My next few blog posts will feature interviews with recent college graduates who have some incredible advice for any students heading to university this Fall. Our first contributor is San Carlos native, Catherine Luckenbach, who is currently living in New York City.
What were your expectations about your college experience prior to attending college and have those expectations been met or changed?
Most of my expectations were changed. I expected that there would be a lot of emphasis placed on being a “triple threat”. To give some background, in the Department of Drama at Tisch, there are different acting studios in which students are placed. I studied in the New Studio on Broadway, which is the studio that teaches musical theater. Because I studied in the musical theater studio, I thought that my training would place a lot of emphasis on being a “triple threat”. I quickly learned that at the New Studio on Broadway, acting is the most important component to everything we were taught. Acting is the most important part of musical theater. Of course, everyone is training to be an actor, singer and dancer. However, every one of our classes came from an acting perspective. Our dance classes, our voice lessons, our sight singing and music theory classes…everything we were taught was from an “actor first” perspective. We were trained to be actors that can also sing and dance anything that we are given.
"Our dance classes, our voice lessons, our sight singing and music theory classes…everything we were taught was from an 'actor first' perspective."
I also expected the musical theater environment to be fairly competitive and catty. I truly thank god that my college experience was not competitive. My classmates are truly my family. Of course when you spend almost 50 hours a week with the same people, you are bound to bicker and get jealous of one another. But overall, my classmates were incredibly supportive and encouraging.
Finally, I expected that going to a big school would mean that I could easily make friends outside of my musical theater program. That was NOT TRUE. Three days a week I had my studio (musical theater) classes from 9am-6pm, and the other two days I had NYU academic classes from around 9am-3pm. For almost half the semester you also have crew or rehearsal from 6pm-11pm. This leaves very little free time to hang out with people who don’t already understand your day to day situation.
What surprised you the most about your college experience?
I always really loved the idea of going to a college football game decked out in college colors and going to crazy themed parties on frat row! So I was really surprised at how much I didn’t miss or long for the typical college campus experience. NYU is very different from most colleges in that it’s in the heart of Greenwich Village. Sports aren’t really a thing (we don’t even have a football team). We share our “quad” with Anderson Cooper, crazy people, and activists.
Along those lines, I was also very surprised at how awful New York City really can be. I don’t know a single person who has moved to NYC that hasn’t had an experience that made them consider leaving NYC. (But for the time being, it’s definitely still the greatest city in the world! *cute music* the greatest city in the woooooorld!)
If you had to redo your college experience, would you do anything differently?
Yes!! If I had the HONOR of redoing my college experience, I would let go of trying to get everyone to like me and trying to be right like….the day college started. That definitely held me back from being the best actor I could be for a very long time. It was also exhausting. I would be more willing to fail and look totally stupid. I would study abroad. Tisch has so many fantastic study abroad options and I really wish I had taken advantage of them.
"I would let go of trying to get everyone to like me and trying to be right."
What was the hardest lesson you learned during your college career? What was the best lesson?
It’s SOOO hard to narrow it down to one lesson for each of those questions! I would say that the hardest lesson I learned during my college career is that the way you look really is a huge component to how you are seen in this industry. (But that doesn’t mean that you have to be tall and thin and the new Kelli O’Hara!!! In fact, the more unique you are - the better!!!!)
The best lesson I learned was to not compare yourself to others. Like really. Just don’t. It’s so silly. You can’t look forward and to the side at the same time. You can only be yourself.
What are the essential items to pack for college?
You should definitly bring a laptop, cell phone and a backpack to college. If you’re a musical theater major, make sure you have your different dance shoes and dance clothing. As someone studying musical theater, having a personal steamer was the best thing I could do for my voice. I also think it’s essential to pack pictures of your friends and family! Having a wall of pictures really made my dorm room seem more like a home.
Any other advice for incoming freshmen?
Forgive yourself and the people you meet! You and your friends are going to make so many mistakes and that is OKAY. You’re going to sleep through a class. You might have a little too much fun at a party and lose your phone. You may be so stressed and homesick and lonely that you lash out at your new BFF. It’s SO OKAY. You will get through it. Forgive yourself and forgive your friends when they make mistakes.
"Do not compare yourself to others. And don't try to get everyone to like you!"
Thank you, Catherine, for your sage advice! I wish you all the luck on your auditions. Keep looking forward.
And to all you future divas out there, I hope you found this advice helpful! More soon.