By: Alexandra Lazaridis

Do you find yourself to be a chronic over-committer? Well, to be honest, most of you probably are. We are TC students, after all.

With the start of school approaching, my biggest piece of advice in taking on the year (and thriving…and still having a social life) would be to hone your time management skills (I am literally editing a final paper while typing this). Growing up, I remember high school teachers stressing the importance of this to me. Little did I know it would actually affect the rest of my life!

At TC, I’ve been lucky to complete my M.A. (I’m currently working on an Ed.M) and my initial certification as a New York City teacher. Over the two years of my M.A., I also had the privilege of working in the Office of Admission as both a work-study and interim worker when a colleague went on maternity leave. For me, it ended up working out that I could work in addition to student teaching, although teaching candidates should never plan on this. I credit my early time management for being able to do so, which is why I stress the importance of it so much.

First off, when you look at your trajectory or your program sheet, try to set earlier deadlines for yourself than others have. If you have to take two certification examinations for the state before you graduate, don’t leave these tests until the January of your last semester! During my first year, I spoke with colleagues in the cohort above me to gauge the busiest semesters and how I could alleviate the workload. I decided to take two of the classes needed for my final year during the summer as well as all of my certification tests.

My program (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages – TESOL) also requires EdTPA (a teaching portfolio that the state must approve) and a final MA project. I made the goal to submit both early (I submitted the MA project a semester early and the EdTPA in December rather than April) just in case revisions had to be made.

This freed up time for me during my final year here so that I could fully dedicate myself to student teaching and work my interim job in the evenings. (Note: NEVER leave your student teaching for a job. It’s not the TC way!) And if you’re student teaching, your work study may allow you to come back to work during school breaks and holidays! A little extra income never hurt.

In addition to this, I knew when to say “no” to provide myself with a work-life balance. There were some evenings I said “no” to friends so that I could finish an assignment. There were also some weekends when I vowed to not work on anything school-related because I knew that I needed a mental break. On a comedic note, my second year of grad school was also the year that I was in four weddings! I knew about these events far in advance so I made sure to work ahead and submit assignments early so that I could enjoy myself.

Above all, I recommend enjoying your time in New York City. We all balance multiple activities and commitments, but it’s important to give your brain a break and enjoy the city around you. Our Office of Student Affairs does an excellent job of ensuring that you have access to discounted (and sometimes free) events here on Columbia’s campus and in the city in general.

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