Congratulations, Class of 2019—you've officially made it! And now comes the swirl of complex emotions. After years of hard work toward a single goal, many grads feel a little uncertain about where to set their sights next. But that's normal! We asked NYU alumni who've been in your shoes—and gone on to successful careers in the arts, business, government, medicine, law, and beyond—to share what they wish someone had told them back when they graduated. Their consensus? Spend less energy on what you think you should do and concentrate on making time for what truly moves you. Leave room for gratitude, and be open to unexpected opportunities. Take a breath. You've got this! Read more of their words of wisdom, humor, and encouragement below. 

Joe Iconis (Steinhardt '03, Tisch '05)

Writer of musicals including Be More Chill, Broadway Bounty Hunter, and Love in Hate Nation

 

Joe Iconis

When I graduated, I wish I had known...

That it would take 14 years for me to reach what I thought my goal was. But it turns out that it wasn't really my goal after all. At the time, I would've been very confused by this knowledge, so maybe it's good I didn't know at the time!

The best advice anyone ever gave me was...

When you see a piece of art and a person involved in said art asks you what you thought immediately after, it's your job to say: "I loved it." It doesn't matter what you actually thought. No one cares. And if you say anything other than "I loved it," you are an asshole. An honest asshole, but an asshole nonetheless.

I'd advise the Class of 2019 to spend more time on...

Letting your anger and frustration manifest itself in creation.

...and less time on...

Letting your anger and frustration manifest itself in (self) destruction. But public destruction is OK. Knock down those walls. Use the rubble to build a path.

My final words of wisdom?

Be a good human. Be loyal. Be heartfelt. Be ferocious. Don't be an eye-roller. Caring about your work is sexy. Talent is part of it, smarts are part of it, but it's really about working hard and dedicating yourself fully to your craft and to your community. Collaborate. Get over yourself. Believe in yourself. And order drinks you can't afford—your drink orders should be aspirational.


Ebonie Smith (Steinhardt '10)

Music Producer/Audio Engineer, Atlantic Records

Leena Asfour

When I graduated, I wish I had known...

There is reward in consistency and incremental growth. Never give up on your craft or your dreams, because the reward goes to those who stay the course.

The best advice anyone ever gave me was...

Treat everyone the same. Whether intern or CEO. Treat everyone the same.

I'd advise the Class of 2019 to spend more time on...

your craft.

...and less time on...

social media.

My final words of wisdom?

Believe! God doesn't give us dreams to ignore them. Believe and work hard for what you want.


Michelle Bacharach (Stern MBA '12)

CEO, FINDMINE

Michelle Bacharach

When I graduated, I wish I had known...

That the things you choose to do will only make sense as a neat story in retrospect. Don't try to fit them into a clean narrative now.

The best advice anyone ever gave me was...

Just don't stop! I have a startup and it's more clear than ever that if you just keep going something great is around the corner. In other words, keep your head up.

I'd advise the Class of 2019 to spend more time on...

Being grateful.

...and less time on...

Comparisons with others. (That means less time on social media!) Teddy Roosevelt said, "Comparison is the thief of joy."

My final words of wisdom?

Enjoy these next few years when you have no idea what you're doing. Just do something, and you'll be great.


Will Roland (Steinhardt '11)

Actor starring in Be More Chill on Broadway

Will Roland

When I graduated, I wish I had known...

How young I looked and acted. It was both a liability AND an asset!

The best advice anyone ever gave me was...

Don't be scared. Don't apologize. Don't talk to yourself. (These are the cardinal rules of auditioning.)

I'd advise the Class of 2019 to spend more time on...

Things that feed you creatively and spiritually.

...and less time on...

Worrying about what other people are doing.

My final words of wisdom?

Work hard. Then work a little bit harder, and be nice to everyone you meet. 


Dr. Mathylde Frontus (Silver '98, '99)

Assemblymember, 46th District (New York State Assembly); Adjunct Assistant Professor (NYU Silver School of Social Work)

Dr. Mathylde Frontus

When I graduated, I wish I had known...

That my educational journey had just begun. As fate would have it, I would find myself in pursuit of other graduate degrees, culminating with a PhD some 15 years or so later. In hindsight, I have no regrets, as every step I took along the way opened my mind in ways that I didn't know was possible.

The best advice anyone ever gave me was...

that it's OK to be serious and driven but that my pursuit for professional success should not be mutually exclusive with personal enjoyment and taking time to fully enjoy life. In some ways, it was a variation of the old adage, "take time to smell the roses."

I'd advise the Class of 2019 to spend more time on...

Activities (paid or volunteer) that you find meaningful and fulfilling, even if you're not sure how it fits into your "big picture." It is a joy and a privilege to express one's passion through work. As the old adage goes, "choose a job you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life."

...and less time on...

worrying about the future. Don't feel pressured to know exactly what you will be doing five years after graduation. It's fine to have a general sense of your trajectory, but the truth—and the beauty of life—is that we don't always know where we will be and what we will be doing from month to month, much less year to year. Therefore, it's best to pursue opportunities that you find meaningful while also remaining open to new opportunities.

My final words of wisdom?

It is truly a privilege to graduate from one of the finest institutions of higher learning in our country. As cliché as it sounds, the world is indeed your oyster. When I graduated college in 1998, I couldn't even conceive that 20 years later I would be in elected office. And yet, every single job and volunteer opportunity that I pursued since college has prepared me for my current role. I feel lucky to look back now and feel like I would not change anything. I see all of my previous roles of non-profit executive, entrepreneur, and educator as invaluable learning opportunities. I urge you to remain committed to the intellectual curiosity which brought you to NYU, and to continue to explore the questions that matter to you, whether others share your concerns or not.


Alysa Nahmias (Gallatin '01)

Filmmaker, Ajna Films

Alysa Nahmias

When I graduated, I wish I had known...

how helpful it can be to stay in touch with professors who you connect with in college. They are a great resource right after graduation, and also in the long run.

The best advice anyone ever gave me was...

If there's something you can do about it, don't worry. And if there's nothing you can do about it, don't worry.

I'd advise the Class of 2019 to spend more time on...

doing what you're meant to do in life, what you feel a deep calling to do, what's difficult to do, what you find beautiful, and what you may be afraid to do.

...and less time on...

doing what comes easily.

My final words of wisdom?

Be there for each other. I've been fortunate that people I met at NYU are among my closest friends, trusted colleagues, and powerful mentors. I hope the same will be true for this year's graduates.


George Xu (Tandon '94, '99)

Founder and President of Century Development Group

George Xu

When I graduated, I wish I had known...

more about the great benefits of networking among the alumni.

The best advice anyone ever gave me was...

to put in your best effort on whatever you do.

I'd advise the Class of 2019 to spend more time on...

what you love to do!

...and less time on...

being negative.

My final words of wisdom?

Dear fellow NYU graduates: Congratulations on your accomplishments! Rest assured that you are well prepared to get out there and conquer the real world. Please keep in mind that hard work and perseverance will ultimately pay off. Believe in yourself and don't give up easily. All the best!  


Suhaly Bautista-Carolina (CAS '08, Wagner '11)

CEO and Founder, Moon Mother Apothecary

Suhaly Bautista-Carolina

When I graduated, I wish I had known...

that even though it felt like the end, graduation was really a new beginning—an opportunity to try new things and to make mistakes, a time to see the world, create memories, and embark on new adventures. I wish I'd known that the pressure of time does not dictate my life, that I can re-create myself and my story many times over and still end up right where I want to be.

The best advice anyone ever gave me was...

If it doesn't nourish you, let it go. Make space for what is truly yours.

I'd advise the Class of 2019 to spend more time on...

adventure, exploration, and making mistakes.

...and less time on...

money, a picture-perfect career, and pleasing others.

My final words of wisdom?

"All that you touch you Change. All that you Change Changes you. The only lasting truth is Change." —Octavia Butler


Quintin Haynes (Wagner '16)

Chief of Staff, NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services and Adjunct Professor of Management, NYU Wagner

Quintin Haynes

When I graduated, I wish I had known...

To be patient and present—you have your whole life ahead of you.

The best advice anyone ever gave me was...

You are good: whole, complete, and lacking nothing.

I'd advise the Class of 2019 to spend more time on...

being still and available.

...and less time on...

being busy and unavailable.

My final words of wisdom?

Welcome to the next chapter of this book called life. Whether this was one of your best experiences yet, or one of the most challenging, today you cross the finish line together with your hands raised in victory.

Remember that this is your journey, and only yours. You are passionate and ambitious. Go change the world! To whom much is given, much is required. You are what the world has been waiting for. Do not let yourself or it down.


Bertha Jimenez (NYU '16)

CEO, RISE Products

Bertha Jimenez

When I graduated, I wish I had known...

that getting a job is not the only thing you can do after getting a degree.

The best advice anyone ever gave me was...

Creating positive impact in the world is the same as improving ourselves.

I'd advise the Class of 2019 to spend more time...

working on yourself.

...and less time on...

working for someone else.

My final words of wisdom?

Your education is just a platform—it's what you build on it that matters.


Natalia Cineas (Meyers '06, Wagner '09)

Senior Vice President and Chief Nurse Executive, NYC Health & Hospitals

Natalia Cineas

When I graduated, I wish I had known...

How much you really do know upon graduation from the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. The program is one where every course and clinical experience builds on the previous one to ensure you are prepared to enter the workforce.

The best advice anyone ever gave me was...

The best advice I was given was to learn as much as I can with every opportunity. I made sure to ask as many questions as possible in all roles, which helped prepare me to lead within our profession.

I'd advise the Class of 2019 to spend more time on...

yourself, so you can be your best for your patients and team members.

...and less time on...

sweating the small stuff. Learn from it and remember lessons learned.

My final words of wisdom?

Be humble and surround yourself with people who will support you on both good days and bad days.


Jay Grossman, DDS (NYU '89)

Owner of Concierge Dentistry

Prof. Jay Grossman

When I graduated, I wish I had known...

Albert Einstein.

The best advice anyone ever gave me was...

to save at least 20% of my income.

I'd advise the Class of 2019 to spend more time on...

caring for your body.

...and less time on...

social media.

My final words of wisdom?

Dream big, write down your goals, have an accountability partner to hold you to your goals, and give back to the community.


Leena Asfour (NYUAD '14, MED '18)

Resident Physician in Otolaryngology, NYU Langone Health

Leena Asfour

When I graduated, I wish I had known...

Life moves quickly and it is important to be mindful and deliberate in how you choose to shape your life. This is especially true when it comes to your relationships, hobbies, and self-exploration. It's easy when you are first building your career to focus solely on that, especially if you are doing something you are passionate about and love. But it's important to make time for all the elements of yourself. If you love to play piano or learn languages, make time for it even if your schedule seems impossibly crowded. 

The best advice anyone ever gave me was...

not to sweat the little things. 

I'd advise the Class of 2019 to spend more time on...

Looking for the things in life that give you a little thrill in your heart and spark your fascination.  

...and less time on...

worrying about trying to fit a specific mold or check boxes on an application.

My final words of wisdom?

Ask for what you want. Most of the time you will find people willing to help you reach your goals. Sometimes people can open opportunities for you that you didn't know were possible. The worst anyone can tell you is no. And even then, don't let anyone tell you that you can't accomplish something. Most limits that are dictated by our cultures, societies, institutions, and even ourselves are arbitrary. There are real structural barriers in our world based on race, religion, gender, socioeconomic background and so on. But if you put your best effort forward, show people your passion and persevere, your dreams will be within your reach somehow. 


Cesar Francia (LS '08, CAS '10, Law '14)

Associate, Morrison & Foerster

Cesar Francia

When I graduated, I wish I had known...

that compound interest on student loans accrues rapidly and that it is crucial to have a great credit score in order to refinance student debt early!

The best advice anyone ever gave me was...

Take risks, follow your heart, show up at events that interest you, and meet absolutely everyone. You never know where your next job offer will come from!

I'd advise the Class of 2019 to spend more time on...

your passions, hobbies, and activities that bring you joy!

...and less time on...

activities that do not inspire you but you think look good on your resume.

My final words of wisdom?

Self-care is your first priority. Everything else can follow!


Dmitry Dobrovolskiy (NYUAD '18)

JD Candidate at Harvard Law School

Dmitry Dobrovolskiy

When I graduated, I wish I had known...

that I would likely never live in the same neighborhood with most of my friends ever again.

The best advice anyone ever gave me was...

to be empathetic towards all people, and to always try to understand where they are coming from and what leads them to act a certain way.

I'd advise the Class of 2019 to spend more time on...

indulging in the ideas and experiences of people around you.

...and less time on...

worrying about what the future holds for you.

My final words of wisdom?

Life is full of challenges. Accept and embrace them always. You'll learn and gain so much from them and, if you're lucky, meet amazing people along the way.


Emily Lazar (Steinhardt '96)

Chief Mastering Engineer and President, The Lodge

Emily Lazar

The best advice anyone ever gave me was...

Never give up.

I'd advise the Class of 2019 to spend more time on...

doing what you love with the people that mean the most to you.

...and less time...

talking about it.

 


Roxanne Roman (Shanghai '17)

Language Consultant at what3words

Roxanne Roman

The best advice anyone ever gave me was...

a play on familiar words, with a twist: The message was to bite the hand that feeds you. It was advice given to me upon my graduation from the Schwarzman Scholarship by my classmate Bo Seo of Harvard University. The idea is to not be driven by loyalty to the way that things are, but to be motivated by honesty about the way things could be. Remember that NYU admitted you as a change-maker, and you are also leaving today with that power and ability. 

My final words of wisdom?

Please remember that we are also lucky to have graduated from NYU and to have had the experiences that we've had. There's so much more we can do to open this space for others to also be so lucky. Take care of yourselves, take care of your friends, take care of everyone who has supported you along the way, and really savor the moment. Congratulations, class of 2019! You did it!


Alessandra Biaggi (Steinhardt '08)

New York State Senator from Senate District 34

Alessandra Biaggi

The best advice anyone ever gave me was...

two-fold: It is to fail fast and to listen to the whispers. I have failed at more things than I can even take time to share with you, and it is because of that, that I am here. Listening to the whispers of who I knew I wanted to become, of who I knew I was, of what I knew I was capable of doing, allowed me to persevere and to have grit in the situations and circumstances that were so incredibly hard. I failed to get into NYU the first time I applied. I failed to get into my preferred law school the first two times I applied. I failed the bar exam the first time that I took it. Those are the reasons I was able to listen to those whispers—to essentially trust myself. And it's the reason I'm able to share this message with you today from my Albany office in the New York State legislature.

I'd advise the Class of 2019 to spend more time on...

thinking about how to make transformational change. As Chairwoman of the Senate ethics committee, I work in a body that is very much used to transactional change and transactional ways of being. I am being intentional about how we shift from a paradigm of transaction to transformation—to doing things because we should do them, and because the people we represent need us to do them. We need to create new systems and new ways of being. The old system no longer working in the world we live in. 

...and less time on...

listening to the people who tell you no or that you can't or that it's never been done before or that you're so crazy for thinking about pursuing the thing you want to pursue. I can't tell you how many times I was told how crazy I was to run for this seat, and how impossible it would be to win this race. And yet here I am. We create the lives that we want to live.

My final words of wisdom?

The time is always right to do what's right—especially when it's hard, especially when it's uncomfortable, and especially when it means going out on a limb or being the only one to speak up. Do it. We need you to. The entire world needs you to. Whatever industry you're going into needs you to do that. We need more people who are brave enough to break their own hearts—who are brave enough to make sure that this world is left in a better place than where we found it.