10 Things I Wish I Knew as an NYU First Year

Tackle the city right from the start with these helpful tips

Washington Square Park fountain and arch.

Welcome Home, NYU 2025!

We’re excited to have you join our family. As eager as you may be to step foot on campus as an NYU first year, take a moment to check out these words of wisdom from a fellow Violet. 

1. The City Isn’t That Hard to Navigate

As an NYU first year, I panicked the first time I looked at a subway map. However, after just my first semester, I navigated my way through the city like a pro! The trick is simple: you can’t ever learn how to find your way around if you never try. You will (inevitably) get lost at least once, but hey—that’s life. Grab a couple of your fellow first years and try to make your way around Manhattan together; traveling in groups is always a safe, great idea! In addition, donʼt be afraid to use Google Maps the first few times (or throughout your four years, if youʼd like).

A GIF of a subway car moving past a student, depicting the anxiety of an NYU first year.

2. NYU Seems Big, but the Community Is Tight-Knit

We mean it—there is truly nothing like our student body. As an NYU first year, you will have access to all sorts of groups and communities; whether itʼs the people from your classes, your roommate/suitemates, or on-campus clubs, you have plenty of opportunities to find long-lasting friendships. NYU has super niche clubs (available to everyone despite major or program), tons of varsity and club sports, and even themed engagement communities within the residence halls. Your NYU family is waiting for you, First Year!

3. You Wonʼt Go Broke as long as You Budget Yourself

The temptation to spend money is so real—especially in New York City. However, in order to avoid blowing out all your life savings within your first month of your first semester, budget your spending habits. In addition, contrary to popular belief, you donʼt have to spend money to have a good time in the city! There are tons of fun, free things to do, so you can save that extra spending money for something else in your budget (dinner at one of the many restaurants around Manhattan, perhaps).

A GIF of the facade of Joeʼs Pizza in the West Village.
Joeʼs Pizza, a popular destination for Violets in need of a good, affordable slice.

4. Dining Halls Have Tons of Options

Contrary to popular belief, dining hall food is fantastic—especially for NYU first years. If you live on campus, you wonʼt be more than five to eight minutes away from the nearest dining hall … that is, if you donʼt live in the same building as one! Plus, with options like vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, halal, and kosher, NYU really caters to every kind of dietary requirement. A word of advice … brunch at Palladium is a canʼt-miss dining experience, so grab your friends one Sunday morning and enjoy!

5. Itʼs OK to Spend a Night In

Any college veteran will admit that theyʼve battled FOMO (fear of missing out) at some point throughout their four years. However, a key to a great college experience is identifying your own social limits. If youʼve had a crazy week, donʼt put pressure on yourself to go out if youʼre genuinely not up for it. Spending the night in is totally acceptable and fine! Plus, your friends will always be there next week, so it wonʼt hurt to take it easy one Saturday. Catch up on your favorite, free HBO Max shows and movies (Thanks, NYU!) and snuggle with your coziest blankets for a perfect night in.

A view from a dorm in Alumni Hall.
The view from a cozy room at Alumni Hall, one of NYUʼs on-campus residence halls.

6. Your Family Is Only a FaceTime Away

Itʼs normal for every NYU first year to feel a sense of homesickness, but never fear—we fortunately live in the 21st century! Make a habit of FaceTiming or calling your family during your daily campus commutes, in between study sessions, or before bed. It’ll help combat your homesickness and serve as a reminder that no matter how far from home you may physically be, your family is always there to support you.

7. Find Your Favorite Spots to Decompress

If the city gets overwhelming (and it will sometimes), find your zen zone. In fact, peaceful spots around campus include Washington Mews, Washington Square Park, or perhaps one of GCASLʼs many meditation rooms. Off campus, I recommend searching for your own quiet corner of the city. Whether itʼs a tiny bookstore, a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop, or your own personal zen garden, finding your “spot” to de-stress is important, especially as a first year. NYU may be an urban school, but that doesnʼt mean you wonʼt find a private place for peace.

Washington Mews: a cobblestone street that hosts most of NYUʼs international houses.
Washington Mews: a street that hosts most of our international houses.

8. Cut Yourself Some Slack

Youʼre showing up, working hard, and doing your best—and thatʼs amazing. Thereʼs no reason for you to be hard on yourself! Adjusting to college life can feel overwhelming, but remind yourself how hard youʼve worked to make it here. Added stress wonʼt contribute to your college experience, so fill your inner monologue with positive affirmations. Youʼre strong, youʼre smart, and youʼre amazing. Youʼve earned your place, NYU Class of 2025, and we canʼt wait to see what amazing work you do while youʼre here!

9. Take Advantage of All Your Opportunities

Though you havenʼt embarked on your NYU journey yet, know that the next four years will fly by. That being said, make sure you take advantage of all the incredible opportunities NYU offers! These resources will only add to your time as a Violet. Whether itʼs in your academic career, housing experiences, or extracurricular clubs and organizations, you have access to top-notch opportunities, so make the most of them.

An NYU building and university flag near Washington Square Park.

10. Enjoy Your Time as a Violet

This may seem self-explanatory, but this is my way of telling you to enjoy the glory days before you leave them. All jokes aside, as soon as you step on campus as an NYU first year, you become part of the family. Enjoy every minute and soak up every second. Weʼre so excited to welcome you, and we hope youʼre just as excited to join us.