Applications can be completed online through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS). This link is for the GSAS home page: From here, click on the Application Resource Center link for the online application and GSAS application guide.

Note: The I/O program also requires a supplemental application question which is posted on this page below. Questions are typically posted 60 days prior to the due date.


For Spring admission: October 1

For Summer and Fall admission:  January 15

Note: Given the extremely competitive nature of the I/O program, serious consideration of the most qualified applicants may result in offers being extended beginning one month post-deadline.

Open House

The I/O Open House is an opportunity to hear from the Program Coordinator about the details of the program, ask questions, and meet students and alumni of the program. For information about the I/O Open House schedule and how to RSVP, click here:

Supplemental I/O Application Question (required for all applicants)

General Motors Case

Below is the supplemental writing sample required case study item for Spring 2015 applications (October 1, 2014 deadline). The case study for Summer 2015 and Fall 2015 applications will be released in November.


The I/O Psychology M.A. Program requires a writing sample essay. This supplemental document provides an opportunity for applicants to put Psychology and Science into practice (as expected in the program). It represents realistic preview of how one might be engaged to drive consultative intervention aimed at improving conditions for employers and employees alike.

This is a business case that asks you to write about the company, General Motors, from an I/O Psychology vantage point. In addition, it will allow for the inclusion of personal strengths, key background experiences, and personal perspective. Include personal challenges, priorities, goals, and achievements that might bear on candidacy for admissions to the program. Bring your own history, previous studies, business experiences, and interests into focus to address the real-world human capital challenges and opportunities the case presents.

The General Motors Case:

Background Summary / Business Conditions

One of the very largest manufacturers in the world, General Motors is the second largest producer of cars and trucks. With multiple brand lines as diverse as Buick, Cadillac, and Chevrolet, General Motors had long dominated the automobile manufacturing industry.

GM sells products in many countries, with China recently developing to be the largest market segment potentially after many years invested there. Although originating from Detroit, General Motors has truly become a global competitor for transportation vehicles.

When the economic crisis hit in 2008, costs surpassed earnings, however, due to longstanding contentions union relations and unmet pension obligations. Debt obligations simply became too substantial to meet repayment terms. Short on working capital, General Motors was forced into bankruptcy protection, yet miraculously saved through U.S. Government funding intervention.

Hitting bottom, GM declared bankruptcy in June 2009, but things hope to be on track for revival. Of late, GM has eliminated the burden of the government investment and has issued shares in the open stock market.

At the same time, the new car buyer market shrunk drastically in the economic crisis wake, decreasing to a new normal at least 30% less than at the prior peak before the meltdown.

Sales are also cyclical, however, and tied to gasoline prices. So even the best automotive firms will experience downturns related to the broader economy. The cycle appears boom or bust.

From financial crisis, through bailout, to recent safety recall scandal, General Motors finds itself all too often the focus of public attention. Much of which hasn’t been good news lately.

Concerns over fiscal discipline, forthright communication, and production quality have dominated the company news. Recall of vehicles has increased to record levels.

Mary Barra was appointed CEO to lead GM out of the mess. Rising up within the firm from college intern over 33 years, completing tours in Human Resources and Engineering, Barra became the first woman to run the firm, a consummate insider, steeped in local car culture and tradition.

Seen as a triumph by some for promotion from within in a largely male dominated industry, others question Barra’s ability to ride out the shock waves of the recent accusations and U.S. Congress hearings. Charges of cover up abound related to dereliction of duty to publicize or fix accident caused by known defects.

Safety / Quality Culture Revamp

Defective ignition switches and potentially related deadly accidents, may be hard to overcome. Legal staff at lower levels were apparently informed but failed to take action. Production did not build pervasive safety bias into vehicle production processes, if charges can be substantiated. Claims of malfunction point to inadvertent quality control problems in manufacturing at least.

Leadership and Management Reorientation

To overcome losses and perceptions of culpability for non-disclosure, Barra must open flow of communications and bring forward open criticism or concern from within. Employees will need to band together to find out central reasons for defects to limit recalls. Changes will likely need to be made in how information is gathered and interjected into management decision making.

Working Conditions and Employee Morale

One of the most significant needs involves rising costs concerns on pension obligations. Workers for decades were promised rich retirement incentives as a part of the collective bargaining agreements. Unfortunately, declines in sales have meant that those pension obligations have gone underfunded. Employees, therefore may be concerned that their retirement and promised payouts may be in jeopardy. A certain future unclear.

Staff working at General Motors have also suffered as a result of the damage to firm reputation. Once proud to be a part of a great institution heralded by friends and family, workers now may face taunts and accusations related to being bailed out financially. Public accusations also aimed at the firm for not acting sooner to respond to known defects can possibly be personalized.

Downsizing has driven remaining employees to work harder, push innovation, make up for lost colleagues all in a time when pay rates haven’t been rising. Working at GM has been tough.

No stranger to Human Capital concerns herself, Barra served as Head of Human Resources. Her recent testimony involved queries from U.S. Senators on her choice to retain the chief counsel. They pressed her to explain how she might change the firm culture without replacing the executive in charge of the lawyers who were suggested not to have done their job properly informing senior management or regulators of known defects.

Forced to cut and sell product lines, impacting dealerships, employees have felt the hardship. Many staff know former employees released or no longer working directly for the GM company. Although the firm was able to quickly get out from under massive debt to restructure, many long-term employees remain with long tenure and deep impressions of the firm as they knew it even well before the recent crisis. Minds won’t be easy to change given all that has happened.

A large and growing share of the revenues of GM come from outside the U.S. and North America. Opportunity seems to lie increasingly in light truck and sport utility vehicle lines. Emerging markets also represent growth potential more broadly. So there is some hope.

Prime competition abounds, such as from Ford, BMW, Mercedes, and Nissan. With increased globalization, GM may even begin to see U.S. markets include new start up competition likely to emerge from within India and China similar to the successes of Hyundai from South Korea. Economic barriers to start production are not necessarily as difficult to overcome as they might have once been, especially for smaller low cost vehicles for basic transportation. The advent of computerized design and development has allowed for modeling capabilities with little up-front technology investment by way of comparison historically.

Global growth in automobile purchases should be healthy across 2014 and into 2015 though, raising potential for revenues if execution and sales can prevail. Buick is on the upswing. So there is the possibility for light at the end of the tunnel. Rising sales and profits, however, also raise staff desire for higher wages, incentives, and resolution of the millions in unfunded future pension obligations.

To thrive, General Motors must regroup, reassess, and revise. Leaders must raise engagement to improve efficiency, cut costs, and perhaps even release redundant staff. The management team will need to enhance innovation and take on tough competition. Staff will need to buckle down and work even harder to help GM re-engineer to succeed.

It might be suggested that General Motors is at a key tipping point. It presents a chance to reset the culture and values reinventing a new customer and employee experience. Or it could become one big challenge too great to survive. A number of leading organizations have collapsed from scandal, unable to repair trust with customers, staff, and regulators.

Without significant renewal, GM could find brand tarnished and shrinking customer base, failing to evolve and adapt. Or conversely, some firms have turned public outcry to reason and bias for action on change. General Motors could similarly be spurred on by these issues and challenges so as to fundamentally revamp the firm to competitive advantage.

You have been asked to independently assess the situation from an I/O Psychology perspective, to make intervention recommendations, and offer potential pathways to resolution, assessing to see the interventions actually work.

Contentious discussions with employee groups, regulators, and management await. Time is of the essence. A plan is needed to prioritize, focus, and direct activity.

Essay Guidelines:

Write a 1,500 word essay describing how you might advise and help GM. Information within the firm and to external inquiries has been perceived as less that fully forthcoming or timely. The problems of General Motors need to be addressed on multiple levels including operational, technology, employee engagement, leadership, morale and commitment – and put into the larger context of a global economy and regulatory environment.

Specifically, what are the major areas of concern you have about the situation at General Motors in terms of the challenges resulting from the scandal, and in the current context? What data might be gathered and analyzed to understand the Human Capital issues and the viability of potential solutions? What might be suggested to resolve employee concerns? In what ways might the issues parallel those for other companies under public scrutiny vs. spring uniquely from the specific situation, leadership, and staff at General Motors?

In what ways might global and cultural factors impact new leadership positioning and the relationships with employees? What benefits might be gained by suggested consultative intervention at General Motors? What risks or downsides might need to be avoided? What tradeoffs need to be evaluated? How might individual staff, work teams, and the overarching organization as a whole be involved and impacted? How could success be measured? What might indicate that the intervention had addressed the most important problems needing to be addressed? What might a realistic practical business solution involve and entail?

From a personal and professional development perspective, what components from previous training, education, and work experience would help you to investigate, inform and improve the situation for General Motors? Why might you personally be the best candidate to address these issues? What personal strengths, skills and special abilities could be utilized so as to be selected in competition to earn this assignment? How might taking on this assignment through the NYU I/O Psychology program address your professional development and career aspirations?

Your essay must be unique and an original work of your own creation. The document submitted must not exceed 1,500 words. The essay should be solely of your own writing and ideas. Content beyond 1,500 words will not be considered. As science, parsimony is key. You may cite research, or other ideas by including explicit references for any external resources paraphrased or copied from other sources.

Evidence that this essay has quoted material or ideas lifted without proper reference or written by third parties will result in application rejection. This essay is designed to personally engage and reflect your understanding of models of psychology, business, science, analytical methods, and your professional development goals in the service of applied problem solving. Therefore, minimize restating the problem and information given in the question and focus on your value-added ideas: prioritizing, ordering and answering questions and providing solutions.

Prepare a brief video overview of your ideas and interventions to upload. Deliver a presentation to professional colleagues summarizing your essay and ideas on the General Motors situation.

For further investigation of the General Motors circumstances, you may find some or all of the following sources a good starting point, and accessible online or at a local university or public library. You may also want to consider other reference books, magazines, journal articles, or business sources to inform your thinking about I/O Psychology and the particular issues involved within the General Motors case.

Recent relevant references:

Documents Show General Motors Kept Silent on Fatal Crashes. New York Times. Rebecca Ruiz and Danielle Ivory. July 15, 2014.

G.M. Inquiry Cites Years of Neglect Over Fatal Defect. New York Times. Bill Vlasic. June 5, 2014.

Buick Sheds Its Old Fogy Image and Lifts G.M. New York Times. James B. Stewart. July 11, 2014.

At Hearing on G.M. Recall, Mary Barra Gives Little Ground. New York Times. Bill Vlasic and Aaron Kessler. July 17, 2014.

The Difficulty in Holding Executives Accountable. Dealbook New York Times. Peter Henning. July 21, 2014.

General Motors Names Mary Barra as CEO: Auto Maker’s First Female Leader Will Replace The Retiring Dan Akerson. Wall Street Journal. Jeff Bennett and Sara Murray. December 10, 2013.

GM to Recall 8.45 million More Vehicles in North America: Auto Maker to Book $1.2 Billion Charge in Quarter. Wall Street Journal. Jeff Bennett.

Senators Challenge Mary Barra Over Decision to Keep GM’s Top Lawyer. Wall Street Journal. Jeff Bennett and Siobhan Hughes, July 17, 2014.

Contact Us

For more information about applying to the I/O program call 212-998-7920