How I Read an Application (with the help of One Direction)

Hi Friends!

I hope you are all having a great week! NYC got slammed with snow last weekend—perfect application reading weather!! Last year I told you about the admissions counselors’ favorite music to listen to while reading applications. Admittedly, I’ve been listening to a LOT of One Direction lately. Maybe it’s because I’m reading files from the UK, or because their new album is my favorite (this is a judgement free zone, friends) but they’ve been at the top of my playlist this reading season. Harry, Niall, Liam, Louis—now that 1D is on hiatus, do you want to apply to NYU? Zayn, I guess you can apply too.

Now that you know what I’ve been listening to while I read applications, I want to walk you through how I read a file. NYU reviews applications holistically, meaning we consider all aspects of your application—from transcripts, to test scores, to letters of recommendation, all components of your application are super important to us! Below you’ll find the order in which I review components of your application, and what we’re looking for with each piece of your application.  The boys from 1D are going to help me too…

one direction louis tomlinson liam payne harry styles niall horan

When I open up a file, the first thing I look at is your transcript. Academics are going to play a big part of what makes you competitive for admission to NYU. We want to know that you’ve challenged yourself within the context of your high school, and we want to know that you’ve prepared yourself for the rigorous academic environment at NYU. We learn about your curriculum through your school report,and your school profile, which your counselor fills out . The profile and school report tell us the type of courses you can take (AP/IB/Honors/Dual Enrollment courses), and provide the admissions committee with lots of information about your school, including rank and graduation rates. We want to see that you’re challenging yourself within the context of your school, and that you’re excelling within those challenges. We look at things like trends: maybe you had a rocky freshman year but now you’re improving academically. While GPA is important, you’re much more than that number–it’s what’s inside the transcript that counts!

one direction louis tomlinson best song ever bse

Are those transcripts, Louis?

After reviewing a transcript, I continue my academic review by taking your standardized test scores.  Did you know that NYU has a flexible testing policy? We want you to put your best foot forward and send us what you think is your strongest test score. SAT, ACT, Predicted A Levels, 3 SAT subject tests–the list goes on and on! While test scores aren’t the driving factor in our admissions process, they are still an important component of your application, and hep us determine how you would perform in the classroom if admitted to NYU.

one direction harry styles 1d harry one direction gif

This looks like Harry going to take his A Level exams, right?

Next up, extra-curricular activities: How do you contribute to your school or community outside of the classroom?  The admissions committee wants to feel confident that you’re going to take advantage of the 400+ clubs we have at NYU! Do you take photographs for your school newspaper, work a part time job after school, help tutor younger members of your community, or play a sport? Let us know!

one direction harry styles 1d imagines one direction imagine

Let’s pretend that Harry is taking pictures for his school’s yearbook?

one direction louis tomlinson zayn malik liam payne harry styles

Or maybe all the boys are part of a dance club?

After learning what you’re involved in outside of the classroom, I like to learn a bit more about you through your personal statement.  Since we are unable to offer interviews to students applying for NYU’s New York campus, the personal statement allows the admissions committee to get to know something about you that we’re not going to learn from any other part of your application. I like to think of a student’s essay as my interview—it’s where I get to hear your voice and learn about your personality. This is my favorite part of a student’s application –whether you’re writing about a time you didn’t perform well on a big test, or your favorite pair of socks! Things we like to see: a well polished essay that is free of typos and grammatical errors that tells us something about YOU!

one direction louis tomlinson liam payne harry styles niall horan

Your essay shouldn’t be the ENTIRE story of your life, but it should teach us something about you!

Once I get a taste of your writing from the personal statement, I move on to the NYU specific questions. Why NYU? It feels like such an easy question to answer but because NYU has so much to offer, it’s hard to cram in everything you love about NYU into a few paragraphs. This section is important to the admissions committee because it helps us see how you would be a good fit for NYU and the school or college to which you are applying. Why do you want to study Sports Management at the School of Professional Studies? How will you take advantage of the global network as an International Relations major at CAS? Have you done your NYU homework? While I think our campus locations in Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, and NYC are incredible, we want to see that you’re interested in NYU beyond our locations in the great cities of the world!

one direction louis tomlinson zayn malik liam payne harry styles

Niall and Louis love the energy of NYC and the internship opportunities our Wasserman Center for Career Development can offer them!

one direction dance dancing reactions one way or another

Or maybe the boys of 1D want to spend their freshmen year abroad in London as part of the Liberal Studies Core Program–they could spend more time outside of 10 Downing Street!

I like to save the letters of recommendation for last because they help me round out my review of an application. Letters are a great way for the admissions committee to learn a bit more about your classroom performance, strengths, and weaknesses.  Your recommenders help us understand more about you as a student and an individual, and can speak to your academics, personal qualities, and college readiness. We require two letters of recommendation: one from a teacher in an academic core subject and one from your guidance or college counselor. We certainly welcome a third letter of recommendation but ask that students are respectful of our policy and submit no more than three. One year I saw 16 letters of recommendation in one application!

one direction zayn malik harry styles best song ever zarry

Harry counting his letters of recommendation, and Zayn reminding him he only needs to submit TWO letters!

After a first read, your application may head to committee, where additional members of the admissions staff will weigh in on your application and make a final admissions decision. Disclaimer: not every counselor reads an application in this order–some may start with the essay or the extra curricular activities–this is just one counselor’s perspective! Have any questions about how we review applications? Feel free to comment below or email us at

Thanks for your help, 1D!

One Direction music music video dancing video


  • Hi Ms. Larson!

    In regards to your last post: I can definitely overnight you some Molly Moon’s ice cream, though I must say the strawberry milkshakes are the juice I need for vitality. They’re kind of a rip off though, whenever I order one, I think of that John Travolta line from Pulp Fiction, “Did you just order an [eight]-dollar shake?!”

    Jokes aside, I applied this January and I was wondering if I could get your email? I’m from Seattle, so I figured you would be reading my application and I have an update for you!


    Manisha Jha
    February 3, 2016

    • Hi Manisha,

      I’ll have to try a milkshake when I head back to Seattle in April!

      All application updates can be sent to–you can send the email to my attention to ensure that I receive it.

      Let me know if I can help with anything else!


      Rebecca Larson
      February 9, 2016

  • This post really diffused all of my tention regarding application. Phew.
    Now I’m so totally looking forward to the 15th of Feb 🙂

  • Hi Rebecca Larson, I am Paloma and I am 17 years old. I’m from Spain and I’m doing a project about Martin Luther King . I’ve been trying to contact with any professor of the University but there is no way to contact with them. That is the reason why I’ve decided to write here. Please if you can help me finishing my project or you know someone who would be interested in it, answer me by sending an email. Thanks anyway. Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Paloma Blasco
    February 11, 2016

Leave a Reply