As a new academic year is underway, it’s time to experiment and learn while engaging in opportunities on campus and beyond. Amidst the excitement of new projects, classes, and studios, here are 10 tips to stay focused and inspired, and make the most of what Pratt Institute and New York City have to offer.

Be Patient and Kind With Yourself and Others

As Pratt Foundation points out in its helpful “10 Tips for First-Year Success”: “We are living and learning in times like no other; approach your education, your classroom, your peers, and your faculty with empathy, patience, and an open mind.” Mistakes are part of learning something or becoming better at something you’ve been doing for years. Make a point to be kind to yourself and those around you when working through challenges, both in the classroom and outside of it.

Explore Campus

Maybe you took a campus tour this year or years ago; spend time reorienting yourself to the various buildings, departments, and labs. Notice its distinctive sights, sounds, and landmarks. You may discover a new favorite study corner or place to wander, such as the Sculpture Park or the Textile Dye Garden

Become a Part of Campus Life

Going to class is important, but so is connecting with fellow students from across disciplines and schools. There are numerous events, clubs, organizations, and gatherings. Find the latest listings on Engage. Whether birdwatching, making 16mm films, or dancing to k-pop, there is something for everyone.

Stay Active

No matter how busy you are, stepping away from your screen, easel, or sewing machine is crucial to your physical and mental health. Stop by the ARC for a group fitness class or do some individual strength training; join a club sport like badminton or softball or an intramural such as basketball or indoor soccer. Walk down Myrtle Avenue to Fort Greene Park and climb the stairs to the 149-foot-tall Prison Ship Martyrs Monument or bike to the Brooklyn Bridge for a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline. 

Establish a Mindfulness Routine

Eating well (try the Pratt Farm to Campus for fresh produce) and exercising are vital for wellness, but so is slowing down to check in with yourself and find balance. The Meditation Incubator at Pratt offers online and in-person guidance for meditation and how a mindfulness practice can enhance creativity and success. The Pratt Chapel provides the campus community space for meditation and inter-denominational and denominational rites. Or crack open a tarot deck and let the ritual guide you.

Set Goals and Structure Time to Do Them

Being ambitious is key to flourishing in college and a career, but so is being realistic about your time. Create daily, weekly, and yearly task lists to monitor your progress. Utilize productivity apps like Forest, note-taking apps such as Bear, or a bullet journal; discover what works for you. Reach out to the Learning/Access Center for support in time management and study skills.

Don’t Work in Isolation

Even when working on an independent project, artwork, story, or paper, give yourself opportunities to work alongside others. Form a study group or brainstorm ideas with a friend. Talk to faculty members during their office hours. Take your paints outside. Stay in touch with your academic advisor. The relationships you forge at Pratt will last long beyond graduation.

Learn about Your Field

Don’t confine your academic interests to your coursework; seek out faculty, alumni, and others who can share insights into your prospective discipline or field. Participate in a mentorship program to network with professionals and meet fellow students who share your passions. Reach out to the Center for Career and Professional Development for guidance, career advising, and internship opportunities. 

Do Things You Enjoy

It may seem obvious, yet intensely focusing on studying and coursework takes a tremendous amount of energy and time. Give yourself space to do things purely for joy so you can recharge. Read something for pleasure, perhaps a short zine from Pratt Libraries; call a friend or family member; listen to a podcast; go see a concert, play, or movie. Whatever brings you happiness, give yourself time to do it.

Let New York Inspire You

Where else can you spend the morning in an Egyptian temple, the afternoon in a Gothic chapel, and the evening riding a landmarked roller coaster? Sure, visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters, and Coney Island all in a day would be an epic subway journey, but you have your whole time at Pratt to experience the culture, history, and architecture that make New York City a global destination. Approach the city as an extension of campus; visit museums, galleries, neighborhoods, historic houses, parks, botanic gardens, and libraries. Take walking tours, attend readings, and watch films—or check out the Pratt Transit Art tour, with more than 25 artworks by Pratt Institute alumni and faculty. It is all a subway ride away.

Updated; September 20, 2023