An NYU flag hanging from an NYU building.

Pursuing an artistic degree has always been a hot topic. But pursuing an artistic degree during COVID-19 has many people unsure if it’s even worth it. This has undeniably been one of the hardest years for students around the world. COVID-19 changed our ways of being people, and especially our ways of being students. We’re a year into it, and still looking for some sort of sign that everything is going to be OK. And for those of you who haven’t entered college yet, the fear is real! NYU has adjusted according to these times, but for those pursuing a degree in the arts, it may seem impossible. But let me show you some of my experiences before you make up your mind!

What Works for YOU

Let’s be honest, COVID- 19 has forced us all to make some tough academic choices. For me personally, I decided to take a break from studio and focus on my minor. I went from taking drama courses all day to jumping into pursuing my filmmaking minor. But the best part was the options I had from my professors. I had auditioned to join the Atlantic Theater Company program, and while I was struggling to decide to stay in studio or not, they told us we would all have our spots saved for a full year in case we wanted to defer from the program. Now, as someone jumping back into the program, they’ve been nothing but helpful for the transition back. I am sill able to pursue my arts degree, but on my own terms.

Reaching Out

Adam Sandler saying, “Trust me. It works.”

Don’t be afraid to talk to your advisers about your options. I’m quick to email someone about a question, and it’s been so helpful! I mentioned to my adviser how my ADHD makes the online sessions harder and they pointed me to the Moses Center, and now I have a classmate in each class helping me take notes in case I miss something. This was only one adjustment I made to make pursuing an artistic degree work for me! Additionally, many of my friends have been working side by side with their studio heads to talk about class length, breaks, and overall mental health.

Same Class, Different Approach

My screenplay writing teacher took adjustment to the next level. He completely changed the course, offering it as a powerpoint he narrated, which we completed each week on our own terms. It was narrated in a humorous way and I found myself so engaged. From there, we met for maybe 30 to 40 minutes on Zoom for discussions and questions. Additionally, we used the class forum to give feedback and talk about our work. This cut our screen time drastically but still felt so personal. This was mirrored by some of my other professor’s approaches. Each day, one of my professors would access the mood of the class before deciding how much time we’d spend on Zoom. If he felt we needed a break, he gave it. It reminded me that we were all human, and going through this together.

The World as We Know It

COVID-19  has changed the artistic world, not stopped it. That being said, Tisch changed with it. Many of the Drama courses have been focused on what it’ll be like to act on camera, or film a self tape for an audition. Which is exactly where the world is headed. My teachers are walking me through how to virtually audition, what a self tape is, and how to be ready for the world where it’s at. This has gotten me in many different rooms, even now, and I am grateful for the guidance. Those pursuing an artistic degree are being equipped with new applicable skills. I have had professors show up how to kill virtual auditions, and it’s helped me book multiple projects. Pursuing this degree now is learning the way the world worked before, but also how the world is changing and evolving.

Doing What We Can

As things change, the University is doing its best to let us meet in person. My roommate has been doing blended studio for over a month now and loves it. Half of her day is on Zoom, while her courses that would be better in person are in person! Through social distancing and mask wearing, the University has been able to slowly add in-person courses to the artistic programs that need it the most. We don’t know what will happen next year, but the University is doing what it can to find our way back to a level of normalcy.

Continuing to Create

The truth is, the artistic world isn’t slowing down. As the world begins to reopen so will the opportunities, and that’s ultimately why I came back. The unknown is frightening. But our world is changing right along with the unknown. Artist may be changing their approaches, but the world will always have a place for us. So, while the degree programs have been adjusted, pursuing your artistic degree is still worth it.

gif of Mel B saying

Marisa is a third year student at Tisch School of the Arts Studying Drama with a Minor in Film and TV. She previously was in the Experimental Theater Wing and plans to continue studying at The Atlantic Acting Studio. She is also a Resident Assistant at Coral Towers. A Virginia native, she spends most of her time writing scripts, doing yoga, and eating Halal Guys (chicken over rice never misses). She hopes to continue to collaborate with other artist of color and create a production company that will continue to bring joy and truth to her community.