A few weeks ago, college students commenced their studies at New York University, Columbia and the various other institutions throughout the City. If you're one of them, congratulations: no matter what your friends on sprawling campuses elsewhere tell you, the five boroughs are the greatest campus in the world—and you probably already know that if you've chosen to spend four years here.
We're sure that your orientations have already covered the basic benefits of going to college in NYC, like student discounts at local retailers, rush tickets to the likes of Broadway plays and Mets games and the wide range of places that serve cheap eats. But there are a few nuggets of wisdom we've picked up after a few years in the City that would have been great to know from day one. For your benefit, here they are:
It can be cheaper and easier to live off campus.
While each student needs to make his or her own decision on how close to live to class—and there is certainly considerable benefit to rolling out of bed in one's pajamas and landing in a lecture hall—there's no need to be intimidated by the prospect of moving to an apartment in the City, even if it's in a borough other than the one where you go to school. As long as you find a neighborhood in which you feel comfortable, it's easy to get used to the subway ride in the morning. If you live with roommates off campus, you might even end up saving some money over the price of a dorm—and you'll definitely have a kitchen.
You can see big names dirt cheap.
Going out in the City is fun, and lovers of music and comedy will frequently be able to find their favorite artists passing through on tour. But if you know where to look, you might catch them for free or next to nothing. The Knitting Factory's Sunday night comedy show, hosted by Hannibal Buress (a great comic in his own right), has had famous drop-ins like Chris Rock and costs nothing to attend. You'll also see well-known comics swing by the free ASSSSCAT shows at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre on occasion, and famous funny people sometimes schedule shows there in advance. Summer is high season for no-cost concerts—especially in Central and Prospect Parks—but free shows take place at other times of year too: look for hip events like the Brooklyn Night Bazaar or series such as Converse Rubber Tracks at Music Hall of Williamsburg. We keep calendars for all kinds of upcoming comedy shows and concerts (including some cheap ones).
You can find affordable fashion at sample sales.
We're not the first to say that the streets of New York City sometimes resemble a catwalk. And even if you're on a modest student budget, you can join in via sample sales, where designer brands like David Yurman, Rachel Zoe and Alexander Wang sell off previous seasons' inventory at immense markdowns—sometimes in the range of 30% to 70%. For some upcoming sample sales, check our fashion calendar.
You can visit the world for the price of a MetroCard.
If you're starting at, say, NYU, it's easy to get caught up in all that Greenwich Village has to offer. New York City is huge, and even just a couple of neighborhoods can absorb you for months. But you can hop on the subway and quickly emerge in what feels like another country. For example: if you ride the 7 train to Flushing and visit the gigantic New World Mall, you'll be surrounded by signs in Chinese, Japanese and Korean offering food, clothing and other goods from overseas. You can find similarly immersive experiences at places like Titan Foods in Astoria, Queens, which offers Greek fare; Chinatown in Manhattan; Sunset Park in Brooklyn, with its sizable Mexican and Chinese communities; Brooklyn's Brighton Beach, home to Russian delicacies and storefronts with Cyrillic lettering; Arthur Avenue, the Bronx's Little Italy; and many other ethnic enclaves. One practical benefit of a visit: the ability to stock up on cooking ingredients at prices lower than you'd find at most grocery stores—something many New York City chefs take advantage of.
You can get your hair styled by a virtuoso, and pay little or nothing.
If you're willing to have a stylist-in-training do your hair, you can get a free haircut, styling or dye job. Bumble and bumble, for example, invites you to sign up for their online database. If you match their requirements, they'll shape your mane at no charge. At Younghee Salon in Tribeca, $15 cuts are offered on an as-needed basis to those who sign up in advance. And a number of other established salons throughout the City offer cuts on certain days from beginning stylists for a discounted rate, usually somewhere around $20.
There is an outlet for whatever it is you want to do.
Studying business? Drama? Music? You may be learning a lot in the classroom and from your student organizations, but you can also gain much by being bold and applying your skills in the real world of New York City. There are ample opportunities to perform comedy at venues like the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, the Peoples Improv Theatre, The Creek and the Cave and far beyond; your band can get its start at open mics or small clubs like Lit Lounge or Goodbye Blue Monday; and plenty of companies (especially start-ups, shoestring publications and art collaborations) may be on the lookout for new writers, photographers and the like. It's a simple idea, but worth remembering in a City filled with opportunity: it never hurts to ask if you can get involved. You might be surprised how quickly your project finds traction.