Why we left NYU: Stories from students who transferred out

Sometimes, this silly purple school isn’t the place you want to spend your college years, and that’s OK.


Kevin Wu

Without the “U,” it’s just New York. (Kevin Wu for WSN)

Liz Lindain, Contributing Writer

I came to NYU as a transfer student in the fall 2021 semester. Like me, many students dream of attending NYU for its prestigious academic programs and the experience of growing into their 20s in the city of opportunity. But for some, once they experience being a New Yorker for a few semesters, they realize that maybe it isn’t what they wanted.

College transfers are more common than you might think. According to Campus Reel, more than 700,000 students transfer to different colleges every year. For the 2022-23 school year, the first-year retention rate at NYU was 93%, but students are increasingly asking about transferring on the university’s subreddit. 

Everyone knows that NYU has an unconventional college experience. We don’t have a big football team or extravagant Greek life. When accepting their offer to NYU, most people consider this aspect and think that they want the non-traditional college experience. This was the case for Sixx Orange, a former NYU student who transferred to the University of Southern California before the start of this school year.

“I realized that the complete non-traditional college experience ended up not being what I wanted,” Orange said. “It was exactly what it showed up to be but it wasn’t for me.” 

Leo Zhou, a first-year studying applied mathematics at the Tandon School of Engineering, wants that traditional college experience as well. He enrolled at NYU on a full ride, but as a Manhattan native, he realized that he wanted to leave the city to start a new life. Zhou hopes to attend the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University or Northwestern University. 

“I wanted to transfer in the first place because I’m from New York City and wanted to leave the city to get away from family, explore a new place, sort of start a new life, and experience the traditional college experience,” Zhou said. 

One of NYU’s appeals is that there is no campus. Branded as the “campus without walls,” the university doesn’t have all of its academic buildings in the same area. Students don’t even get to experience the traditional quad most universities have. Orange tells me that USC’s campus is just a square, so everyone that’s within it is a USC student.

“I didn’t realize how much I wanted a campus,” Orange said. “A place where I can go and be just a student, and not have to think about the world surrounding me all at once.”

Without a traditional college experience or campus, it can be hard to find a sense of community here at NYU. Organizations such as the Student Government Assembly, Welcome Week and hundreds of clubs have tried their best to foster a community, but it can still be difficult for students to put themselves out there and meet new people. 

“There’s not one single thing that everyone’s united for [at NYU],” Orange said. “At USC, the simplest thing could literally be football.”

Another reason why students choose to transfer is that NYU is one of the most expensive institutions in the world. The cost of tuition for the 2022-23 school year is $58,168, and it will only continue to rise. NYU is also infamously known for not offering helpful financial aid packages for students who need it the most. Chloe Rodriguez, a sophomore in the Liberal Studies Core program who will transfer to Washington State University after this semester, said that her family doesn’t have the money anymore to give to NYU. She says there have been many situations in which NYU has proved that they just wanted her money.

“Over summer, I applied for scholarship appeals,” Rodriguez said. “In the first round, I was denied and in my second round, I was also denied. It was something that really bothered me because my household income is less than six figures. [NYU] seemed to not really care about my circumstances.”

Even if NYU solved Rodriguez’s issues and gave her the proper financial aid she needed, she stated that she probably wouldn’t have come back for another semester. 

“This school has exploited [its] status,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like they kind of do prey on people who are minorities or people who are willing to take out loans to live out their dreams of living in New York.”  

Even though NYU doesn’t have the traditional college experience that most 20 year olds have, and is outrageously expensive, it’s still one of the most prestigious schools in the world and is located in a city with countless opportunities for any field of study. People dream of being a student here and would practically do anything to call themselves a Violet. With that in mind, students may share a sort of guilt over thinking about wanting to leave. 

“Am I being selfish?” was a question Orange asked herself a lot throughout her transfer process. After all, she was on a scholarship and a student in the journalism program, which is one of the best programs in the country. 

But, people that want to transfer out of NYU are very set on achieving that. Although Tandon is a great engineering school with great programs, sophomore Said Nassif said that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has always been the end goal. 

“I have a goal and I want to achieve it,” Nassif said. “I’m working on a digitized artificial intelligence project which involved blockchain stuff. It’s a very deep project. Now, I want to include this project with my studies so I want to transfer.”

He is currently looking to transfer to study and continue projects related to digitalized artificial intelligence and blockchain technology. 

It’s no secret that NYU is challenging. The raging imposter syndrome and the constant feeling of wanting to be the best can be draining. On top of that, feeling you don’t have a community to fall back on and the amount of money you are paying each semester is ridiculous. If you aren’t having the best time here, Zhou says don’t stay because of prestige. 

“A lot of people have asked me why I wanted to transfer considering people are fighting to get it, but I don’t feel guilty for wanting to leave,” Zhou said. “It’s not wrong for wanting to change higher education institutions if they don’t support your goals and needs.” 

Though they’ve realized that NYU wasn’t the place for them, no one seems to regret attending NYU in the first place. 

“I dreamed of coming to NYU so much,” Rodriguez said. “If I hadn’t gone here, I would have regretted that.”

I’m not saying or encouraging you to transfer out of NYU. Do whatever works for you. At the end of the day, it’s your life and your experience. If leaving the purple school is what you have to do to enjoy yourself, then so be it. 

“It’s OK that it doesn’t fit,” Orange said. “That’s why transferring is a thing.”

Contact Liz Lindain at [email protected].