Students scramble for selective study abroad sites

Due to a record number of study abroad applications this year, many students remain on waitlists. Some were rejected entirely.


NYU has received an unusually high number of study abroad applications for the spring 2023 semester. (Courtesy of Clint McLean via NYU)

Bryn Borzillo, Senior Staff Writer

When spring study abroad decisions for the spring 2023 semester were released to students on Oct. 11, Tisch junior Ryan Wasserman was celebrating the Jewish holiday of Sukkot and was unable to use technology due to the celebration. He therefore could not see that he was accepted to his first choice location: NYU Madrid. 

But less than 24 hours after decisions were released, Wasserman found out that his decision was rescinded. Instead, he was put on the waitlist for the study away site.

“I called, genuinely thinking it was a mistake, and they informed me that it wasn’t a mistake,” Wasserman said. “Because I didn’t confirm in time, they had pushed me to the waitlist.”

After speaking with administrators in the Office of Global Programs, which manages NYU’s study abroad programs, Wasserman was told that this year was an “anomaly” due to impacts from COVID-19, with students either being accepted to one of their top three choices, waitlisted or rejected entirely. According to the administrators, almost 3,400 students applied to study away in spring 2023 — a 30% increase from already high pre-pandemic levels.

Wasserman included spending his spring semester abroad in Madrid in his four-year study plan, and planned to take Spanish classes and conduct research for his senior thesis. His admission to the program is still not guaranteed, but he is hoping to get off of the waitlist soon.

“If it were to happen that I cannot go to Madrid next semester, big big changes would need to come, and I would need to completely rework my schedule,” Wasserman said. “It’s possible that I wouldn’t be able to fulfill all of my requirements to graduate with two degrees in four years.” 

Almost 5% of applicants were waitlisted for their top three choices and recommended to study away at another location with a guaranteed spot, according to the Office of Global Programs. The high volume of applicants meant that although the percentage of waitlist decisions has remained approximately the same over the past several years, more students than normal are forced to await a decision this year.

“Many of the sites where we have seen the most interest are also experiencing increases in tourism, which makes finding appropriate housing even more challenging,” Christopher Nicolussi, the assistant vice president of student services and support for the Office of Global Programs, told WSN. “However, we are hopeful that we will be able to identify at least some additional space in some locations over the course of the next few weeks.

In a Sept. 20 email to students, the Office of Global Programs told those who applied to study abroad during the spring semester that due to a high volume of applicants, they might not be accepted to their top choice of location — especially for those looking to attend NYU Florence, Paris, Madrid or London. 

The office also encouraged accepted students to finalize spring study abroad decisions quickly in order to allow time for students to be taken off the waitlist and file visa applications.

Karin Amir, a Stern sophomore who was waitlisted for NYU Madrid, said that as a result of the decision, she had to create a new schedule that will allow her to study abroad a different semester. She planned to complete her general education requirements for Stern abroad as a sophomore. 

“I was under the impression from upperclassmen, from advisors, from professors — from basically everyone — that everyone got at least one of their first or second choices, if not their third choice,” Amir said. “I started checking with other people and realized that they had not gotten anything either, and realized that the only people who did get something were either juniors, student athletes or people who had a very specific program.”

Although most of the sites in Europe received an increased number of applicants, there is still space available at the Abu Dhabi, Accra, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Tel Aviv and Washington D.C campuses. Students who have been placed on a waitlist and do not receive an offer for spring 2023 will be given priority to one of their top two choices if they apply to study abroad in the near future.

Contact Bryn Borzillo at [email protected].