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Welcome, Freshmen: How to balance, life, work and play in NYC

Finding a quiet place to work, like the

Finding a quiet place to work, like the library, is key. (iStock) Credit: Finding a quiet place to work, like the library, is key. (iStock)

Fall brings college freshmen from all over the world to New York City — an amazing place to learn. With the city as a second campus, students get the kind of college experience that’s not available in the suburban sprawl of many college towns.

But the tricky part about going to school here is that the excitement of New York City can quickly take up all your time and drain your wallet. Here are some timesaving tips to ensure you get to have fun and still (possibly) get a 4.0.

Designate ‘work-only’ time
Betsy Capes, president of Capes Coaching, a Manhattan-based career-coaching organization, advises students to set “office hours” at a set time every week. Write the hours down in your calendar and use them strictly for homework, without texting or social media to distract, she said.

“By setting that time aside to do only work, you’ll be more efficient and get your work done faster, giving you more time to do whatever you like after,” she said.

Capes also suggests that a schedule for rituals — repeated actions that have a long-lasting impact — can help you keep on task.

“If you turn certain actions into rituals — like going to the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday or catching up on personal emails for 20 minutes every morning — you won’t have to think about these things and you’ll free up your time for other endeavors,” she said.

Set goals
During your office hours, set manageable goals for the upcoming week, which will help you accomplish larger projects.

-- Example of an overwhelming goal: Do term paper this week.
-- Example of a manageable goal: Write outline for term paper this week.

“Setting reasonable goals is crucial because it is very easy to fall behind on reading and homework assignments,” said Cristina DeLuca Savarese, an English professor at Hofstra University and Suffolk County Community College. “My advice to students is that when they get the syllabus on the first day of class, to not stuff it in the bottom of their backpacks, but to note the due dates of major assignments and put those dates in their calendars. It may seem minor, but being aware of due dates from the start can be a first step in breaking an assignment down into something more manageable.”

If getting started is the problem, clock it. Giving yourself the goal of working on one thing for 10 minutes will generate momentum to keep you going.

Break assignments into manageable parts
Barry Morris, associate professor of communication studies at Pace University, advises students to complete small parts of large assignments at once.

“Almost every student organizes study time by subject or assignment. That’s a mistake. It should be organized by task,” he said.

Morris said students should break larger assignments down into manageable parts and then complete all of the similar parts at once.

“If there’s flash card memorization or note organizing, divide the tasks by subject, but do all of that category at the same time,” he said. “This isolates the tasks as concrete skills.”

Find the ideal environment
A loud dorm room isn’t an optimal place to study. Find a quiet place with very few distractions, such as the library. If the Internet distracts you from your schoolwork, try going to a café that doesn’t have Wi-Fi.

“This is such an important point that far too many students overlook,” Savarese said. “It is absolutely essential to find a quiet place where you can work for long stretches without being distracted. ... If you’re doing your reading or homework in front of the television or while playing around on the computer, then you are just shortchanging yourself. I often ask my students, ‘You chose to come to college. Why wouldn’t you give yourself the best possible chance to get an A?’”

Prioritize your time
Capes advises being frugal with your time.
“There’s so much vying for your attention in NYC that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by overcommitting yourself,” she said. “You should examine what’s important and prioritize your options — socially, educationally, domestically — to say no to the things that aren’t priorities in order to say yes to the ones that are.”

Try an app
Apps can help with tasks and productivity. Try the built-in iPhone Reminders app; Fathm (fath, which uses graphs and charts to track your productivity each day; Notability (ginger, which allows you to take handwritten notes on your iPad; and the flashcard app gFlashPro (

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