Grad School: The GRE

The GRE was the first horrifying obstacle that I faced when applying to grad school.
I felt so lost when studying for test and read up on every single tip I could find online as well as asking my closest friends (who had taken the test) what I should do. I never knew if I was doing the right thing or the wrong thing; but looking back, I can see that it is a journey worth sharing because I definitely did a little right and a little wrong.

I think the first mistake I made was being too attached to perfection. Two of my friends had taken the GRE and scored in the 98th and 99th percentiles in the dreaded verbal section. It was so intimidating to know that such high scores were possible by students who had taken nearly the exact same classes as I did. What if I didn’t do as well? Was I not cut out for grad school if I did not achieve the highest score possible? I had the same feelings about the ACT (which I took 7 times only to secure a 27… which isn’t bad, but I wanted a 34-36… again, with the perfection). Anyone taking the GRE, I would advise to not focus on your potential score at the beginning. Focus on mastering testing techniques and actually learning skills and vocabulary.

The second mistake that I made was not saving for the test. I was taken aback when I went to sign up for the first test and it was over 100 dollars. It took most of my paycheck and made the pressure even more enormous because now the test cut into both my time and my budget. As a very involved student body member, a good student, a double employee, and a future bride planning a wedding, this was a pressure that could have been avoided if I had put back a little of each paycheck and budgeted properly so that I could pay for the test easily. And unfortunatly, I did not do my best on the first test so I had to take it AGAIN. It was about 300 dollars (with travel included) that I spent in total. For some, this may not be a lot. And that’s good. Maybe you are a better saver than I am or accept more parental donations… but for me, this was grocery money, gas money, ect. Budgeting for not one but TWO possible tests is what I would advise. And if you do as great as my friends did on their first test then you have a little wiggle room. Maybe for some celebratory amenities?

I did buy a great study tool: Kaplan’s Guide to the GRE. So one point for me. It belonged to one of those said friends who had done great on her first GRE. It was a beneficial tool that was super mobile. Some people just take the practice tests that the GRE allows for each tester to acquire when they sign up for the test, but I needed more prep. The Kaplan books are what I used and they actually taught testing tricks and gave great tips. The kit came with flashcards with vocab words that were ACTUALLY ON THE TEST. I did feel more prepared for that section of the test because of those nifty flash cards. I sold my kit later, but sometimes I miss going through those cards because I actually had fun learning with them. #nerdstatus (By the way, I called my university the other day and obviously I had to go through one of those automated systems to talk to someone, and one of the commands was the push the HASHTAG KEY. What has the academic world come to?).book_gre

DONT’TAKE YOUR STUDY MATERIAL WITH YOU TO THE TEST. I know, I know, you feel so attached to them after lugging them around for months on end. But don’t do it. I did not, but it would have been a catastrophe if I had done it. Another girl was in the testing center with me and she got in major trouble because she brought a study book with her while we were waiting to be admitted to the computer room. Its majorly against the rules and she almost had to leave and not take the test (a major nightmare). I didn’t even take my cell phone inside. Or my purse. Just my wallet, testing confirmation sheet, and my snack. They gave me a locker for my stuff and I didn’t need anything else.

What do you think about Coffee? I love it. Me and Coffee are tight. Coffee comes with me where ever I go. Coffee is my constant companion. BUT I would advise anyone to not have coffee before the test. I may just be weird and superstitious and offending my constant companion (coffee), but my first test (that went abysmally) I felt jittery from nerves and the normal amount of caffeine that I usually have at 10am. I felt a bit betrayed, stupid, and a whole lot of upset. I decided if I did take the test again, I would forego the coffee for apple juice. The next test I bulked up on not one but TWO whole grain blueberry muffins, some guilty pleasure found in the form of bacon, and a healthy amount of apple juice. Some real Brain Food. I also brought a snack for my break, which I forgot to do the first time. After the test (on which I did so much better) I celebrated with a sweet reunion with my long lost study buddy. That’s right, I went to Starbucks and payed over 4 dollars for a dreamy Hazelnut Machiatto.

I also scored another point for myself in this battle by remembering the important quote from Mr. Oscar Wilde “You can never be over dressed or over educated”. A nifty trick that I have learned throughout my undergraduate career is that I feel better and more confident whenever I am if I am dressed up. No T-shirts, No jeans, and No messy buns. I love dressing up, even though I often don a pair of yoga pants and some random sweatshirt. I dressed up for both occasions, but I was still comfortable. I made sure I fixed my hair, I had make up, and I wore a cute tunic with leggings. Although it probably did not reflect in my scores, I felt like I was ready for a test that could determine my future academic endeavors. This is a personal habit, and even though it probably doesn’t help for getting a high score, I know it helped me feel better about myself. Is easy to give yourself a pep talk when you look super cute. OR if you are this girl. (one of my fave videos, ever. please watch to have your life changed).

Lastly, don’t freak out. The GRE will not make or break your application to whatever school to which you are applying. It’s good to do well, but its better to remain sane.

I can do anything GOOD! (You won’t get this closing statement if you did not watch the video… Your bad).


Grad School Chapter One: Preparing

grad school I have recently been accepted into graduate school and wanted to  map out what it took to get me to where I am now. I have been a good student for most of my time throughout college (freshman year was rough, but the next three years provided enough recovery time), and I had great professors that were available to advise me in the right directions. However, I wanted to write my own short blog (in “chapters” or installments) that show the steps that I took, where I went right, where I went wrong, ect. So this first post is about preparation. I spent a long time prepping for grad school but most of that prep time was mainly going into my worry fuel tank and aimlessly surfing the web for programs that suited my dreams. So like I said, here are tips that include what I did and didn’t do during this prep time: 1. Study: its amazing how time flies during the year before applying to grad school and there is a sneaky little thing called the GRE that is required for most schools in America (since my school is in Canada, it didn’t require it BUT all my other schools to which I applied did need scores.. and really high scores). I bought a GRE study kit that had a nice set of vocab flash cards and two study books for the math and english sections. I studied about four hours a week, which was actually tougher than what I thought. I should have studied more but I was also working at the same time (three different jobs!) so four hours was the max I could handle. I will post a more detailed section about the GRE soon! 2. Talk to your profs: My professors were very helpful with assisting my navigation on the road to grad school. They suggested several schools and also gave me tips on how to look up schools. Talk to your profs! They have been through the whole process and everyone’s story is different. The amount of experience that each of them have was gained in different ways and every single bit of advice was helpful whether it was applicable to my course of study or not. 3. Visit: I was unable to visit any schools. I wish it would have been possible because (to me) the atmosphere of a campus is what helped me to decide which undergraduate school that I should attend. Most of my schools were 12-18 hours away from where I lived so visitation was out. If I could go back and do it again, I would do whatever possible to visit schools AND meet professors at the other schools. 4. Friends and Peers: At the time of my application submission, it was just me and my future husband against the world. My program at my undergrad was passively competitive; which means that I did not want any of my peers to judge me based on what I was submitting. Now, I wish I had just woman-ed up and asked them to review my personal statement and my academic paper. Don’t get me wrong, I had my super smart husband look over them (and I his) as well as a professor, but peer editing can be such a great tool and I hope that it is something others can utilize. I believe it would make the process feel like a team endeavor and less lonely. 5. Keep an agenda: I love my planner and it was my holy grail during the application process. Nearly every application needed a different log in/ password combo, had different dead lines, needed different documents, and different payment amounts. I made a chart in my planner (at the very front) that let me see all the information from each and every school. Then I wrote down everything on the specific days within my planner and put in reminders a week beforehand too so I wasn’t caught off guard by any deadlines. Whether you do it in a paper planner or in your iPhone, it will be necessary.

Photo on 2014-07-24 at 17.40

This is my little chart, I know its fuzzy. But it was super helpful!

6. Have Realistic Dreams: I feel like most people would call this an oxymoron; but I will go ahead and use the phrase anyway. I think having a realistic dream is the absolute best way to think about grad school. After you do your research and pick schools, its best to think about paying for the schools, being accepted, and being rejected. I almost did not apply to my back up school because I was told that I was a “shoo in” for another program. Guess what, I was rejected from every school besides by back up. My back up is a great program, but I was dreaming of being in the absolute best program possible and wanted to ignore the acceptance ratio. It is best to choose back up schools and to want them. And it is best to go for the best programs possible. That’s it for now. More to come soon 🙂

Mindy Kaling: Wonder Woman

10335308I recently read Mindy Kaling’s Book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, and loved it. I could not be more impressed with her rise to fame and her obvious self confidence.

So first off, I have always, always, always been a huge fan of the office. At first I was judgmental (like any other teenage girl) of Mindy’s character, Kelly. She was ditzy and attention hungry and I couldn’t get past her obsessive behavior when it came to Ryan. (BTDubs, I totally called BJ Novak my Jew Crush for a few years. I don’t now because I realized that it just didn’t sound or seem right… maybe this is a point in life to show that I have matured). I dismissed the drama queen character and also Mindy herself because of the shallowness of Kelly, which I realize was a mistake. It wasn’t until season 5 (Weightloss) that I had the mental capacity to handle what is Kelly. I will forever be able to full on belly laugh at Kelly’s decision to trust the office’s unstable Creed Bratton with helping her lose weight. He supposedly gives her a tape worm that she swallows in order to help her get into the size 2 (yayyy) bathing suit that she wants. BUT Creed reveals to the audience, “That wasn’t a Tape Worm”. Later Kelly faints. Its just perfect. And I don’t feel bad for laughing.

From this point on, I was a Kelly fan. I began researching on Mindy Kaling and found out that we had a mutual love for fashion and fun and that she was a writer and producer on the show. Now she is in the top 5 women who I would want to have coffee with if the opportunity came about.(The official coffee list is comprised of: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kate Middleton, Mindy Kaling, and J.K Rowling {or Emma Watson… I just want to talk about HP}).

Basically, Mindy is so cool and her book was super awesome to read. It is mostly in first person, so it feels like a conversation as you are reading. She is literally telling the story of her life with a few extra funny opinions thrown in. I was very involved when reading this book too. Like, I laughed out loud. I gasped a couple times, and also had to share several of her stories with my husband and my friends.

AND since I follow Mindy on Instagram, I am 99 percent certain that she has a new book coming out. So I am geeking out over it too.

In closing, I just want to say READ IT. It is seriously a fast read and perfect for summer and or Christmas time (both very happy periods of the year in my opinion).