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New York University has its own type of notoriety. Although the school is known for its academic achievements, the university is more often singled out for it’s unbeatable location, celebrity attendees and unusual day-to-day realities. All of these factors make being a student at NYU unlike almost every other college experience, but the university still always ranks as one of students’ top “dream” schools in the Princeton Review’s annual College Hopes and Worries Survey (this year it ranked number three).
So with that in mind, I wanted to break down what it’s really like attending one of the most popular and most interesting universities in the nation. Then you can decide for yourself if NYU is your type of dream.
1. The people are amazing, and it’s a double-edged sword.
In general, every student, professor and staff member at NYU has an incredible story to tell. The professors are almost always big names in the industry or field that they teach and their personal accomplishments are beyond impressive.
As for the average NYU student, he or she is the type of student who did well in high school and took the time to study for the SAT – the middle score for students ranges from low-600’s to mid-700’s in each section. But most of the students also have a tendency to be unreasonably successful and interesting for their age. For example, one student was born in India but grew up in Japan and speaks five languages. The next published her first novel at the age of 16 and is now working on a degree in Biochemical Engineering, while balancing two part-time internships. And no, I’m not exaggerating.
In fact, I always liked to joke that at NYU, no matter how cool you think you are, the person sitting next to you is probably cooler – especially since there’s a pretty good chance you’re sitting next to Dakota Fanning. But like I said above, it’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, being constantly surrounded by a high-level of success and ambition can be intimidating and overwhelming. At the same time, it always drove me to work harder and improve my own credentials, which is something I know will serve me well in the professional world.
2. The city is your campus.
Technically, the main campus is located near Washington Square Park, where the largest cluster of NYU-owned buildings gives its students a relative degree of isolation. I say relative, because no matter how many purple flags you see flying over the buildings’ entrances, the truth is that Manhattan dominates. At other schools, students walk out of their classrooms and find more students, more classrooms. At NYU, as soon as you step outside the building you are not a student; you are a New Yorker.
And although there are certainly downsides to this sort of vulnerability – “I think that hobo just spit on me,” or “Mom, hold on I can’t hear you, there are five fire trucks driving by right now” – it does give you a special sort of spunk.
3. NYU is the school for students who wouldn’t quite fit in anywhere else.
NYU students are hard to categorize. They come from a variety of backgrounds and have a huge range of interests. Because of their many differences, it seems unlikely that the student body would ever willingly gel together to create the same sort of community one would see at a school like the University of Texas. This is partially due to a lack of huge, campus-wide events such as football games (NYU does not have a football team), and partially because the students are naturally independent.
But there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in the university on a smaller scale. NYU has a massive student body (over 19,000 students are currently enrolled in the undergraduate program alone), and it is made up of tons of tight-knit communities. Student life has a little something for everyone and 99% of the time there will be a club that fits you. If for some reason you can’t find a club celebrating your interests, NYU strongly encourages you to start one.
And no matter what, simply being a NYU student connects you to each and every one of your peers. There is a lot of common ground, from complaining about the subway traffic to bragging about which celebrity you saw on the way to class that day. At the very least, you can always chat about the crazy old man who directs student traffic and keeps everyone on schedule outside of Washington Square Park. Go visit the campus, and you’ll know exactly whom I’m talking about.