Prior Criminal Conviction

NYU is committed to treating those with a criminal or disciplinary history with dignity and respect.

At NYU, we believe in second chances, and we are sensitive to the deep concerns many people have about the fairness of our justice system and whether it equitably serves all members of our society. We know that higher education can be an important engine of social and economic mobility and can enable people to make positive contributions to society.

NYU uses the Common Application, which is used by approximately 600 U.S. colleges and universities. However, we will no longer take into account any answer to the Common App’s broad questions about criminal or disciplinary offenses. Applicants to NYU need not answer those questions.

Instead, in the absence of clear, objective studies about the predictive value of such questions, NYU has substituted its own narrower questions about convictions or disciplinary actions involving violence in the NYU-specific part of the application.

We believe these narrower questions better strike a balance between giving people a second chance through higher education and providing the University with information that may have a bearing on our campus’ safety. Answering “yes” to these questions is not and never has been an automatic bar to admission, and an applicant’s answers to those questions will not even be reviewed until we make a preliminary decision based on academic merit.

We review all candidates for admission holistically. Academic qualifications are the primary consideration of our holistic evaluation process, which also includes an analysis of one’s extracurricular accomplishments, work experience, letters of recommendation, essays, personal characteristics, talents, and life experiences.

Our Admission Process

In keeping with our commitment to treating those with a criminal history with dignity and respect, NYU made changes beginning with the 2016-17 admissions cycle (for admission in fall 2017):

  • Ignoring the questions on the universal section of the Common App: NYU will ignore any answers applicants provide to the questions in the main section of the Common Application regarding criminal and disciplinary history because we believe them to be too broad. Instead, we ask two more-focused questions that we think are more relevant to the issues of campus safety.
  • “Box Blind” first reading: All applications for traditional undergraduate admission are initially reviewed by admission officers without knowledge of whether they have “checked the box” in the NYU section of the application indicating a criminal or disciplinary history that involves violence or physical harm.
  • Special Committee Review: Once an initial evaluation is completed, and if a positive recommendation by an admission officer based on our holistic review is proposed, the applications of those who indicate a criminal history in their applications are reviewed by a special review committee. This special review committee includes admission officers, university staff, and faculty trained to perform an assessment based on a multi-factor analysis to fairly determine whether a past criminal offense justifies denial of admission. This special review committee is responsible for making a final determination about admission. Candidates are then notified of their admission decision.

As we indicated previously, answering “yes” to NYU’s questions is not an automatic bar to admission. NYU reviews all candidates holistically and will seek to understand the context of any “yes” answers. So, we strongly urge applicants to complete their applications regardless of whether they answered “yes.” 

If you have any questions about NYU’s philosophy and approach to the Common App’s broad questions about criminal or disciplinary offenses, please contact Jonathan Williams, Associate Dean and Director of Admissions, at +1 212 998 4554.