time management

Graduate School Timeline

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As October continues, the timeline for grad school continues to tick down for the seniors. Before we know it, January will be here and with it, application deadlines. Then April and May come bearing down and before you know it, the school year is over. Now is the time to get caught up on the grad school applications for the seniors. For you juniors, we’ll outline a timeline to keep in mind for next year. Underclassmen, this is the time for you to think about grad school so that you’re able to be ahead of the game when the time comes.

Preliminary Stuff

The very first step in the grad school decision is, easily enough, thinking about grad school. Does grad school appeal to you? What would you be pursuing? Are you looking for a Ph.D., a Master’s, or some other degree? Are there any programs that you already have in mind? What do you need to do to make sure you can get in at these programs? These are the sorts of questions you want to be asking yourself before you even begin the process. Ideally, this is done before the end of Junior year. Junior year, start talking to faculty about graduate programs that you might want to pursue and get advise on where to look.

Summer before Senior Year

So you’ve picked a subject to pursue at a higher level. Now what? It’s time to pick a few programs to apply to. What are you looking for in grad school programs? That depends entirely on what you want to do after you finish the program. Are you looking to use an MA to get into a Ph.D. program? Look for MA programs that are associated with high-level Ph.D. programs and have opportunities to break into the world of academia. Are you trying to get your MBA to launch your career in the business world? Look for programs that have high job placement rates at top companies.

While you search for specific programs, there are a few things to keep in mind. Be sure to pick a handful of programs to apply to, just in case you don’t make it into your top choice. Remember, graduate school is still very competitive, especially when it comes to scholarships.

1.     Cost. How expensive is this program going to be? Will they give you a living stipend? What kind of scholarships are available?

2.     Time. How long is the program? Be aware that most Ph.D. programs are 5-8 years long, while Master’s programs are typically 2-3 years. You may find some shorter or longer, but it could mean that if you try for an MA-Ph.D., you may have 10 years of schooling left.

3.     Admission requirements. Do you need to take the GRE or other standardized test? If so, how well do you need to score? If the program requires a standardized test for admission, begin preparing for it during the summer. How many letters of recommendation do they want? Are there any prerequisite courses you will need to finish? This bullet point is the exact reason you want to be thinking about the programs before you even get to senior year.

4.     Program requirements. Will you be writing a thesis? Will you be expected to be teaching while you take your graduate coursework? What kinds of classes will you be taking? How closely will you be working with the professors? What kind of opportunities does it provide?

Done to this point: Programs decided upon, registered for and prepared for admissions exams

August

Alright, you’ve picked a field and you’ve picked a handful of programs you’d like to get into. Now, for your senior year, it’s time to start working on it. August is when you want to register for (and possibly even take) whatever exam you need to take for the school, be it the MCAT, GMAT, GRE, LSAT, or whatever else. Take it for the first time as soon as possible, so that if you need to take it again, you have plenty of time for it. August is about the test.

Done to this point: First exam taken

September

By the time you get to September, hopefully you’ve already at least registered, if not sat for, entrance exam. At this point, you’re definitely back at school, so it’s time to start talking to faculty. Grad school will need some letters of recommendation, so talk to a few professors and ask about a letter of recommendation. In addition, you should have your exam scores back at some point in September. Check those scores and see if you need to retake the test. In addition, if you took the GRE, look into if you should take any specific subject tests (just like the SAT subject tests). If you need to, register for those.  

Done to this point: Exam results received, letters of recommendation lined up, subject tests registered for

October

October is the time to get paperwork in order. This means you have your writing sample prepared and cleaned up. You get the application itself ready. Most schools will want a statement of purpose or some sort of academic autobiography. October is the time to get that in order. It’s also time to pay attention to due dates. Some schools want transcripts before Fall grades, some schools want that Fall Semester of senior year on it. Pay attention to which they want and get those transcripts lined up. Follow up with those who are writing your letters of recommendation.

Done to this point: All paperwork in order. Application, statement of purpose, test scores, letters of recommendation, writing sample, transcripts all prepared.

November

It’s time to start submitting things. You should, by this point, have taken the relevant subject tests and had scores for those as well, and you’ve got all your paperwork in order already. Have a few people look over the relevant pieces of paperwork (statement of purpose, writing sample) to make sure everything is as good as it can be. Finalize everything as much as you can, then hit that fancy submit button. And there you have it. It’s all done, and before you hit your last semester.

 

Important note: This is not at all a formal “You MUST have it all in by this date” sort of timeline. This timeline exists to try to give you a general sense of how the process should go and making sure it all gets done with as little stress as possible. It’s a flexible timeline that can be shifted to accommodate the needs of different students. But if you want an easy, stress free, timely application process, try to get it done along these guidelines.

10 Tips for Managing your Time Like a Pro

College is strange. On one hand, you have infinitely more time out of class than you did in high school, yet it always seems as if you are being blindsided by the deadlines of impending papers and exams. As a junior, between juggling homework, my job, extra curricular activities, and attempting to feed myself and sleep, I often joke that my spirit animal is a chicken with its head cut off. Time management is the most critical skill that you will learn during your college career, and while it may take some time to figure out exactly what works for you, it will save you so much stress in the long-haul! Here are 10 tips I wish I had known coming into college that will (hopefully) make your life a little less hectic.

Establish priorities at the beginning of each day by making a list of the tasks that need to be completed before you go to bed. There are always a few essential things to accomplish, so make sure to star those and number them in order of greatest importance to least. Making a conscious effort to devote the entirety of your attention to the work at hand by avoiding distractions like cell phones and loud spaces will help you to finish tasks quickly and efficiently. Know when you should delegate tasks and when you can set them aside, too.

Stay organized. Not only is it important to set priorities and goals on a daily basis, but it is also very important to be able to plan ahead and create weekly and monthly “at-a-glance” schedules. Doing this will allow you to write down all of your due dates and test dates, along with your work schedule, which will help you plan to finish your work so that you can attend birthday parties and fun events too! You don’t want to realize that you have a test the day that you walk into class, so make sure to consult your syllabus once in a while…your profs actually gave it to you for a reason.

Know how you work best. Are you a night owl or a morning person? Determining this and using it as a guide to help you study during your peak hours of concentration will help you to focus while you work. Just because your best friend studies at a certain time does not mean that it is the best time for you. Schedule your sleep around this study time so that you always wake up refreshed and ready to take on the next day!

Be flexible with your schedule. Build it in such a way that you are getting everything done long before it is due…don’t be that guy that plans to turn in a paper at 11:59pm on the due date and has their computer crash at 11:58pm. Life can get crazy and things pop up that need to be taken care of, forcing you to push your school work aside. Don’t let little things throw you off.

Learn how to say no! Seriously, it is okay. Taking on multiple responsibilities is a great way to learn to manage your time, but more often than not, it can be overdone and result in you putting forth a mediocre effort toward 9 different things. When you are asked to do something, really consider if it is something that you care about and are truly able to handle in your schedule. 

Set time aside for yourself. THIS. IS. SO. IMPORTANT. You need 8 hours of sleep to function at your peak. You need to have time to sit down and eat proper and nutritious meals. Get outside and go for a bike ride or a run for an endorphin boost! Read a book that isn’t a textbook. Feed your passions with the things that you love, whether it be art, movies, or a day at the beach. If you work hard, you have got to let yourself play hard too.

Complete homework assignments on time. Even though you may not suffer a big penalty if you don't, it is great practice to be timely and do your work when it is assigned. So many students put off their assigned reading as optional, especially if your teacher doesn't quiz you or call on people in class, but come test day, you will be much more prepared it you actually did read. It will also cut down on your study time later on.

Be realistic. Do you have four hours on just one day allotted to write a 6 page research paper? Space projects out in manageable chunks of time over one or two week periods, instead of scheduling yourself to do it all in one day. Doing this will allow for thorough completion days ahead of the due date. Only you know how you work best, so plan accordingly.

Assess the successes! Did you get your best test grade of the semester after using flashcards to study? Did you rock your history test when you chose to study for 2 hours per day for a week instead of 10 hours the day before the test? Were you more refreshed on exam day when you got 9 hours of sleep instead of 5? Remember those things and use them in the future! Every person is unique when it comes to how we best function. Learn about yourself and use your strengths to your advantage!

Know when to buckle down…even when it’s hard. How does it always happen that exam week is full of great university events beckoning you to attend? While it may seem as if a few hours away from your studies won't be the end of the world, don't compromise your final grade for a pool BBQ or movie night. 

Conquering the GRE: 4 Tips for Preparing for the Revised General Test

A typical mistake that many students make when approaching the GRE Revised General Test, or other graduate admissions tests, is to compare them to the SAT exam. The GRE is designed to measure and evaluate undergraduate students from various backgrounds, both academically and geographically, on an even playing field. 

It is important to approach this test with an open mind and to apply the skills learned throughout the whole of one’s undergraduate studies. The GRE is meant to evaluate a student’s academic performance beyond GPA average, so it is necessary to take the preparation for this test seriously if you want to outshine your GPA.

Be strategic when you choose to take the test so that you meet the deadlines for the graduate schools you are trying to apply for. Make sure to give yourself enough time to prepare for the test based upon these deadlines. 

The GRE revised General Exam allows you to take the test up to 5 times and send your best score to your schools of choice. However, keep in mind that each exam costs $200 so it is becoming to do well on your first or second try. 

Here are four practical tips to help you study for the GRE that may provide an enlightening perspective as you approach this important stepping stone in your academic career. 

1. Dominate the Structure

This is not the SAT! One way to feel confident about taking this test is to know what to expect on the day of the exam. 

It is important to be very familiar with the logistical structure of the test, as well as to know what the objective is for each section. Be aware of which version of the GRE you are going to register for, whether it be the computer-based exam or the Paper-based exam. 

The GRE is divided into three main sections: 1) Analytical Writing, 2) Verbal Ability, and 3) Quantitative Ability. The computer-based and paper-based differ in the questions numbers and the sections that these are broken into. However, each version has multiple questions for the verbal ability and quantitative ability and two essay parts for the analytical writing section. 

Mastering the basic structure of this test will help you to focus on the material of the test, rather than stressing about the layout. The best way to complete this step is to research about the test by visiting the revised GRE General Test official website, or viewing The Official Guide to the GRE revised General Test. 

2. Strategize your Study Sessions

Trying to recap all that you’ve learned in college can seem overwhelming. This being said, you don’t have to remember everything to pass the GRE. This is why step 1 is so important. The GRE looks for specific objectives, so by reviewing these sections, you can see which areas you need to focus on. 

A great way to see where you stand in your preparedness is to take a practice test offered by the GRE revised General Test official website. Barron’s New GRE: Graduate Record Examination 19th edition also offers a “diagnostic” test to help students identify specific struggles. 

These resources can help you to confirm in which areas you are strong, and which topics need to be studied more. 

3. Simulate the Test

One of the best ways to prepare for the GRE is to simulate the test to evaluate your performance under the same type of conditions as the actual test. Part of the challenge of graduate admission tests is the time limit that is placed on each section.

It is important to schedule practice test dates for yourself where you are able to simulate these conditions to the fullness of your ability.

Choose a quiet spot, like a library, empty classroom, or the actual location of the test if possible, to conduct these practice tests. Put your phone on airplane mode and follow the time limits and break times exactly as the real test will. This will give you an idea of the way you will perform on the test day and allow you to change your habits before the day of the test, if necessary. 

Familiarizing yourself with these conditions will give you a sense of self-assurance on the test day and put you at ease knowing that you have concrete memories of experiencing the same testing conditions. 

Here’s a tip: the best breakfast to eat before a lengthy exam consists of a doughnut, bacon, and eggs. The sugar in the doughnut provides a burst of quick energy, while the protein and fat in the bacon and eggs metabolizes slowly to provide brain power for the duration of the exam.

4. Utilize the resources available

Each year, hundreds of students take the GRE; you are not alone in trying to figure out how to prepare for this test. Take advantage of the resources available to help you in this process. 

Here are a few of the resources available at your fingertips: 

 -Book an appointment with Career Services on campus at Ave Maria University to help you with planning and studying for the GRE.

-Participate in a webinar the Official website for the GRE revised General Test offers various webinars throughout the year offering tips and tools for students for successful test taking with an interactive question and answer opportunities. 

-View the online tools the official website for the GRE offers. 

-Invest in the Official Guide to the GRE® revised General Test, or Barron’s New GRE: Graduate Record Examination

By putting these tips into practice and challenging yourself to master the material, you will be confident walking into the room on the day of your test knowing that you did everything you could to prepare!