The Double-Dipper’s Guide to Student Exploitation

Spencer Almen
Student, Columbia Bartending Agency and School of Mixology
Photo: Danny Kim

As a magnet for those with if-i-can-make-it-here aspirations, our city is full of smart, hungry, hyperambitious up-and-comers in every industry. With colleges, vocational schools, and apprentice programs currently in full swing, there are scores of eager professionals-in-training who, in exchange for experience and a little cash, will happily work for a fraction of what their certified/licensed/graduated counterparts might charge. You just have to know where to find them. Here, a guide to procuring the best almost-but-not-quite-professional services, from washing your Shih Tzu to fixing your marriage.

Columbia Bartending Agency and School of Mixology
For hosts who don’t want to blow their whole party budget on the guy slinging vodka-sodas, Columbia will send over bow-tied bartending students armed with a shaker set, bar towel, and corkscrew. Including a standard hourly rate and other fees, about $80 buys you four hours of tending, plus clean dishes (by comparison, a professional outfit like NYC Bartenders might charge $120 for that job). Beginner bartenders are paired with more seasoned students, and since they’re mostly young and eager, they’re generally more willing to help out with less boozy tasks: One satisfied customer recalls the “strapping young lads” behind her bar also cheerfully hauling boxes up to the roof. Savings*: 35 percent

French Culinary Institute
While the French Culinary Institute obviously focuses on French techniques, its students are not averse to taking on a rooftop barbecue, Thanksgiving dinner for fifteen, or even a kosher French feast for extra practice (and money). Most chefs-in-training charge a negotiable $15 per hour, compared with the $100 per hour many of their professional equivalents command. They’re often more flexible menu-wise than veteran caterers, too, so if you’d like them to work with mustard greens from the week’s CSA share, consider it done. They’ll also work with you on logistics, obtaining the necessary equipment and serving pieces, bringing a friend along to do dishes, and going grocery shopping. Savings: 85 percent

Academic Tutor
Columbia University Tutoring and Translating Agency
W. 116th St. nr. Morningside Dr. 212-854-4888;
Instead of shelling out upward of $100 an hour to have your eighth-grader tutored in math by a private teacher with a master’s degree, borrow an Ivy Leaguer’s brain for much less. Student tutors at Columbia are trained to deal with youngsters, who can get help in just one problem subject or their full course load. The tutors mentor middle schoolers for $65 an hour and high schoolers for $80 an hour, offering expertise in everything from French I to BC calculus, as well as SAT and ACT prep. And, for adults looking to go for a second degree, there’s MCAT, LSAT, and GRE tutoring. Savings: 35 percent

International Center of Photography
Headshots, family portraits, baby photos, weddings. These are instances that require steadier hands and better equipment than you and your point-and-shoot. Enter International Center of Photography’s pupils, who have access to state-of-the-art cameras, lenses, and printers and know how to use them. The education office will connect you with a few eager students or recent alumni that match your budget, schedule, and assignment, and before committing you can ask for examples of their work. A portrait from an up-and-comer looking to pad his portfolio, for example, might cost $120, whereas many portrait studios in the city start at $300. Savings: 60 percent

Marriage Counselor
Midtown Marriage and Family Therapy
271 Madison Ave., near 40th St., Ste. 708; 917-968-5599
Sometimes you just need to talk it out with an impartial stranger. But an impartial stranger who’s a licensed therapist can be crushingly expensive. Cash-strapped therapy seekers can get counseling from interns completing a master’s program in marriage and family therapy for $75 per 45-minute session at this midtown practice (the same office typically charges $150 to $200 for pros). Trainees meet with their clients in private but receive direction on every case behind the scenes from a licensed therapist at least once each week. Because interns only see about ten cases per week, you may get more individual attention than with a fully booked graduate. And if you don’t like your therapist-in-training, you can request a switch. While the program focuses on relationships, it welcomes individuals as well as couples for counseling. Savings: 50 to 62 percent

Music Teacher
The Juilliard School
Whether you want to improve your adolescent piano skills or learn “Viva la Vida” on the guitar, there’s likely a wunderkind at Juilliard willing to take up your cause. The future maestros’ services run about $60 an hour, about half of what pros charge. Search the Private Teacher Directory on the conservatory’s website to hook up with a student teacher.Says 59-year-old Candice Brown, who began taking lessons through Juilliard in July, “I don’t even think about the fact that my piano teacher [25-year-old Jing Yang] is so young—she’s just so accomplished.” Savings: 50 percent

Tara Benitez
Groomer, New York School of Dog Grooming*
Photo: Danny Kim

Dermalogica Academy
140 W. 22nd St., nr. Seventh Ave. 212-243-3000
Before they go off to work in one of the city’s spas, Dermalogica’s student aestheticians offer hour-long face treatments (cleansing, exfoliation, extraction, and moisturization) for $50 at the well-respected skin-care company’s school. That’s about half of what a session with one of Dermalogica’s fully licensed aestheticians goes for. The biggest compromise you’ll make during your treatment is privacy, as students work in an open area overseen by an instructor. The program also offers waxing for upper lips for $5 and chests and backs for up to $30, but leaves bikini waxes to fully licensed pros.Savings: 50 percent

Tax Filer
CUNY Baruch Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program
Newman Library, 151 E. 25th St., nr. Lexington Ave., and other locations; 646-312-1000;
Asking an aspiring C.P.A. to do your taxes might not be the best idea for property owners or those with large salaries and a vast ledger of write-offs. But recent college grads and others with simpler financial profiles can easily look to accounting students to get the job done. As part of the IRS-sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, a CUNY Baruch accounting student will handle the taxes of anyone with an income under $49,000. Conveniently, no appointment is necessary at six of the seven locations throughout the city (call in advance for the Chinatown shop). And there is a safety net: All work is double-checked by licensed C.P.A.’s before being filed. Savings: 100 percent

Arrojo Studio
56 King St., nr. Varick St.; 212-242-7786, ext. 306
Aveda and Bumble & Bumble have better-known apprentice-styling programs, but Arrojo’s beats them in at least one regard: There’s almost always an available time slot when you want it, even on short notice. The trainee haircuts start at just $25—less than a third of what you’ll pay for a do from a just-graduated stylist, and $156 less than what one of the salon’s masters charge.The main catch is that this is no in-and-out scissor job. Because every snip is painstakingly overseen by a master stylist, you’ll need to schedule in a couple of hours for a cut, longer if you’re doing color (from $45). Savings: 65 to 95 percent

Suit and Dress Designer
Fashion Institute of Technology
Seventh Ave. at 27th St.; 212-217-7999;
When there’s one perfect dress, suit, or coat that exists in your head but not in stores, one option is to let a student-designer be your dream weaver. A more creative, collaborative alternative to expensive tailors, many talented F.I.T. students are game to whip up custom designs. On the school’s job board, students usually bite at offers starting at the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for simple jobs, but they might charge up to $60 an hour for projects requiring intricate beading (typically the hourly rate includes labor and material). In addition to commissioning a blazer to pair with a particular sheath, say, or a tie made of fabric you picked up on a Moroccan vacation, the DIY-inclined can order up a special dress pattern to sew at home. Custom suiting is one area that, in the right student’s hands, can save you a bundle: A job that bespoke tailors would charge $3,000 for, a still-learning designer would likely do for $1,000. Savings: 40 to 66 percent

Makeover Artist
Make-up Designory
375 West Broadway, nr. Spring St.212-925-9250;
Make-Up Designory’s trainees can help you look like a better version of yourself for a high-school reunion or not at all like yourself for a Halloween party. Between classes and private clients, the up-and-comers are often hired out by print photographers and cable-network producers, who have wised up to the fact that these students are a good value. They’ll come to your home, hotel, or event venue with fully loaded makeup cases for about $100, versus the $150 to $250 a traveling pro might charge for an application. (Just give them advance notice if your desired face requires prosthetics, which they also do.) Savings: 34 to 60 percent

Custom Jeweler
Jewelry Arts Institute
22 E. 49th St., at Madison Ave., fourth fl.; 212-362-8633
Those who want to create their own heirloom or simply prefer their baubles to be as anti-cookie-cutter as possible can commission a one-of-a-kind piece from an in-house apprentice at Jewelry Arts Institute. Overseen by a master jeweler, three apprentices work full-time honing their skills in metals and gemstones, making intricate, sparkling rings, bangles, and brooches, among other things. Though they will accept “inspiration” pictures from Vogue and the like, the preference is to create something unique, not to copy an existing design. Rates start at $40 per hour, depending on the skill level of the apprentice, the materials used (you can provide your own or have them do the sourcing), and the level of difficulty of the work. A custom silver-and-enamel brooch might set you back a few hundred dollars, while a gold-and-gemstone necklace could top $1,000. Savings: 20 to 40 percent

Becky Sickles
Student, Dermalogica Academy
Photo: Danny Kim

Parsons The New School for Design
Upgrading your apartment from collegiate Ikea to grown-up I-can’t-believe-it’s-Ikea requires a good eye and a lot of time you likely don’t have.For better or worse, Parsons interior-design students won’t be constantly hovering over you like a full-time designer would be. (They do have to go to class sometimes.) But for a chance to beef up their portfolios, they’re eager to take on small jobs, like jazzing up your studio at a much, much lower rate than full-timers charge. Post a detailed ad on Parsons’ job board, offering about $25 an hour and going up if you don’t get any bites. Regardless, it shouldn’t be hard to stay under the $100-to-$200-per-hour range of a design-firm professional. Savings: 75 to 85 percent *

Party Musician
Manhattan School of Music
They’re more expensive than your iTunes, granted, but real musicians make for classier parties. Hire undergrad and grad students from Manhattan School of Music to play whatever instrument (piano, violin, guitar, acapella) and genre (classical, jazz, nineties rock, doo-wop) you’re angling for. The conservatory’s Center for Music Entrepreneurship will initially set you up with a performer or group, then you can negotiate directly. Expect to spend about $150 to $200 per hour per musician, a deal compared with the $1,000 per hour ­many professional players charge. Savings: 85 percent

Website Designer
School of Visual Arts
If you’re building a website for a side business or just want a place to house your résumé online, you can waste a lot of time trying to design it yourself or, better, hire someone who knows more about graphic design than you do. Of course, graphic-design students’ portfolios won’t be as extensive as a top-flight studio’s, but most students from the School of Visual Arts can, when given examples, handle something clean and simple. A novice designer found through the school’s Office of Career Development board will probably sign up for under $20 an hour, which means a simple website taking 30 hours of coding could be $600 start-to-finish.Savings: 40 percent

Pilates Instructors
Core Pilates
99 University Pl., at 12th St.; 212-260-5464
In addition to the instructor’s expertise, the expensive equipment is what you’re paying so heftily for at private Pilates sessions. At Core Pilates, though, you can spend an hour on those miracle machines under the direction of an apprentice for $40—half the price of an on-staff guru. By the time the apprentice instructors accept clients, they’re nearing the end of their six-month training course, so they’ve presumably mastered all the basics. The catch: It’s only available midday on weekdays. Savings: 56 percent

Jorge Rojas-Zamalloa
Computer Science and Biology Tutor, Columbia University Tutoring and Translating Agency
Photo: Danny Kim

Personal Trainer
A.R.T. Studio by Terri Walsh
424 Broadway, nr. Canal St., sixth fl.; 212-461-4827
Unless your fitness tastes run to the exotic or extreme, an apprentice trainer is nearly as apt to get you in shape as a pro. At Terri Walsh’s studio, the apprentices are fully certified but have less than five years of experience in the trainer’s cult Active Resistance Training method, which combines intervals of strength training and cardio. A package of twenty sessions with an apprentice here is $1,500, which is what twelve sessions would run you at Chelsea Piers and down from $3,300 for half the training hours with a Walsh master. Savings: 54 percent

Dog Groomer
New York School Of Dog Grooming
455 Second Ave., at 26th St.; 212-685-3776
A clean and happy dog is a clean and happy dog. And so long as the groomer who got him that way was efficient, gentle, and generous with treats, there’s no reason to get caught up in credentials. At New York School of Dog Grooming, pup lovers seeking their grooming licenses take care of breeds both big and small while being overseen by instructors. Standard grooming (shampooing, nail-clipping, and ear-cleaning) starts at $35 for small dogs on weekdays, $40 on weekends—a bargain compared with the city’s many chichi dog salons, which can charge over $100 for similar results. Savings: 65 percent

*Savings were estimated by comparing average student rates to those of their professional competitors.

*This story has been updated to suggest offering about $25 an hour on Parsons’ job board, rather than $12 an hour. It has also been corrected to show that Tara Benitez, pictured on page two, is former student and current groomer at the New York School of Dog Grooming, not a current student.

The Double-Dipper’s Guide to Student Exploitation