A woman of color wearing glasses sits at a table in a New York City park.

Being the first to do anything is a challenge. As a senior in high school, I faced the unique challenge of applying to screenwriting programs as a first-generation college student. I am grateful that I had the help of my guidance counselors and the internet to work on my application to the NYU Tisch School of the Art’s Dramatic Writing program.

Even now, as a senior at NYU, I’m still learning how to navigate being the first. I’ll be the first person in my family to graduate from college and pursue a career in entertainment. It’s terrifying to think about, but I know I’ll be OK.

Throughout my time at NYU, I’ve picked up some tips on how to adjust to college life as a first-generation Tisch student!

A woman of color standing in front of the Comcast Building.
During my sophomore year, I went to NBC to attend a live taping of Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Your First Year Is About Exploration

As a first-year student at Tisch, I felt so many emotions. Nervous, excited, confused. I was riddled with questions. “How does art school…work?” “How do professors grade scripts?” “I want my work to be good—how do I make it good?” 

One professor told me, “This is all great, but don’t forget to have fun. This is allowed to be fun.” And that really sat with me. I had to shift my understanding of the goal of my classes. I stopped trying to appease my professors in hopes of getting A’s. Instead, I leaned into ways I could play and explore different ideas through my writing.

All of this is to say: your first year at Tisch is really about exploring your medium. You’ll spend the next four years in your major learning about all the rules. But once you know them, play with them. Break them! 

Take this time to figure out what you like to make.

A cartoon skill on a purple background with a speech bubble that reads, “Dead Man Talking—A Podcast.”
One of the first projects I made as a first year was a fake podcast in which the host interviews historical figures!

It’s OK to Ask for Help!

With NYU’s ambitious student body, sometimes I felt behind. It was easy to feel alone and question if I really belonged at NYU when I didn’t land an internship or do well in a class.

But, as cliché as it may sound, I really wasn’t alone! It’s rare for people to have it all together in college. Luckily, at NYU, there are a variety of support resources you can lean on if you ever feel lost.

Here are some resources I’ve used:

  • The Office of Student Success provides guidance and support for all students throughout their time at NYU. You can meet with a student success specialist to develop goals, work on academic skills like test-taking strategies, and more!
  • The Wasserman Center for Career Development offers services that support students’ professional development. Tisch also has its own career center called the Tisch Office of Career Development. This dedicated office helps students hoping to pursue creative careers. As a Tisch student, you have access to both centers!
  • The Wellness Exchange offers a variety of mental health and wellness resources and services.

There are so many people on campus who want to help and support you, so lean on them when you can!

Two women of color eating sushi at a table in a New York City park.

Your College Journey Is Going to Be Different and That’s OK

Everyone’s college journey is different, especially for Tisch students. The path for creatives is not traditional, and it can be hard to explain this to family members and friends. For some, there are expectations and pressures that come with choosing a career path.

But I dreamed of living a life where I could create the kinds of shows and movies I wanted to watch while growing up. And so, if I wanted to live a different life, I had to take a different path.

That wasn’t an easy thing to do, but I’m happy I made the decision to study at Tisch! There are so many talented and compassionate people who have helped me get closer to the life I want for myself.

So I implore you to run your own race. Know that there isn’t a strict timeline for how life should play out. Everyone will do things at their own pace. Trust that you’re going to be just fine!

Students of color taking a cooking class. All are wearing aprons.
Students of color eat dinner at a restaurant.

Sam Whitley (she/her) is a senior studying Dramatic Writing at Tisch School of the Arts with minors in Computer Science and Integrated Design & Media. Whether she’s developing a website or writing a TV pilot, Sam aims to create things that help make life easier for people. Outside of class, she’s rewatching her favorite animated TV shows, hitting the gym, and taking the LIRR home to visit friends and family. Despite her introverted nature, she loves meeting new people while working as an Admissions Ambassador and exploring NYC!