Skip to All NYU Navigation Skip to Main Content

NYU Revises Admissions Practices for Applicants Convicted of a Crime


New York University, one of several hundred colleges and universities that use the Common Application for undergraduate admissions, is changing its approach for the 2015-16 admissions cycle for those who “check the box” on the Common App asking if they have ever been convicted of a crime.

Applications Will be Initially Evaluated Without Conviction Data From Common Application

New York University, one of several hundred colleges and universities that use the Common Application for undergraduate admissions, is changing its approach for the 2015-16 admissions cycle for those who “check the box” on the Common App asking if they have ever been convicted of a crime.

MJ Knoll-Finn, NYU’s Vice President for Enrollment Management, said, “Colleges and universities are places that believe in the power of learning to change lives, and that believe in second chances, especially for those who may have made mistakes at a young age.  And we are aware of the concerns being raised on a national level about the sometimes disparate impact of the criminal justice system. But the members of our community and the parents of our students also have a reasonable expectation that the University will do all it can to provide a safe learning environment for our students.

“NYU is taking steps to try to strike a balance between those two principles.

“Beginning with next year’s admissions cycle, all applications will initially be read without awareness of whether the applicant checked the box indicating that he or she had been convicted of a crime.  Once an initial admissions determination is made, a team of admissions officers -- specially trained on fact-based assessment and issues of bias -- will evaluate whether a past criminal offense would justify a denial of admission.”

Acknowledging a prior criminal history has not been a bar to admission to NYU in the past.  Annually, NYU typically receives about 50 to 80 applications in which the applicant indicates he or she has been convicted of a crime, and each freshman class typically includes five to 10 students who have “checked the box.”

“This new approach,” continued Ms. Knoll-Finn, “will separate the issues of an applicant’s academic qualifications from his or her history of criminal conviction and ensure the fairest possible hearing while still enabling the University to make thoughtful decisions about ensuring the safety of its community.”

The University will form a special committee within five years to review and evaluate this new approach.

The University added language about the new practice on its admissions website (http://www.nyu.edu/admissions/undergraduate-admissions/apply/prior-criminal-conviction.html):

NYU is one of 500 colleges that uses the Common Application, which asks students if they have been convicted of a crime. Because we are part of the Common Application system, this information is made available to our admissions committee.

At NYU, we believe in second chances and are also sensitive to the fact that there are many people who harbor deep concerns about whether our justice system fairly and equitably serves all members of our society. At the same time, when information about convictions comes to our attention, NYU has a duty to evaluate this information in a fair and equitable way, keeping in mind the importance of providing a safe environment for our community.

At NYU, we review all candidates for admission holistically, and we do not automatically deny admission to those with a criminal conviction; every year, we admit applicants who “checked the box.” Academic qualifications are the primary consideration; other factors are also considered as part of this holistic review, in which we try to take a measure of the whole person and his or her circumstances.

Starting in the 2015–2016 admissions cycle, we will put in place a process by which all undergraduate applications will be reviewed initially without knowledge of whether the applicant has affirmatively answered the question of whether he or she has been convicted of a crime. Once the initial assessment of admission is made, the applications of those applicants who checked the criminal conviction box will then be reviewed by a special committee, made up of a team of admissions professionals who have been trained to perform an assessment based on a multi-factor analysis to determine whether a past criminal offense justifies denial of admission.

The special review committee will make a final determination about admission, and candidates will be notified of their admission decision at the same time as all applicants are told in the admission cycle.

Students admitted to NYU through this process will be offered supportive services during their transition to college.

A special committee will be convened to re-evaluate this policy no later than 5 years from the date this policy went into effect.