‘The secret to my success’: A college student shares the essay that got her accepted to top-rated New York University

  • Personal essays are a crucial part of college admissions and are often one of the best ways students can stand out in a crowded applicant field where acceptance is increasingly dictated by numbers and test scores. 
  • No two essays are the same, and it can be difficult to determine what specific colleges and universities want out of their essays.
  • To shed some light on this process, Insider is reaching out to students all around the world and asking them share the essay that got them into college.
  • This week, Insider spoke to a junior at New York University who shared her success story. 
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The dreaded college essay. For many high school seniors, those few hundred words can manifest into an unyielding sense of existential, unwavering angst. They might seem daunting, but these few paragraphs often present one of the best opportunities for students to write honestly and express themselves in a college application process dominated by standardized tests, high school transcripts, and other numbers first metrics. 

Knowing what to write about, or how to write it, can be challenging. Luckily, millions of other students have already gone through the process. To shed some much-needed light on what types of essays work for which schools, Insider is reaching out to students from all around the world and publishing the essays that got them into their dream schools. The first school on our list: New York University.

NYU had over 75,000 applicants last year. Only 16% were accepted. 

nyu, new york university

Flickr/Doc Searls

New York University’s main campus is located in the heart of downtown Manhattan and has a total student body of just over 60,000. 

But just because there are lots of students doesn’t mean its acceptance rates are high.  NYU’s acceptance rate for the class of 2023 dropped drown to 16 percent, the lowest admissions rate in the school’s history. The school received over 75,000 applications last year but says it still manages to review each one individually. 

Students applying to NYU will have to complete the common app, submit test scores (or other approved documents) and complete a supplemental essay question. Here’s the essay question NYU class of 2021 student Vanessa Ting was asked:

We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. 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? 

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. You may be focused or undecided, or simply open to the options within NYU’s global network; regardless, we want to understand – Why NYU? (400 word maximum) 

While there’s no one size fits all approach to any essay questions, and the specific questions change from year to year, NYU’s essay tends to favor students who weave personal narratives into a short but compelling story that explains their path to finally deciding on NYU. 

Tang’s essay starts with a fun, personal anecdote and uses the following 450 words to fluidly incorporate her past work. She’s comprehensive without simultaneously sounding like a boring resume. Scroll down below to read Vanessa’s essay from start to finish. 

As a nine-year-old clutching a crispy chicken taco, I proclaimed that NYU was the school for me. After all, the myriad of dining options were unparalleled by any other college I had visited with my sister. I had already carefully examined each school according to my own food standards, and NYU was perfect!

Seven years later, as I returned to NYU to inquire about its intellectual opportunities, student community, and overall experience, I was again strikingly impressed. I realized that NYU’s academic and cultural life was even more vibrant than the colorful food trucks dotting each corner.

One year later, it is 8:00 a.m. I attend a seminar of the Stern Cohort Leadership Program. I look forward to using my problem-solving skills to propose solutions to community issues, skills that I have learned through my Better World Collective internship to creatively engage the business community. Most importantly, I’m looking forward to diving into one of the many innovative learning experiences Stern offers.

I leave the session as I stride to MGMT-UB. I’m looking forward to extending my experience with business growth and analysis in Professor Schaumberg’s class, experience I developed when I directed Launchpad by FBLA and helped over 30 student entrepreneurs thrive. I am prepared to analyze an organization’s strategic challenges and propose a solution in the final project, and I’m ready to learn the leadership techniques to do so. Whatever the task may be, I have a passion for developing the businesses of tomorrow, and I am glad I can continue that passion at Stern.

I enjoy the afternoon with my cohort, my community. Perhaps we’ll enjoy a CACE event, or participate in Stern Spirit Week by pieing our club president. Whatever it may be, I know I’ll enjoy it with my friends, at the school I call home.

Today, I hope to pursue a career in management.  So why Stern? The cultural hub and diversity at Stern will help me be an empathetic manager who can work with employees of all backgrounds. Through the innovative academics, collaborative community, and interdisciplinary nature, I’ll be ready to forge any managerial career I choose.

Today, I am still 17 years old and still in high school, but I can well imagine the possibilities Stern offers. And – I am still hungry, hungry for that crispy chicken taco, and hungry for the unique experience only NYU can provide.

Did your college essay help you snag a spot at your dream school? If so, we’d love to hear about it. Email this reporter at mdegeurin@businessinsider to discuss sharing your story. 

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