By KAYLA J. MARSH
HOLMDEL — For many college students, managing time and keeping up with assignments, projects, clubs, sports and other activities can be a challenge.
One recent graduate of Rutgers University is putting the knowledge and experience she gained from her four years at the school into a new business she hopes will help other students get the most out of their own college experiences.
Township resident Sarah Waxman has started a Kickstarter campaign to help launch METIS Planner, a product designed to help students organize long- and short-term assignments and other aspects of the college life to ensure they are allocating enough time to get everything done.
“All this started probably about two years ago,” said Harvey Waxman, Sarah’s father who has 30 years of experience as an executive in the software industry.
“Sarah was an incredibly busy student. She triple majored in nutritional science, food science research and biology, was a full-time resident assistant, did independent lab research, was president of the Food Science Club, taught two freshman classes … she was constantly involved in so many things and was complaining to me that with her schedule she could never find a planner that worked.”
According to Waxman, while many students struggle to complete the typical 120 credits required for graduation, Sarah completed more than 187 credits and graduated Summa Cum Laude in May with a Bachelor of Science degree.
“We looked at what was out there and what she was using and realized that the problem that she was running into wasn’t keeping track of meetings, even though she had a lot of meetings to keep track of, it was that she had this incredibly long list of things that had to get done and she needed to coordinate making sure that all those got done and that she allocated the time to do it,” Waxman said.
“Over one summer I was like, ‘Well, if you can’t find [a proper planner] let’s see if we can create something that’ll work for you.’”
Over the 2014 summer break, Sarah and her father worked to design a student-focused planner, realizing that most planners are primarily designed to schedule and keep track of meetings.
The duo focused their design on a student’s ever-expanding list of things to do, including long-term semester projects, short-term weekly assignments and activities not related to academics, but necessary when living on your own.
“After playing around with a few different designs, we got something that seemed to work well for her and by the time we were done she said, ‘You know some of my friends would also be interested in using this,’ so we generated a couple extra copies and she gave them out and we got some interesting feedback on what worked and didn’t work and went back to redesign some of the key aspects to really focus on this idea of integrating to-do lists with your actual schedule, and by the time we were done we realized we had a product that could probably be of use to lots of other college students,” Waxman said.
“We tested at least four different versions … trying to make sure we hadn’t designed a planner that would work only for a student that was super active, super involved, super busy, but took into account a broader range of students.”
Waxman said one of the unique things that came about when designing the METIS Planner is that any item can be treated as a scheduled event.
“Just moving it off of a random to-do list and allocating time for it makes it so much more visible and ensures that you are planning the time to get it done,” he said. “… It is easy to let other things take over the time you need to get your work done.
“In college, students are in class for 15 hours a week … so they have all this free time, yet are always struggling to keep up with their work, and it really becomes a question of are they making effective use of the time they have so that they really do have the time to enjoy themselves and do all the other stuff that you want to do in college?
“Just by being a little bit more organized, you free up time and then it doesn’t become a matter of that you overschedule your time.
“That is why the calendar has something as simple as a little checkbox to say, ‘Did you do the thing you scheduled to do at this time?’”
Waxman said another interesting aspect of the METIS Planner are the additional features to assist students in matters such as budgeting, breaking down lab reports and even textbook buying and renting.
“We started talking about it over the summer what all of the different aspects of what it is like to suddenly live alone or live away at school and tried to encompass as many of those into the planner as we could,” he said.
“It was interesting working with Sarah that I was able to take some of my experiences from industry and look at how I used to manage time and large projects and apply that with her thinking about how she managed her time in college and put those two together to come up with the design we did.”
The METIS Planner is named after the Greek goddess of wisdom, planning, advice and deep thought.
Waxman said in order to gauge interest in launching the product, they are using Kickstarter, which allows them to present their idea and solicit supporters that agree to fund the project in return for some reward.
The main reward would be a printed and bound copy of the 2016-17 METIS Planner and access to the full METIS system, including downloads providing academic and financial helpers and goal trackers.
A free digital print-at-home version will be provided to anyone who helps spread the word on social media, Waxman said.
The METIS Planner campaign has until July 15 to meet its funding target of $1,500.
“We started investigating how you go about launching a business and realized a group-funded Kickstarter would be a really interesting way to get started,” Waxman said. “It allows you to try to get the word out, test whether there is acceptance of the idea and minimize your risk in doing that, and if it works then you’ve got a great platform to launch from … [and] it has been a fascinating learning experience.”
While Sarah was away traveling throughout Europe on a trip she had planned long before graduation, she said in a prepared statement that “by staying organized and keeping ahead of all assignments, students will not only be able to succeed in the classroom, they will have the time to do what they want to do and have an amazing college experience.”
For more information about the Kickstarter campaign, visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/1593587712/metis-planner-an-organizational-system-for-college.
To learn more about the METIS Planner, visit www.metisplanner.com.