School or a Career? An NYU Dilemma

Faith Gates
Gallatin junior Casey Whyland performing in the Reality Show during the Presidential Welcome for the Class of 2020.

The goal of many students going to college is to learn about their profession and how to succeed in it, but sometimes they are forced to choose between finishing college and beginning their career.

NYU is known for training and producing many Broadway, film and TV stars, but sometimes those stars don’t even finish college. For many students hoping to become professional actors, they often have to choose between committing all their time to their studies or pursuing roles outside of the classroom.

Gallatin junior Casey Whyland made her Broadway debut when she was only nine years old. After auditioning and getting a role in the national tour of “Annie,” Whyland performed in the tour of “Billy Elliot.” During these years of performance she was homeschooled, as her parents wanted to make sure she completed high school before moving to New York City.

“I stayed at home for the last few years of high school to make sure I finished,” Whyland said. “I focused a lot on school and did a bunch of school shows. It’s about balancing between balancing the career and graduating.”

Whyland mentioned part of that balance has been trying to match up audition times that don’t conflict with her classes, which has proved difficult. She hopes to graduate early to get into the business sooner. For now, Whyland believes that both excelling in academics and moving forward in her career are equally important.

“School has always been a priority, but it’s hard to say,” Whyland said. “If some movie star calls you and says, ‘Hey I want you to do this movie with me,’ I wouldn’t say no. Life happens, but I will graduate. It’s like two different aspects of my hopeful grown up life; they’re different sides of the field.”

However, according to Tisch sophomore Madison Kitchen, NYU discourages students from working professionally. Working outside of classes could potentially lead to students dropping out or missing classes because of shows, according to Kitchen.

“I would say school is my priority,” Kitchen said. “I definitely want to be learning as much as I can, and I don’t want an outside show now to take away from the potential to have more opportunities later. They don’t want us working outside of school because we’re still in school and we’re still learning; we’re not ready to work yet.”

While Whyland and Kitchen focus on school, Tisch senior David Merino has deferred his education for a year to follow his dream in theater by playing Angel in the national tour of “Rent.” While he would’ve been a senior this year, he still plans to come back and finish out college after the show.

But there are some NYU students who try to do both.

Tisch sophomore Charis Swartley, who was in the off-Broadway show “Medea” last summer, is a full-time student during the year and a full-time performer during the summer.

“Over the summers I always try to be involved in something, because taking a break from what I love is not really a break,” Swartley said. “I’ve been in three shows outside of school, but I also try to involve myself in as much film as possible, usually small projects my friends are working on.”

However difficult it is to balance, these students have said that they wouldn’t trade their experiences for anything. Whyland said the business taught her to grow up faster and work and learn independently. Kitchen loved the environment of the theatre and said it taught her professionalism.

“From my experiences I’ve learned that I don’t like taking breaks, and in a profession like acting you must know how to work to the bone and enjoy it,” Swartley said.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 26 print edition. Email Faith Gates at [email protected]

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