Sochi Olympics = Great Procrastinator

The start of the 22nd Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, has, and will, force me to better manage my time for the next couple of weeks.  It is such a great time to invite people over to my apartment; I usually describe myself as someone more reserved with social outings, but it’s nice to cheer on teams and people in sports that we have never, or rarely, play with others.  You can look on the 2014 Olympics as a political, sports, and social event – basically something for everyone.


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When things don’t go as expected: Car edition

Regular maintenance with your car will prevent these scary signals from popping up. However, when you have an 5+ old car expect major repairs and bills. Photo courtesy of

People tell you to save for grad school.  But what does that money go towards?  The most visible channels of your savings goes to tuition, fees, and living expenses.  However, one of the most unexpected expenses I faced Continue reading

Keeping Track with my Mac (and iPhone)

A screenshot of my calendar.  Notice all the red, which forces me not to over commit!

A screenshot of my calendar. Notice all the red, which forces me not to over commit!  Photo courtesy of Stephanie N

I just recently retired my 6 year-old Apple Macbook (RIP buddy) and traded it in for a new Macbook Air. Since the beginning of tech time, there has been an eternal tech war about Macs vs. PCs. I had that battle myself Continue reading

And on Saturday… Strategies to find your niche in a large university

And on Saturday, the graduate gods said, “Let there be socializing!”

My program, Higher Education and Student Affairs, hosts a tailgate every weekend before an IU football game.  One of our program's traditions is to sign our names on the corn hole board.  Photo courtesy of Stephanie Nguyen

My program, Higher Education and Student Affairs, hosts a tailgate every weekend before an IU football game. One of our program’s traditions is to sign our names on the corn hole board. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Nguyen

Graduate school can be a difficult balance between academics, professional, and personal responsibilities.  My life, right now, is going to class half a day, going to work at my assistantship in the other half of the day, and then taking care of myself after 5 p.m.–working out, grocery shopping, cooking dinner, and studying.  I feel like I am constantly on the move 5 days of the week!  But it is just as important  Continue reading

Back to Business

I hope everyone had a very happy holidays and a pleasant break between semesters. I traveled home to Montana and enjoyed some quiet time with my family.

Friendly mule down the road from our house

VERY friendly deer… perhaps too friendly.

We ate a lot of food, played a lot of games, stayed up late, slept in late, and pretty much let our cares rest for a while. Since the breaks between the semesters are often a time for students and professors to catch up on work, it felt a little indulgent to relax so much.

But actually, taking breaks can help your productivity in the long-run (as I’m sure most of us have heard.) Here’s some advice for graduate students from Rachel Manes and the American Psychological Association:

First off, consider how long the designated vacation period will last.  While writing up results of a study might seem like a tempting way to spend this time during the extended break, planning non-academic related events is an equally productive way to spend time during the designated vacation period because they stand to improve productivity after the break is over.  These off-line activities could range from travel and recreation to leisure time with friends and loved ones. (rest of the article here)

So you see, there’s no need to feel guilty about your vacation – and I hope you took one! Instead, you can focus on transitioning into the new semester and having a productive start. Happy spring semester everyone!

Application for graduate school admission checklist

Make your own chart like this to keep yourself on trackThis is an example spreadsheet that can be used to keep yourself on track during the process of applying to different schools. Using something like this will ensure that you didn’t forget to get transcripts for school number three or that you have enough recommendations for school number four. It’s short sweet and to the point. Put on it the dates and requirements for every aspect of every application and then check it off when you get it completely finished and ready to be shipped off. Hang it somewhere you will see it often so you see the dates and don’t fall behind. Its a little piece of paper that can help make your life much more organized and easier.

Undergraduate mentoring

Now that I’m out of class I have started to do some mentoring and tutoring. Helping others is important to me and sometimes it gets pushed to the side burner when I get bogged down with things. However, I have a good handle on my lab work and I don’t have to worry about classes, so I asked for and received an undergraduate student to mentor in lab. My student is a sophomore bio. major who is interested in graduate school and its my job to not only teach her how to perform experiments but to shape her thinking to that of an independent scientist. I look forward to seeing her grow over these next few years. My other undergraduate mentee was appointed to me through a mentoring program. The focus of this program is to pair undergraduates with graduate students so that they can help them get into graduate school. The approach is one on one and should be very effective. I look forward to seeing how that young lady will advance in her academic career. Finally I began tutoring high school AP biology for some spare cash on the side. I really like it, Ive never tutored before but it’s very interesting. My student seems to be benefiting from our sessions so I can’t wait to see how he does on his upcoming final. This post isn’t really about getting into graduate school, its my personal post to say:  “Never forget where you came from. No matter how self reliant you are, at some point someone helped you. As you grow it is your duty to help those behind you. Reach as you climb.”

Graduate School Prepping: It’s all about the timing

There are many resources out there about when to begin studying for exams to when to begin narrowing down your options. I’m concentrating on resources that give you a timeline based on your current situation/status.

  •  If you are in undergrad checkout sites that break down the checklist by semesters (i.e. what you should be doing during undergrad), like the one below

  •  Specific for international students—Happy Schools Blog has a 15 item checklist along with other tips and resources

  •, Princeton Review & Dr. Ron Martin via U.S. News has a timeline that highlights what you should be doing during the next 12 months.

And finally, because not everyone thinking about grad school is an undergrad, single, and/or working part-time …Expand the timeline! While the timelines above include the major details and important months for most programs, you should customize the timeline to fit YOU with your own individual schedule. This may come in the form of an excel sheet or a calendar on the wall that spreads over 12 + months.

Good luck!