NYU’s flag.

So What Happened Was…

My last year of college is making me reflective. Transitioning from high school, moving to a new state, and making it through a global pandemic has been…quite the time. However, my time at NYU is full of memories I’ll never forget. High school Marisa could have never dreamed of this life, but I did it, y’all! As a first-generation student, I wasn’t convinced I’d go to college. When I told told my school counselor I wanted to apply to NYU, she replied, “Maybe you should aim a little lower.” But I didn’t let anyone tell me where I belonged. I not only applied to NYU but was admitted. I hope this guide will give the next student with big dreams the knowledge that they can do it too.

NYU Who?

Applying to NYU

I’m going to keep it real with y’all. Miss Nicki Minaj and a summer intensive acting program where all the participants kept talking about their future plans were my introductions to NYU. I went home, googled “NYU acting,” and found the program of my dreams. Applying was hard. I spent hours on YouTube searching for Common App guides and Google looking up scholarships during study hall. There is no shame in not having the “traditional” background or knowledge of how to do these things. NYU isn’t just for the “traditional.” It’s also for the first-gen students who have nothing but access to a public computer, the help of “applying to college 101,” and the drive to apply no matter what. I promise you, you can do this! There are many resources to not only help you get into NYU but also thrive once you’re here!

The author outside of Tisch pointing to a work by Eric Hart Jr.

Make Ya Money!

The Wasserman Center

School can be expensive. So my top priority once I arrived on campus was finding a job. The Wasserman Center not only helped me find a job but taught me important skills like résumé building, networking, and interview etiquette. These skills still support me today. What’s more, I now know how to navigate the working world in ways I never even knew existed.


Barbs Stay in School

 Academic Resource Center

If I’m honest, I was not academically prepared when I left high school. I knew I was intelligent, but I often felt behind the imaginary “NYU type” as far as my technical knowledge went. The Academic Resource Center (ARC) addressed all my concerns. There, you’ll find a variety of academic support resources. With a bit of the ARC’s guidance, I felt more and more confident and found myself really enjoying my classes for the first time.

Mentorship Programs

There are so many types of programs for extra guidance, especially for first-gen students. Through clubs, programs, and general networking, I received the support I needed. Now I am a mentor, passing along my knowledge.

Imposter Syndrome

My first few months at NYU, I felt like I played a trick on everyone. I didn’t feel like I belonged and I felt so small in comparison to my classmates. These feelings are lies, y’all! You have every right to be here. Period. NYU admitted you because it will gain something from you being here! As first-gen students, our struggles are difficult to navigate because there’s truly no precedent. But we are the precedent. We are the ones making a path for students just like us. You will elevate every room you walk into and NYU is lucky to have you. We bring an entirely new way of thinking and being here. We are shaping the future.

In My Feelings

I can’t explain why, but I felt the pressure was on once I got here. I thought I had to make everyone proud and prove why NYU admitted me. As first-gen students, we are used to working so hard that we forget to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Of course, we want to make people proud and demonstrate our success. However, don’t forget you are a person too. We are really just doing our best, y’all. College is a time for exploration, growth, and a bit of fun! If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust. Plus, you can contact our Wellness Center for additional support.

Love the Hustle, Prioritize the Break

When you’re so used to working hard for everything you get—and going the extra mile to get there—you can get stuck in a grind, grind, grind mentality that isn’t sustainable. Make sure to create time for yourself and prioritize your needs too. Don’t feel shame in taking breaks, going out, or simply doing something you want to do. Our time in college is precious, and you want to spend it well.

One Last Thing

Since coming to NYU, my life has changed so much. I can proudly call myself a student at my dream school. Although my time here is almost done, I will take so much with me when I leave. It’s time for a new beginning—not only for me, but for you too. If you’re feeling that pull, that sense that you belong here, then you have to follow it. Being a first-gen student is hard. There’s moments of frustration, anger, and uncertainty, but you are never alone. You’ve got so many resources and a whole community here rooting for you. I hope whoever reads this knows they can do this too. Say it to yourself. I can do it. There is no door that can’t be opened. When something is meant to be, it will be, despite all the odds.

Beyoncé asking, “You ready?”

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.