Considering Grad School? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

photo-2Guest Post by Halina Lotyczewski, MSW
Director, Utica College Office of Career Services

Making the decision to attend graduate school is an important one, affecting students academically, professionally, financially, and emotionally.

I know, because I’ve been through it. After completing my sociology degree from SUNY Geneseo, I was accepted into Fordham University’s MSW program. I deferred enrollment for a year to work and save as much money as possible for my graduate school tuition. Fast forward 10 years later, and I’m now helping students decide if graduate school is right for them. I will be facilitating a program as part of Career Services’ Coffee, Cupcakes and Careers Series called Get Me into Graduate School. During this program, I will help students answer these 5 questions:

1. How will a graduate school education and degree affect my short and long term professional goals?

2. Can I make the commitment to attend graduate school, and do I understand how it will impact me financially? Even mentally and emotionally?

3. What criteria should I use in deciding which graduate school/program is right for me?

4. What are the elements of a graduate school application, and what is important to those reviewing my application?

5. What on campus and online resources are available to help me before and during the application process?

While these questions may seem daunting at first, a little introspection and planning goes a long way, and UC Career Services is here to assist. The Coffee, Cupcakes, and Career Series will be held in the DuRoss Dining Room from 2-3pm on Thursday, October 27.unnamed-6

Coffee and cupcakes will be served, and pre-registration is required through UC Career Connect. Please join us!

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A New, Innovative Way to Study

Recently, I have discovered a new app for my iPhone that allows me to combine my study habits and my use of technology; StudyBlue. StudyBlue is an application, available for iOS and Android that allows you, as a student, to make flashcards, study guides, and even practice quizzes from the flashcards to input! Crazy, huh?!

Luckily, for you, StudyBlue is 100% FREE for the most general user! Of course, you can pay for a subscription in which you get “premium” benefits such as unlimited shareable flashcards that you personally make or borrow from others! Not being able to send and borrow unlimited flashcards has been the only downfall to the free version that I have found thus far and I have been using the app for a few months now!

 

UntitledAbove are a few pictures that I have from my “blood” flashcards within the app. My “blood” flashcards contain information from some of my Biology 102 lectures in which I have linked the cards to Utica College within the app as well as my professor. By linking the cards to the school and professor, others are able to search for Biology 102, or Utica College, or a professor’s name and find cards that others have created for that specific class. From the cards, you can then create practice quizzes and study guides!

Likewise, you can also search my name in which you will end up in what StudyBlue calls my “backpack.” My backpack contains class notes that I have uploaded, multiple virtual decks of flashcards and a few practice quizzes that I have generated from certain cards. By finding my “backpack” within the app, you are enabled to use my materials to a certain extent with the free version. You will only be able to see some of my cards, a few of my notes, and some of my quizzes unless I personally share them with you or you sign up for the paid version.

 

All of the cards shown in my “backpack” currently revolve around my Biology 102 lecture and lab. Believe it or not, these have actually helped me to earn much better grades this semester through memorizing the information from my flashcards. You can select right or wrong once you flip the card and when you reach the end, it will even tell you the percentage you got right. From there, the app will also allow you to re-study the entire deck or just the ones that you got wrong. It makes memorizing, in an organized way, very, very simple and helpful.

For many classes, memorization is key. This app has definitely seemed to help me out with Biology this semester and I don’t know as if I will ever go back to regular flashcards after this. I love the features it has and most of all, I really like that it’s completely FREE!

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The Downside of My Coffee Addiction

I cannot go one day without having some sort of caffeinated beverage, particularly coffee. I am going to attempt to slowly remove caffeinated beverages from my daily routine and here’s why:

Blog Post 1 - dunkin cupCaffeine raises blood pressure. Caffeine tends to cause blood pressure to rise for 2-3 hours after finishing the drink.

Caffeine is often linked to insomnia. Quite frequently, I find myself lying in bed at night unable to fall asleep. This could possibly be linked to the amount of caffeine that I consume on a daily basis.

Headaches, and lots of them. If I go without my morning cup of coffee, I end up with a caffeine-related headache. Sometimes, the lack of caffeine results in a migraine that ends up making me sick.

Caffeine is addictive and leaves people wanting more sugar and even more caffeine. This is particularly true to my lifestyle. I consume coffee (more than I should) and certain sodas. I crave the sugar and the caffeine, which is really bad for my diet and nutrition.

How many of us have heard that “caffeine stunts your growth”? It’s true. I’ve researched it numerous times. Caffeine decreases ossification in your bones, which can result in more fractures and decreased bone growth – hence “stunting” your growth. This is why you really shouldn’t consume much caffeine as a kid.

After really thinking about how much caffeine I consume on a daily basis, I honestly became a little nervous and decided to research it to find these five things. I am hoping that I can slowly wean myself off of the excess caffeine to avoid many of these issues in my later life. Let’s see how it goes after spring break and you can expect a blog post discussing my findings!

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Conquering an Online Class

For me, my very first online class was extremely stressful. Taking an online class pretty much forces you to become best friends with Engage, UC’s online learning platform, and follow every single discussion post posted by your peers. Personally, I was getting more and more discouraged by the day. It was difficult for me, but now, I’d be happy to take more online classes.

At first, it’s extremely difficult to figure out what you are supposed to be doing. Discussions are confusing, the syllabus can be confusing, and even Engage can be confusing. However, little did I know, Engage actually simplifies your life in regards to what you should be doing and when you should be doing it by. The next time you log into Engage, check out the “upcoming events” section on your main page. This houses all events coming up for your courses listed on your Engage page. This portion of your Engage page includes dates and times for when things are due, and you can even set it to include reminders! Personally, this saved me while taking my first online class because it simplified things in a way that was easier for me to understand and pay attention to.Blog Post 6 - Conquering an Online Class!-2

Not only is it hard to comprehend what is due and when it is due by, it is also extremely difficult, in my opinion, to stay motivated in the class. For online classes versus on-ground classes, it can be hard to stay motivated and focused on the material. There isn’t a professor available that is lecturing at the front of a classroom. Rather, there are PowerPoints and class discussions in regards to a textbook chapter with the occasional video that reinforces what you were supposed to have read. However, I found that no matter how much you may not want to read the book nor look over the notes, just like in a typical on-ground class, you have to in order to pass the class! Reading is crucial for an online class to be effective and also for you to pass. It was difficult for me to understand at first, but now it’s much easier to grasp certain concepts, and if I don’t understand something, there’s a section to ask questions to the professor.

And lastly, stay organized! Take the notes from your “upcoming events” section on Engage and add them to your planner, calendar, or whatever else you use to stay organized. It’s easy to get ahead of the work for online classes if you read ahead, and pay attention the “upcoming events.”

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Is it too late now to say…um, I have homework?!

I’m sure it’s probably pretty easy to assume that many of us college students procrastinate. You’d think that by the time I reached the Spring semester of my Junior year that I would have that figured out by now. I mean, I do use a planner and I am extremely organized with my school work, I just can never seem to get ahead of my work because I always wait until the last minute – BAD IDEA, I KNOW.

The cliché, “I always do my best work while under pressure” used to be my motto for so long that it’s honestly kind of ridiculous. It’s not true, but was easier to say than, “well, that assignment was terrible.” That’s probably why it’s so important to not procrastinate, Tyler!

Procrastinating frequently causes more stress on a college student than what they already have. So why do I continue to do it to myself? I’m not totally sure. When the clock reads 11:25 pm and I’m furiously typing an assignment that’s due a midnight, I rack my mind to find out WHY!

        So is it too late to say I have homework at 11:25pm? Probably!

So, I’m currently learning how to avoid this constant rut that I have been stuck in for most of my college career, and here are some tips that have worked for me so far:

  1. Be mindful that there’s always more to be done than what you have already completed. You’ll be further ahead that way.
  2. Tune out distracting items. If you find yourself constantly distracted by your phone/tablet/computer, leave it in another room while you’re doing homework.
  3. Hold yourself accountable. If you fail to complete something when you want it to be done, eliminate one of your favorite activities that day until the task gets completed.
  4. Break the task down into smaller tasks so you are less likely to become stressed and overwhelmed.

Thus far, these few things have worked for me. I have changed the way in which I write my tasks in planner. For instance, if I have a paper due next week, I will frequently begin the paper on a Sunday and break up the page limit into a do-able amount each day. It’s prolonged, but easier that way! And by simply changing these few things, I am starting to see more work completed ahead of time and less procrastinating. In turn, I get to bed earlier and find myself to be much happier in the mornings!

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5 Things I Wish I Knew Freshman Year

Before coming to college, there are quite a few things I wish I knew sooner. As a first-semester freshman, I never really thought about a lot of things in regards to my college experience including living on campus, taking college classes, and maintaining a social life. But I soon began to think that I had it all under control, when I, in fact, did not.

If I knew freshman year what I know now, I would have done things much differently. My grades were pretty good, but my study habits and things like that were horrendous. All I wanted to do with my free time was nap and that actually leads to a lot of sleepless nights and stressful mornings. So, while thinking about what I could do differently, I compiled a list:

  1. Go to the library between classes

The more free time I have, the better. I now go to the library more to get work done in the daytime. It keeps me from napping and I get more work done so I have less to do when I get home at night.

  1. Work, but save your money

It’s extremely tempting to go shopping and such when you have a campus job. Finally, you have an income while in school.. but don’t let it fool you! Save the money you make because sometimes things pop up and you have to have money for them right on the spot. You may have an unexpected textbook that you need or a computer program and unfortunately they’re super expensive in most cases.

  1. Research your professors

There are websites out there that students can rate professors and write reviews on them. Use them! Not that any singular professor is “bad,” rather, everyone learns differently and students frequently talk about learning styles and such on these websites. Choose your professors according to your learning style and preference. You’ll be much happier and more successful!

  1. If you have anxiety over office hours, email for a private meeting

I used to despise going to office hours because I never really liked asking questions in front of others. It wasn’t until my second semester that I had figured out that it was possible to ask for private meetings with professors simply by emailing them.

  1. The writing center in the library is a real thing

I honestly had no idea what the writing center was in the library. I’m usually pretty good at writing papers, but I never really liked having my friends read them over for me and correcting them. The writing center is always available for that reason, to help you with your papers! Who knew?!

These are just a few tips that I wish I had known about in the beginning of my freshman year at UC. I’m sure there are plenty more to add to this list, but these are the main ones that I could think of that would have helped me be a better student overall.

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You Can’t Spell Success without ‘UC’

Three years into my college career, I finally decided to become a peer tutor after not even beginning to utilize the resource when I should have in my previous two years here. After seeing the opposite side of the same coin, I now see how rewarding the FREE service is to our students!

Believe me, I’ve experienced it, I’m sure your thoughts running through your mind when you are told you should get a tutor are, “Tutor?! I don’t need a tutor!” I’ve been there and have frequently said the exact same things. However, it’s the wrong mindset to have when something like your academics could be in jeopardy, or in need of the slightest little boost. Having a tutor is NOT a bad thing, even if peers make it seem that way!

After becoming a tutor, I’ve realized a few key things:

1. The library is always available as a quiet space (if you’re upstairs).

2. If you do not prefer to go to the library, many of the academic buildings have open classrooms that you can go into and study

3. Tutoring allows for an extremely flexible schedule and your tutor is generally pretty lenient with meeting times.

4. Tutoring gives you one-on-one attention on a specific subject that you might not otherwise get. It gives you the ability to ask questions on a specific topic and/or question that you may have.

However, there will be some people who still do not want to request a tutor and that’s completely fine. But UC provides services in the library learning commons that allow students to consult a tutor for one-on-one things such as help with writing, math, and science. Within the library, on the first floor, there is a writing center and a math center in which students can consult other students about those things for quick help.

You Know It's Finals Week When 2
One half of the learning commons, located on the first floor it the library

Therefore, for those of our students who need a little boost with their academics, remember, you can’t spell sUCcess without UC —and success is possible with the services that are available for our students.

 

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Anxiety Level: Applying to Grad School

This is my last semester as an undergraduate student here at Utica College. The past four years have been made up of some of the best times I’ve had and some of the best people I’ve met. But let me tell you, these past 1,000 days or so have flown by! And now – its time to start another adventure…

Grad school was something I have thought about in the past but I always shied away from the idea of attending MORE school. However, earlier this fall, I decided it was something I absolutely wanted to do for a few reasons. First of all, I was worried about if I could mentally take more schooling but then I thought; four years of undergrad flew, what’s two or three more at this point!? Secondly, after seeing all the greater opportunities that came along with a graduate degree, it seemed like the best option for me. And finally, I’ve spent most of my life in school – I’d like to think I’ve mastered the art of being a student and I think I could rock grad school!

I am in the middle of applying for acceptance in the Utica College Masters of Business Administration program. For now, the hard part is applying. When I started this process I was overwhelmed and honestly, didn’t know where to start. My first step was to contact the counselors in Graduate Admissions. I can easily say they have made applying manageable and easier than I ever thought it would be!

Somethings that are required for my application are a personal statement, at least two letters of recommendation, the application its self and a copy of my most recently updated resume. At first, this list of requirements gave me anxiety. After talking to a bunch of faculty and staff for advice I took away a few good tips for each of these requirement.

Letters of Recommendations:

  • Ask for one letter from an education resource like a professor and ask for the other from someone who will represent your extra curricular life like a boss. Also- make sure your references know you on a personal level so that your personal flare will reflect in the letter.

The Application:

  • This part of the application process is supper straight forward and it made the whole experience much easier when I got that out of the way first.

The Personal Statement:

  • At first I had a really hard time with this – I was overthinking and felt pressured for it to be “perfect”. After taking a break and a few deep breaths I gave it another try and this time I told myself to just be genuine and realize that the best I can do is just be myself.

My Resume:

  • My resume was a train wreck! I made sure to do it as best I could by myself then I made an appointment with the Career Services office for them to look it over and make improvements. They met with me and pimped out my resume! 

UPDATE:

all my hard work paid off! I am officially enrolled into the MBA program here at Utica College. I will begin my Masters of Business Administration this summer! WOOOHOOOO!

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Student + Aid = Opportunity

A few Tuesdays ago, I was given the opportunity to speak with several lawmakers in the New York State Capitol about something that is very near (and dear) to my own heart and I’m sure most students’ hearts… financial aid.

Student Advocacy Day is an annual day at the Capitol Building in Albany where students essentially lobby for programs such as TAP (tutition assitance program) and various opportunity programs (C-step and HEOP). Students are encouraged to share personal struggles and triumphs in order to encourage policians to support the various programs.

In all, there were over a dozen Utica College students there to represent our student body. I had friends come from out of state and even out of the country, because most people can see how essential state aid is to some of our most deserving classmates and friends.

I recieve New York State funding, and for that I am grateful. My mother worked hard to get me where I am, but when it came time to choose a school…money was a huge factor in my decision. Fortunately, I was awarded some UC scholarships and the rest of the cost was substantially cut because of my aid. I was fortunate to have people rooting for students like me in the Capitol building.

So, I looked at Advocacy Day as a way to give back. I wanted to be present and share my story, as a graduating senior, so others would be able to have the same experiences that I have had. Plus, the day in a whole was so fun! We got to meet influential lawmakers and even had a tour of the New York State Capitol building, a day well spent if you ask me!

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My friend (and fellow blogger!) Courtney and I, posing with some signage!
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The floor of the capitol building. …I really liked the design!
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The floor where the assembly men…assemble!
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A little photobooth fun!

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Last Semester To-Dos: Preparing for the PT Grad Program

Just a few weeks ago, I began my last semester as an undergraduate student—quite surprising, to say the least! Also, the thought of entering graduate school in June is quite nerve-racking. So, I will spend this semester preparing by doing a few things:

  1. Completing all necessary paperwork and requirements:

Before entering the graduate portion of the physical therapy program at UC, each student must complete a few key things. As a student set to enter the   DPT program, I am required to submit paperwork stating that I completed a minimum of 40 observation hours, update all health information including shots and physicals, as well as papers stating that I understand the basic layout of our program (the 3-year track).

  1. Meeting fellow classmates:

Though I am pretty sure that I know each of my PT classmates, it is important to ensure that feeling. These people will be people that I will spend the next 3 years of my life with. If I do not know them, especially on a personal level, it will be extremely awkward in class when we are all required to practice on one another.

  1. Researching the curriculum:

I am aware that our graduate work is roughly 3 years long, though I am not exactly sure how the courses are organized within the curriculum. Therefore, I plan to research the graduate curriculum in order to stay organized and determine what I will be completing each year.

  1. Staying involved, yet focused:

As an undergraduate student, I am involved in many, many things that take up a majority of my free time. However, as a graduate student, I may not always have that free time, so I will have to give up a few leisure activities in order to remain focused on my studies. Therefore, I will be spend a few moments this semester determining what I wish to stay involved in and what will have to stay in my undergraduate years in order to accommodate for the course load that I am going to be taking on in graduate school.

  1. Making plans for life after graduation:

Though it seems a little far-fetched, it’s always important to plan ahead! I have 3 years to truly decide on my post-graduate plans, but I want to explore all of my options and find what I like best. So, I plan to spend more time this semester exploring the large sector of physical therapy in medical practice in order to determine which route I would like to take after graduation.

Though I have a lot to do, I’m ready to enjoy my last semester as an undergrad all while preparing for grad school in June!

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