NYU Stern: Decoding the ‘Pick Six Pictures Essay’ – What would Ansel Adams have to say?

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NYU Stern: Decoding the ‘Pick Six Pictures Essay’ – What would Ansel Adams have to say?

Those applying for MBA abroad would know that NYU Stern MBA Class of ’23 saw roughly 4000 applications from across 32 countries, vying for 771 seats. With an acceptance rate of about 19%, let’s take a closer look at the NYU Stern evaluation matrix before we get into decoding the famous and unusual ‘Pick Six’ essay.

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NYU Stern evaluates each candidate holistically across three dimensions throughout their complete application: the academic profile, professional achievements and aspirations, and personal characteristics.

“We seek students who best exemplify Stern’s core value: IQ+EQ. Our admissions committee takes care to select those who demonstrate strong intellectual ability, superior interpersonal skills, and a desire to create value for business and society.”

When Sternies speak about the community, they express support, warmth, inclusivity, and feelings of being part of a family. The powerful community is the perfect mix of IQ and EQ.

No wonder, they have the interesting ‘Pick Six’ as one of their essay prompts.

Essay 2: Personal Expression (a.k.a. “Pick Six”)
Describe yourself to the Admissions Committee and your future classmates using six images and corresponding captions. Your uploaded PDF should contain all of the following elements:

  • A brief introduction or overview of your “Pick Six” (no more than 3 sentences).
  • Six images that help illustrate who you are.
  • A one-sentence caption for each of the six images that helps explain why they were selected and are significant to you.

Note: Your visuals may include photos, infographics, drawings, or any other images that best describe you. Your document must be uploaded as a single PDF. 

Best MBA colleges abroad, like the HBS essay, have an open-ended prompt, that can leave you in a state of flurry. How does one go about picking these images that are definitive of your personality, and descriptive of your traits?

Before you approach ‘Pick Six’, go back and see what you have already covered/are planning to cover in the short answer and essays 1 and 3 in terms of your goals and career aspirations. No point in repeating the information. I have listed the topics below, but in this blog, we will be discussing the ‘Pick six’ essay in detail.

Short Answer: Professional Aspirations
What are your short-term career goals?

Essay 1: Change: _________ it.
In today’s global business environment, the only constant is change. Using NYU Stern’s brand call to action, we want to know how you view change. Change: _____ it. Fill in the blank with a word of your choice. Why does this word resonate with you? How will you embrace your own personal tagline while at Stern?

Essay 3: Additional Information (optional)

You could include something fun if you have had a deep engagement with it. You may be tempted to make this essay quirky and fun, but remember what NYU is looking for and how you can demonstrate those qualities to them.

For example – A picture of your scuba diving pursuit in the beautiful waters of Mauritius won’t make sense if you aren’t an adventure seeker or an adrenaline junkie. Or an image of you in an LGBTQ Parade is a waste if you haven’t been doing enough to support the community over a period.

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The pictures can be a collage of incidents or a progressive story. Think about what adjectives your family and friends would use to describe you. What are your unique qualities? How would you like a future classmate to know you?

Also Read: SAT or ACT: What to choose

EduPeer maintains that this is a process of self-discovery so the answers may not come to you immediately. Spend some quality time introspecting, and reflecting on your professional and personal journey. Another interesting way to crack this is by looking at your digital timelines across social media. Aren’t your pictures demonstrating something to your friends or telling a story?

What are you like in real life? If the Admission Committee can come closest to making the right judgement, you have succeeded. Think of it like a silent movie, where you must tell your story effectively and efficiently through images, unlike abstract art where one can arrive at any conclusion that they deem fit.

Isser Gallogly, the Associate Dean of MBA Admissions at the NYU Stern School of Business says, “This is an opportunity for you to go beyond your résumé and tell the Admissions Committee about who you are as a person, what’s important to you and what you are passionate about. We’ve gotten great feedback from candidates who say they had fun with this part of the application.”

Gallogly further emphasises that a lot of communication these days is visual and verbal, so the Pick Six is like ‘Admissions Meets Instagram.’


Next comes the three-sentence description and the one-line captions:

Here is your chance to display your IQ and EQ, as succinctly as possible, and at the same time tell the Admissions Committee who you truly are.

E.g.: if you have shared a team picture of a sport that you have played, you could display your leadership in the caption:

“This was the first time I led a team in the interstate championships, and although we lost, I won friends for life.”


If you have shared a picture of yourself with your family, it could be-

“It takes a village to raise a child. I was brought up in the joint family system where we were 12 people in one single household. I learnt sharing and collaboration very early on.”

Pursuing an MBA abroad for Indian students is a dream come true. Here are tips to keep in mind while writing the captions:

      1. Get all the information – Who, Where, When, Why.
      2. Limit the use of adjectives unless you have facts to back it up. Focus on the action instead.
      3. Identify the audience:  What is the one thing that you want the reader to take away from the caption.
      4. Establish context and intention. Think of it as a mini-story.
      5. Think in terms of a conversation.
      6. Don’t use quotes or lyrics, unless they fit in beautifully, and don’t sound like a cliché.
      7. Involve the reader: Allow them into your world.


As always, EduPeer helps students who aim for an MBA abroad – to craft their personal stories and build a cogent narrative in their application journey. We invite you to ‘Pick Six’ with us!

At EduPeer, we can help you with all your college admission needs, from choosing the right country and subjects for you to college lists, resume building, interview preparation and much more. Book a free consultation by clicking on the button and filling in the details below.