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Prior Criminal Conviction

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

At NYU 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. In the NYU Member Questions, we ask our own narrow questions about convictions or disciplinary actions involving violence.

We believe these narrow questions 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 disciplinary question in the main section of the Common Application because we believe it to be too broad. Instead, we ask a more-focused question that we think is 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.
  • Special Scholarship: Students who were formerly incarcerated are eligible to apply for the NYU Horizon Grant. Scholarships are awarded independently of the admissions decision, with preference based on need. Scholarship recipients may receive up to the full cost of tuition, based on need. Both first year and transfer applicants can be considered for the Horizon Scholarship by submitting the scholarship application, which will require applicants to share their criminal record. This documentation will be cross-checked with the information provided in the application for admission. The Horizon Grant is only available to students on our New York City campus.

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 criminal or disciplinary offenses, please contact Jonathan Williams, Assistant Vice President for Undergraduate Admissions, at +1 212 998 4554.