On the day I received my letter of acceptance to New York University, it marked one of the greatest days of my life. For years, I had worked for admission into the Tisch School. Summers were spent in Pre College theatre training programs, writing intensives, and every waking hour chasing this dream. Then I got my letter of acceptance to Tisch School of the Arts. I was excited, I was 18, and I was going to do this, for real. My experience at New York University was one I will always treasure, but here are 5 Things I wish I had known beforehand:
1.) Your First Year Can Make You or Break You
New York is a true, bustling metropolis. It consists of people from every walk of life, every nationality around the globe, every sexual and gender orientation, and every belief system you can imagine. This can be very shocking, especially if you are from suburbia like I was.
On top of that, your classmates are from many different places with ideas different from your own. I was a Pittsburgh girl who was raised Catholic with strict parents. My first year roommate was a Buddhist with liberal parents who owned a pot farm. This was just one of many shockers. Oh and everyone has different “slanguage.” I found this out when some of my classmates drank soda, and I asked for a gum band aka rubber band.
Also, the weather in NYC is temperamental. My first year, I got the crash-course in layering and learned to always carry an umbrella, and I learned this the hard way. Lastly, I learned the hard lesson that when life is good, NYC is a “helluva” town. When life is bad it is the loneliest, darkest place on the planet. Just know it can be both.
2.) There Is No Centralized Community
New York University says New York is its campus. It is not lying. However, there is no centralized community. Washington Square kind of acts as the central green, but not really. Because of the spread out nature of the non-campus campus, friendships are hard to retain.
I was “besties” with some of my dorm mates first year, but we lost track of each other when we didn’t live in the same building. If someone was in my group in studio, especially a scene partner, we became tight. When the studio groups switched, it was harder to keep track of that person. In my academic classes, many times I bonded with people over headed discussions, and we even became friends, sometimes, after disagreeing.
But then we fell out of touch after the semester ended. Also, Greek life is not big, and neither are sporting events. If you need this as a part of your college experience, as well as lifelong friends, this place is not for you. There are a few things you shouldn’t miss while attending New York University, some might help you feel more connected.
3.) You Grow Up (Very) Quickly
This is NYC, not a sleepy college town. There is a lot to do and not enough time to do it. The city never sleeps, which is exciting, but it can also mean big trouble if you aren’t careful. My first year, the kid down the hall that was really a nice dude got arrested for selling drugs. This was after his connection in another dorm snitched on him.
Another girl I knew succumbed to the pressure, developed full blown anorexia, and was hospitalized. Friends flunked out because the party never ended, and therefore class became optional. New York University is not a drug zone or psych unit, but New York is a big city and young people with little life experience don’t always think clearly.
Say “no” if your gut tells you too, and surround yourself with good people. Sticking to your guns and getting a good education is more important than being the club kid or celebutante.
Planning a campus visit? Check out my article with things to ask on your tour.
4.) Some Of Your Teachers Will Be Severely Unstable
There is an old saying, “Those that can’t do, teach.” I learned this my first year. In that block of time, I had one scene study teacher who whined about how the industry never treated her well despite her talent. She bullied many of the female students to the point of tears. Another acting teacher had an alcohol problem and sometimes wouldn’t show up and class would just be cancelled.
Then there was the writing teacher who whined about how all she received was rejection letters and failed students left and right with her poison red pen. A lot of kids got sick from all this instability and torment, and a lot of my classmates left. Hint: New York University gives you these people first year to weed people out.
After my first year, I am grateful to say I had many inspiring teachers who not only were thrilled to carry the message, but to deliver it as well. They changed my way I looked at art, the world, and life. You need to survive Cerberus before going to Hades, so don’t let the Boogeymen/Boogeywomen scare you.
5.) New York University Will Not Help You Find A Job
Sorry to break the bad news, but let me save you some time. New York University will not help you find employment when you graduate. The theatre students’ showcase, but that is done by audition and then maybe a callback to make the cut. Many still do not secure representation.
As for the career alumni office, they really don’t do much to help either, arts majors or not. Many of my professors, while wonderful people, had been ensconced in academia and out of the industry for many years so they had no clue how to guide me. Basically New York University teaches you to think, and then you are on your own. You have a good education, now go use it.
On a positive, New York University really does work with their students, and there is never an issue that cannot be fixed. You also come out a well-rounded scholar as well as person, and can handle anything, anywhere.
April Brucker received a BFA in Acting from the Tisch School of the Arts in 2007. She is the author of I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl. For more on April please go to www.aprilbrucker.com.