found that his international experience and the liberal arts intersected in an ideal way during a class on Renaissance art. “Before leaving, I thought I might not like the topic of art. Since I went to an engineering high school, it wasn’t something I’d ever learned much about,” he says. “However, I loved the class. I found myself in awe of all the museums and art galleries in Florence. I’d never previously known how meaningful art can be, and how truly amazing it is to see it in person. That was the moment when I realized that there is so much more to the world than what I’d learned before. It was also when I knew that NYU Abu Dhabi would give me the opportunity to keep learning about all these new topics, aided by a deeply supportive community.”

Mohamed is still figuring out his specific plan for after graduation. But looking to the future, he says that his college experience, combined with studying across the globe, has given him new skills, like leadership, independence, and critical thinking. Together, they have helped him succeed in college and will continue to benefit him in his future career.

Discover the Engineering Design Studio at NYU Abu Dhabi

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The Loss of Things I Took for Granted

Ten years into my college teaching career, students stopped being able to read effectively..

Recent years have seen successive waves of book bans in Republican-controlled states, aimed at pulling any text with “woke” themes from classrooms and library shelves. Though the results sometimes seem farcical, as with the banning of Art Spiegelman’s Maus due to its inclusion of “cuss words” and explicit rodent nudity, the book-banning agenda is no laughing matter. Motivated by bigotry, it has already done demonstrable harm and promises to do more. But at the same time, the appropriate response is, in principle, simple. Named individuals have advanced explicit policies with clear goals and outcomes, and we can replace those individuals with people who want to reverse those policies. That is already beginning to happen in many places, and I hope those successes will continue until every banned book is restored.

If and when that happens, however, we will not be able to declare victory quite yet. Defeating the open conspiracy to deprive students of physical access to books will do little to counteract the more diffuse confluence of forces that are depriving students of the skills needed to meaningfully engage with those books in the first place. As a college educator, I am confronted daily with the results of that conspiracy-without-conspirators. I have been teaching in small liberal arts colleges for over 15 years now, and in the past five years, it’s as though someone flipped a switch. For most of my career, I assigned around 30 pages of reading per class meeting as a baseline expectation—sometimes scaling up for purely expository readings or pulling back for more difficult texts. (No human being can read 30 pages of Hegel in one sitting, for example.) Now students are intimidated by anything over 10 pages and seem to walk away from readings of as little as 20 pages with no real understanding. Even smart and motivated students struggle to do more with written texts than extract decontextualized take-aways. Considerable class time is taken up simply establishing what happened in a story or the basic steps of an argument—skills I used to be able to take for granted.

Since this development very directly affects my ability to do my job as I understand it, I talk about it a lot. And when I talk about it with nonacademics, certain predictable responses inevitably arise, all questioning the reality of the trend I describe. Hasn’t every generation felt that the younger cohort is going to hell in a handbasket? Haven’t professors always complained that educators at earlier levels are not adequately equipping their students? And haven’t students from time immemorial skipped the readings?

The response of my fellow academics, however, reassures me that I’m not simply indulging in intergenerational grousing. Anecdotally, I have literally never met a professor who did not share my experience. Professors are also discussing the issue in academic trade publications , from a variety of perspectives. What we almost all seem to agree on is that we are facing new obstacles in structuring and delivering our courses, requiring us to ratchet down expectations in the face of a ratcheting down of preparation. Yes, there were always students who skipped the readings, but we are in new territory when even highly motivated honors students struggle to grasp the basic argument of a 20-page article. Yes, professors never feel satisfied that high school teachers have done enough, but not every generation of professors has had to deal with the fallout of No Child Left Behind and Common Core. Finally, yes, every generation thinks the younger generation is failing to make the grade— except for the current cohort of professors, who are by and large more invested in their students’ success and mental health and more responsive to student needs than any group of educators in human history. We are not complaining about our students. We are complaining about what has been taken from them.

If we ask what has caused this change, there are some obvious culprits. The first is the same thing that has taken away almost everyone’s ability to focus—the ubiquitous smartphone. Even as a career academic who studies the Quran in Arabic for fun, I have noticed my reading endurance flagging. I once found myself boasting at a faculty meeting that I had read through my entire hourlong train ride without looking at my phone. My colleagues agreed this was a major feat, one they had not achieved recently. Even if I rarely attain that high level of focus, though, I am able to “turn it on” when demanded, for instance to plow through a big novel during a holiday break. That’s because I was able to develop and practice those skills of extended concentration and attentive reading before the intervention of the smartphone. For children who were raised with smartphones, by contrast, that foundation is missing. It is probably no coincidence that the iPhone itself, originally released in 2007, is approaching college age, meaning that professors are increasingly dealing with students who would have become addicted to the dopamine hit of the omnipresent screen long before they were introduced to the more subtle pleasures of the page.

The second go-to explanation is the massive disruption of school closures during COVID-19. There is still some debate about the necessity of those measures, but what is not up for debate any longer is the very real learning loss that students suffered at every level. The impact will inevitably continue to be felt for the next decade or more, until the last cohort affected by the mass “pivot to online” finally graduates. I doubt that the pandemic closures were the decisive factor in themselves, however. Not only did the marked decline in reading resilience start before the pandemic, but the students I am seeing would have already been in high school during the school closures. Hence they would be better equipped to get something out of the online format and, more importantly, their basic reading competence would have already been established.

Less discussed than these broader cultural trends over which educators have little control are the major changes in reading pedagogy that have occurred in recent decades—some motivated by the ever-increasing demand to “teach to the test” and some by fads coming out of schools of education. In the latter category is the widely discussed decline in phonics education in favor of the “balanced literacy” approach advocated by education expert Lucy Calkins (who has more recently come to accept the need for more phonics instruction). I started to see the results of this ill-advised change several years ago, when students abruptly stopped attempting to sound out unfamiliar words and instead paused until they recognized the whole word as a unit. (In a recent class session, a smart, capable student was caught short by the word circumstances when reading a text out loud.) The result of this vibes-based literacy is that students never attain genuine fluency in reading. Even aside from the impact of smartphones, their experience of reading is constantly interrupted by their intentionally cultivated inability to process unfamiliar words.

For all the flaws of the balanced literacy method, it was presumably implemented by people who thought it would help. It is hard to see a similar motivation in the growing trend toward assigning students only the kind of short passages that can be included in a standardized test. Due in part to changes driven by the infamous Common Core standards , teachers now have to fight to assign their students longer readings, much less entire books, because those activities won’t feed directly into students getting higher test scores, which leads to schools getting more funding. The emphasis on standardized tests was always a distraction at best, but we have reached the point where it is actively cannibalizing students’ educational experience—an outcome no one intended or planned, and for which there is no possible justification.

We can’t go back in time and do the pandemic differently at this point, nor is there any realistic path to putting the smartphone genie back in the bottle. (Though I will note that we as a society do at least attempt to keep other addictive products out of the hands of children.) But I have to think that we can, at the very least, stop actively preventing young people from developing the ability to follow extended narratives and arguments in the classroom. Regardless of their profession or ultimate educational level, they will need those skills. The world is a complicated place. People—their histories and identities, their institutions and work processes, their fears and desires—are simply too complex to be captured in a worksheet with a paragraph and some reading comprehension questions. Large-scale prose writing is the best medium we have for capturing that complexity, and the education system should not be in the business of keeping students from learning how to engage effectively with it.

This is a matter not of snobbery, but of basic justice. I recognize that not everyone centers their lives on books as much as a humanities professor does. I think they’re missing out, but they’re adults and they can choose how to spend their time. What’s happening with the current generation is not that they are simply choosing TikTok over Jane Austen. They are being deprived of the ability to choose—for no real reason or benefit. We can and must stop perpetrating this crime on our young people.

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Democrats Have a Better Option Than Biden

It requires them to embrace an old-fashioned approach to winning a campaign..

Produced by ‘The Ezra Klein Show’

[You can listen to this episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” on the NYT Audio app , Apple , Spotify , Amazon Music , Google or wherever you get your podcasts .]

A full transcript of this audio essay is available here:

Ezra Klein: My heart breaks a bit for Joe Biden. This is a man who has been running for president since he was young. He wins the presidency, finally, unexpectedly, when he’s old. And that age brought him wisdom. It brought an openness that hadn’t always been there in him. He’s governed as a throwback to a time before “I alone can fix it,” a time when presidents were party leaders, coalition builders.

Biden has held together a Democratic Party that could easily have splintered. Think back to the 2020 campaign, when he beat Bernie Sanders, when he beat Elizabeth Warren, when his victory was seen as, was in reality, the moderate wing triumphing over the progressive wing, the establishment over the insurgents.

But instead of making them bend the knee, instead of acting as a victor, Biden acted as a leader. He partnered with Bernie Sanders. He built the unity task forces. He integrated Warren’s and Sanders’s ideas and staff into not just his campaign but also his administration.

I had a conversation recently with Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the House progressive caucus, and I asked her why the Democratic Party hadn’t ruptured the way Republicans did. She pointed me back to that moment. Biden, she said, made this “huge attempt to pull the Democratic Party back together before the 2020 election in a way I’ve really never seen before.”

And it worked. Democrats had 50 votes in the Senate. Fifty votes that stretched from Bernie Sanders on the left all the way to Joe Manchin on the right. Biden and Chuck Schumer, they often could not lose even one of those votes, and at crucial moments, they didn’t.

With that almost-impossible-to-hold-together coalition, the Biden administration and congressional Democrats passed a series of bills — the bipartisan infrastructure deal, the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS and Science Act — that will make this a decade of infrastructure and invention. A decade of building, of decarbonizing, of researching. They expanded the Affordable Care Act, and it worked — more than 21 million people signed up for the A.C.A. last year, a record. They did what Democrats have promised to do forever and took at least the first steps toward letting Medicare negotiate drug prices.

And the Biden team, they said they were going to run the economy hot, that at long last, they were going to prioritize full employment, and they did. And then inflation shot up. Not just here but in Europe, in Canada, pretty much everywhere. The pandemic had twisted global supply chains and then the economy had reopened, and people desperate to live again took their pandemic savings and spent. And the Biden team, in partnership with Jerome Powell and the Federal Reserve, got the rate of inflation back down, and we are still beneath 4 percent unemployment.

And I don’t want to just skip over that accomplishment. Most economists said that could not be done. The overwhelming consensus was we were headed for a recession, that the so-called soft landing was a fantasy. It got mocked as “immaculate disinflation.” But that is what happened. We didn’t have a recession. We are still seeing strong wage gains for the poorest Americans. Inequality is down. Growth is quick. America is far stronger economically right now than Europe, than Canada, than China. You want to be us.

And yet Biden’s poll numbers are dismal. His approval rating lingers in the high 30s. Most polls show him losing to Donald Trump in 2024. Then comes the special counsel report, which finds no criminal wrongdoing in his treatment of classified information, which is — remember — the question the special counsel was appointed to investigate. But the counsel takes a drive-by on Biden’s cognitive fitness. Says a jury would think him a “well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory.” Says Biden doesn’t remember when his son Beau died.

And Biden, enraged, does what people have been asking him to do this whole time. He takes the age issue head on. And he gives a news conference full of fury.

And then, when he is about to leave, he comes back to take one more question — this one on Israel and Gaza, where he says that America is no longer lock step behind Benjamin Netanyahu’s invasion, and then describing the effort he put in getting President Sisi to open the Egyptian border for aid, he slips. He calls Sisi the president of Mexico. Makes the kind of slip anyone can make, but a kind of slip he is making too often now, a kind of slip that means more when he makes it than when someone else does.

Since the beginning of Biden’s administration, I have been asking people who work with him: How does he seem? How read in is he? What’s he like in the meetings? Maybe it’s not a great sign that I felt the need to do that, that a lot of reporters have been doing that, but still. And I am convinced, watching him, listening to the testimony of those who meet with him — not all people who like him — I am convinced he is able to do the job of the presidency. He is sharp in meetings; he makes sound judgments. I cannot point you to a moment where Biden faltered in his presidency because his age had slowed him.

But here’s the thing. I can now point you to moments when he is faltering in his campaign for the presidency because his age is slowing him. This distinction between the job of the presidency and the job of running for the presidency keeps getting muddied, including by Biden himself.

This is the question Democrats keep wanting to answer, the question the Biden administration keeps pretending only to hear: Can Biden do the job of president? But that is not the question of the 2024 campaign. The insistence that Biden is capable of being president is being used to shut down discussion of whether he’s capable of running for president.

I’ve had my own journey on this. I’ve written a number of columns about how Biden keeps proving pundits wrong, about how he’s proved me wrong. He won in 2020 despite plenty of naysayers. The Democrats won in 2022, defying predictions. I had, in 2022, been planning to write a column after the midterms saying there should be a primary because Democrats need to see how strong of a campaigner Biden still was. The test needed to be run. But when they overperformed, that drained all interest among the major possible candidates in running. That test wasn’t going to happen. But still, I thought, Biden might surprise again. I’d grown wary of underestimating him.

We had to wait till this year — till now, really — to see Biden even begin to show what he’d be like on the campaign trail. And what I think we’re seeing is that he is not up for this. He is not the campaigner he was, even five years ago. That’s not insider reporting on my part. Go watch a speech he gave in Pennsylvania, kicking off his campaign in 2019. And then go watch the speech he gave last month, in Valley Forge, kicking off his election campaign. No comparison here. Both speeches are on YouTube, and you can see it. The way he moves, the energy in his voice. The Democrats denying decline are only fooling themselves.

But even given that, I was stunned when his team declined a Super Bowl interview. Biden is not up by 12 points. He can’t coast to victory here. He is losing. He is behind in most polls. He is behind, despite everything people already know about Donald Trump. He needs to make up ground. If he does not make up ground, Trump wins.

The Super Bowl is one of the biggest audiences you will ever have. And you just skip it? You just say no?

The Biden team’s argument, to be fair, is this: Who wants to see the president during the Super Bowl, anyway? And even if they did the interview, CBS would just choose three or four minutes of a 15-minute interview to air. What if CBS chooses a clip that makes Biden look bad?

That’s all true. But that’s all true in the context of a team that does not believe that the more people see Biden, the more they will like him. There’s a reason other presidents do the Super Bowl interview. There’s a reason Biden himself did it in 2021 and 2022, that Trump said he’d gladly take Biden’s place this year.

I was talking to James Carville, who’s one of the chief strategists behind Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, and he put this really well to me. He said to me that a campaign has certain assets, but the most desirable asset is the candidate. And the Biden campaign does not deploy Biden like he is a desirable asset.

Biden has done fewer interviews than any recent president, and it’s not close. By this point in their presidencies, Barack Obama had given more than 400 interviews and Trump had given more than 300. Biden has given fewer than 100. And a bunch of them are softball interviews — he’ll go on Conan O’Brien’s podcast, or Jay Shetty’s mindfulness podcast. The Biden team says this is a strategy, that they need apolitical voters, the ones who are not listening to political media. But one, this strategy isn’t working — Biden is down, not up. And two, no one really buys this argument. I don’t buy this argument. This isn’t a strategy chosen from a full universe of options. This is a strategic adaptation to Biden’s perceived limits as a candidate. And what’s worse, it may be a wise one.

I want to say this clearly: I like Biden. I think he’s been a good president. I think he is a good president. I don’t like having this conversation. And I know a lot of liberals, a lot of Democrats are going to be furious at me for this show.

But to say this is a media invention, that people are worried about Biden’s age because the media keeps telling them to be worried about Biden’s age? If you have really convinced yourself of that, in your heart of hearts, I almost don’t know what to tell you. In poll after poll, 70 percent to 80 percent of voters are worried about his age. This is not a thing people need the media to see. It is right in front of them, and it is also shaping how Biden and his campaign are acting.

Democrats keep telling themselves, when they look at the polls, that voters will come back to Biden when the campaign starts in earnest and they begin seeing more of Trump, when they have to take what he is and what it would mean for him to return seriously.

But that is going to go both ways. When the campaign begins in earnest, they will also see much more of Joe Biden. People who barely pay attention to him now, they will be watching his speeches. They will see him on the news constantly. Will they actually like what they see? Will it comfort them?

That was why that news conference mattered. That news conference had a point. It had a purpose. The purpose was to reassure voters of Biden’s cognitive fitness, particularly his memory. And Biden couldn’t do that, not for one night, not for fewer than 15 minutes. And these kinds of gaffes have become commonplace for him. He recently said he’d been speaking to the former French president Francois Mitterrand when he meant Emmanuel Macron. He said he’d been talking to the former German chancellor Helmut Kohl when he meant Angela Merkel.

None of these matter much on their own. The human mind just does this. But it does it more as you get older. And they do matter collectively. Voters believe Biden is too old for the job he seeks. He needs to persuade them otherwise, and he is failing at that task — arguably the central task of his re-election campaign.

And that can become a self-fulfilling cycle. His staff knows that news conference was a disaster. So how will they respond? What will they do now? They will hold him back from aggressive campaigning even more, from unscripted situations. They will try to make doubly sure that it doesn’t happen again. But they need a candidate — Democrats need a candidate — who can aggressively campaign, because again — and I cannot emphasize this enough — they are currently losing.

Part of my job is talking to the kinds of Democrats who run and win campaigns constantly. All of them are worried about this. None of them say that this is an invention or not a real issue. And this is key: It’s not the age itself they are worried about. The age of 81 doesn’t mean anything. It’s the impression Biden is giving of age. Of slowness. Of frailty.

The presidency is a performance. You are not just making decisions, you are also acting out the things people want to believe about their president — that the president is in command, strong, energetic, compassionate, thoughtful, that they don’t need to worry about all that is happening in the world, because the president has it all under control.

Whether it is true that Biden has it all under control, it is not true that he seems like he does. Some political strategists I know think that’s why his poll numbers are low. That even when good things happen, people don’t really think he did them. One was telling me that what worries him most about Biden is how stable his approval rating is — it doesn’t really go up or down. Inflation has gone down a lot in recent months. People feel a lot better about the economy. You can see that in consumer sentiment data. But Biden’s approval rating, it has not gone up. His performance on Ukraine did not make it go up. The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS Act did not make it go up. To this strategist, it looked like a lot of Americans just don’t give Biden credit for things even when he deserves them. And Biden isn’t now a capable or aggressive enough campaigner to win that credit for himself.

The arguments I see even some smart Democrats making so they don’t have to look at this directly are self-defeating. The one I hear most often is that Trump is also old. He’s 77. He also mixes up names — he recently called Nancy Pelosi Nikki Haley. He sometimes speaks in gibberish. And it’s all true. But that is a reason to nominate a candidate who can exploit the fact that Trump is old and confused. The point is not to give Trump an even match. The point is to beat Trump.

Another argument I see is that this is ageism. This is an unfair thing to point out about Biden. It is age discrimination and, I have actually seen people make this argument, age discrimination is illegal in the workplace. But it is not illegal in the electorate. If the voters are ageist and Biden loses because of it, there is no recourse. You cannot sue the voters for age discrimination.

And then there’s the argument you’ve heard on my podcast. An argument I’ve made before. Biden doesn’t look like a strong candidate, but Democrats keep on winning. Biden won in 2020. Democrats won in 2022. They’ve been winning special elections in 2023. They just won George Santos’s seat in New York. There’s an anti-MAGA majority in this country and they will come out to stop Trump. And I think that might be true. I still think Biden might win against Trump, even with all I’ve said. It’s just that there’s a very good chance he might lose. Maybe even better than even odds. And Trump is dangerous. I want better odds than that.

I think one reason Democrats react so defensively to critiques of Biden is they’ve come to a kind of fatalism. They believe it is too late to do anything else. And if it is too late to do anything else, then to talk about Biden’s age is to contribute to Donald Trump’s victory.

But that’s absurd.

It is February. Fatalism this far before the election is ridiculous. Yeah, it’s too late to throw this to primaries. But it’s not too late to do something.

So then what? Step one, unfortunately, is convincing Biden that he should not run again. That he does not want to risk being Ruth Bader Ginsburg — a heroic, brilliant public servant who caused the outcome she feared most because she didn’t retire early enough. That in stepping aside he would be able to finish out his term as a strong and focused president, and people would see the honor in what he did, in putting his country over his ambitions.

The people whom Biden listens to — Barack Obama, Chuck Schumer, Mike Donilon, Ron Klain, Nancy Pelosi, Anita Dunn — they need to get him to see this. Biden may come to see it himself.

I take nothing away from how hard that is, how much Biden wants to finish the job he has started, keep doing the good he believes he can do. Retirement can be, often is, a trauma. But losing to Donald Trump would be far worse.

Let’s say that happens: Biden steps aside. Then what? Well, then Democrats do something that used to be common in politics but hasn’t been in decades. They pick their nominee at the convention. This is how parties chose their nominees for most of American history. From roughly 1831 to 1968, this is how it worked. In a way, this is still how it works.

I’m going to do a whole episode on how an open convention works, so this is going to be a quick version. The way we pick nominees now is still built around conventions. When someone wins a primary or a caucus, what he actually wins is delegate slots. How that works is different in different states. Then they go to the convention to choose the actual nominee.

The whole convention structure is still there. We still use it. It is still the delegates voting at the convention. What’s different now than in the past is that most delegates arrive at the convention committed to a candidate. But without getting too into the weeds of state delegate rules here, if their candidate drops out, if Biden drops out, they can be released to vote for who they want.

The last open convention Democrats had was 1968, a disaster of a convention where the Democratic Party split between pro- and anti-Vietnam War factions, where there was violence in the streets, where Democrats lost the election.

But that’s not how most conventions have gone. It was a convention that picked Abraham Lincoln over William Seward. It was a convention that chose F.D.R. over Al Smith. I’ve been reading Ed Achorn’s book “The Lincoln Miracle: Inside the Republican Convention That Changed History.” My favorite line in it comes from Senator Charles Sumner, who sends a welcome note to the delegates, “whose duty it will be to organize victory.”

Whose duty it will be to organize victory — I love that. That’s what a convention is supposed to do. It’s what a political party is supposed to do: organize victory. Because victory doesn’t just happen. It has to be organized.

Everybody I have talked about this, literally everybody, has brought up the same fear. Call it the Kamala Harris problem. In theory, she should be the favorite. But she polls slightly worse than Biden. Democrats don’t trust that she would be a stronger candidate. But they worry that if she wasn’t chosen it would rip the party apart. I think this is wrong on two levels.

First, I think Harris is underrated now. I’ve thought this for a while. I’ve said this before, that I think she’s going to have a good 2024. Is she a political juggernaut, a generational political talent? Probably not. But she’s a capable politician, which is one reason Biden chose her as his running mate in the first place. She has not thrived as vice president. The D.C. narrative on her has turned extremely negative. But when Kamala Harris ran campaigns as Kamala Harris, this wasn’t how she was seen. And Harris, in private settings — she’s enormously magnetic and compelling.

Her challenge would be translating that into a public persona, which is — and let’s be blunt about this — a hard thing to do when you’ve grown up in a world that has always been quick to find your faults. A world that is afraid of women being angry, of Black people being angry. A world where, for most of your life, it was demanded of you that you be cautious and careful and measured and never make a mistake. And then you get on the public stage and people say, oh, you’re too cautious and too careful and too measured. It’s a very, very, very hard bind to get out of. But maybe she can do it.

Still, it is the party’s job to organize victory. If Harris cannot convince delegates that she has the best shot at victory, she should not and probably would not be chosen. And I don’t think that would rip the party apart. There is a ton of talent in the Democratic Party right now: Gretchen Whitmer, Wes Moore, Jared Polis, Gavin Newsom, Raphael Warnock, Josh Shapiro, Cory Booker, Ro Khanna, Pete Buttigieg, Gina Raimondo, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Chris Murphy, Andy Beshear, J.B. Pritzker — the list goes on.

Some of them would make a run at the nomination. They would give speeches at the convention, and people would actually pay attention. The whole country would be watching the Democratic convention, and probably quite a bit happening in the run-up to it, and seeing what this murderer’s row of political talent could actually do. And then some ticket would be chosen based on how those people did.

Could it go badly? Sure. But that doesn’t mean it will go badly. It could make the Democrats into the most exciting political show on earth. And over there on the other side will be Trump getting nominated and a who’s who of MAGA types slavering over his leadership. The best of the Democratic Party against the worst of the Republican Party. A party that actually listened to the voters against a party that denies the outcome of the elections. A party that did something different over a party that has again nominated a threat to democracy who has never — not once — won the popular vote in a general election.

That seems like an OK contrast to me.

Yes, the Democratic Party has been winning elections recently. But it is winning those elections in part because it takes candidate recruitment seriously. That was true in 2020. Biden wasn’t the candidate that set the base’s heart aflutter, but he seemed like the candidate with the best shot at winning. So Democrats did the strategic thing and picked him. And they won. In 2022, Democrats carefully chose candidates who fit their districts, who fit their states while Republicans chose MAGA-soaked extremists. And that is why those Democrats won.

The lesson here is not that Democrats don’t need to think hard about who they run in elections. It’s that they do need to think hard about who they run in elections. And they have been. They need to be strategic, not sentimental. And they have been. Because the alternative is Donald Trump. And Donald Trump is dangerous. And right now, Donald Trump is ahead.

I have this nightmare that Trump wins in 2024. And then in 2025 and 2026, out come the campaign tell-all books, and they’re full of emails and WhatsApp messages between Biden staffers and Democratic leaders, where they’re all saying to each other, this is a disaster, he’s not going to win this, I can’t bear to watch this speech, we’re going to lose. But they didn’t say any of it publicly, they didn’t do anything, because it was too dangerous for their careers, or too uncomfortable given their loyalty to Biden.

I’ve said on the show before that we live in a strange era with the parties. We’ve gone from the cliché being that Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line, to the reality being that Democrats fall in line and Republicans fall apart. I’ve mostly meant that as a critique of Republican chaos, but too much order can be its own kind of pathology. A party that is too quick to fall in line, that cannot break line, is a party that will be too slow, maybe unable, to solve hard problems.

So yes, I think Biden, as painful as this is, should find his way to stepping down as a hero. That the party should help him find his way to that, to being the thing he said he would be in 2020, the bridge to the next generation of Democrats. And then I think Democrats should meet in August at the convention to do what political parties have done there before: organize victory.

I recognize there’s going to be a lot of questions and comments and pushback to this piece. So we’re going to do an “Ask Me Anything” episode next week — on this, on 2024 broadly. We’ve set up a voice mail box, if you want to leave a message that could get played on the show. Please keep them under a minute. We’re not going to use ones that are very long. The number for that is 212-556-7300. Or you can email us, both text and a voice note, at [email protected].

You can listen to our whole conversation by following “The Ezra Klein Show” on the NYT Audio app , Apple , Spotify , Google or wherever you get your podcasts . View a list of book recommendations from our guests here .

An image of President Joe Biden

This audio essay for “The Ezra Klein Show” was fact-checked by Michelle Harris. Our senior engineer is Jeff Geld. Our senior editor is Claire Gordon. The show’s production team also includes Annie Galvin, Rollin Hu and Kristin Lin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Kristina Samulewski and Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser.

Follow the New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Instagram , TikTok , X and Threads .


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