Welcome to Surviving Studenthood!

Welcome to Surviving Studenthood! (Become a Fan on Facebook)

This is a blog which narrates the experiences of a university student, to be a voice of student everywhere. Even if you and I live in different countries, attend different schools, and study different subjects, we are still the same. We struggle through surviving “studenthood” together, and we are all looking for an outlet to express who are we and what we believe in.

Much like the bubble in the picture, we are whole and yet, incomplete at the same time. It is the joy of being a student – in academia, but also a student of life. We have the opportunity to redefine who we are and allow our world experiences to change our own world.

This is a blog that is just itching to hear your voice. Although I may write posts stemming from my own university experience, I am confident that you, as a student, have/will experience something similar and that you will be willing to share your thoughts, opinions, and feelings so that others may learn from your “studenthood” experience.

Like adulthood, studenthood is best experienced with the warm company and laughter of friends!

Cheers,

The “Surviving Studenthood” Founder

Cooking Without Mom!

One area of studenthood that we haven’t addressed much is living on your own…and that includes cooking. In an effort to address this experience in studenthood, we are going to reblog these excellent student cooking tips that are popping up on a blog created by our founder. Enjoy!

Travelling Through Twenties

For the first time last night I cooked ground beef. Let me tell you, it was a lot less scary than I expected! Over my very brief stint of cooking on my own, I’ve discovered I like to get very creative! For example, please see my How to Make Tacos or Salsa Beef Pasta posts to see how to use your cooked ground beef in easy  recipes!

How to Cook Ground Beef

Ingredients

Ground beef

1/2 Spanish Onion (chopped into small squares)

1/4 Green Pepper (chopped into small pieces)

3 tablespoons (or small amount) of water as needed

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Would You Work As Hard If It Didn’t Count?

At our last Surviving Studenthood meeting, one of our bloggers brought up a very interesting student dilemma. We always hear students say that they would work harder at university if they were just there to learn – that tests, examinations and essays impede our quench for knowledge.

So when one of our bloggers has that very opportunity – to take a course without any real concern with the grade – the results have become rather surprising. In enacting an option for “credit/no credit”, she’s starting to get a little lazy in the course🙂 – at least, placing this course at a lesser priority . Credit/No Credit is an option any U of T arts and science student can enact for 1.0 credits. If you get over 60% in the course, you just get “credit” on your transcript, without the grade actually showing up.

What do you guys think? Does the stress from test and papers make it difficult for you to keep up with the readings and materials taught in class? Or, do they provide proper check-points for you to make sure you keep on top of everything?

 

~ Surviving Studenthood

Understanding How Your Education Empowers You

I was just wondering what you thought about managing social/extra-curricular life with university and the importance of those? And also, what do the writer/s of this article believe are the best years of ones life? As soon as you finish university you start working, and then working, and then you get married and have children, and you never really have any time for having fun if you want to get things done. How would you recommend to spend time in your life, not just in university, but in the bigger picture of time? Thanks, Marie

Hi Marie,

What a wonderful question! Your question brought in so many opinions in our Surviving Studenthood team (many of which comprise the Wonders of Womanhood team) that we decided to ask all the women of that group as well, and write a post in conjunction!

For your first question: “I was just wondering what you thought about managing social/extra-curricular life with university and the importance of those?”

We resoundingly agree that social/extra-curricular life makes up a bulk portion of the university experience. Outside of academics, extra-curriculars allow you to explore and develop yourself, develop new skills, and determine your interests. By depriving yourself of extra-curriculars, you miss out on the opportunity to explore new areas that could actually shape your career, interests, hobbies and passions – in essence, your future life.

I think our tough love post “How to Get Good Grades in University”, where we saw your comment, is trying to draw a distinguishing line between engaging in extra-curriculars to enhance  your university education, and allowing it to act detrimentally to your university education.  Students forget that the purpose of a university education is to do just that – educate you – and while education comes in many forms, the essence of university is academics, critical thinking, strong research and writing. To miss out on this affordable opportunity to develop those skills is a waste.

We are trying to encourage students not be short-sighted, and to draw as much value from their university education as possible.

As per your second question “And also, what do the writer/s of this article believe are the best years of ones life?”: this must also be in reference to our post, where we suggest that university is not the best years of one’s life.

Perhaps we should clarify: it is the position of these writers that university and education in general, should be approached with a “short term pain, long term gain” attitude. In other words – yes, university is an amazing experience. And, as you point out, it is a freeing time to have fun, before you have children, a mortgage, responsibilities and more. But look at it from our perspective: university is 4 years of your life. So you can either choose to party for 4 years and enjoy yourself, and then suffer for the next 60 years, or you can “suck it up” as we like to say, and recognize that you are at university to study, not socialize. Education is the key to your future, and we are trying to encourage students, through tough love, not to be short-sighted about the way they spend their time in university.

The common misconception that students have is “Can’t I do both?” or “Isn’t there a balance between work and fun?”. And our answer is? No, not really. “Balance” means you get to socialize 50% of the time, and you get Cs in school. Imbalance means you work your butt off in school and get As, and enjoy the social aspect of university about 5% of the time.

We recognize that everyone has their own style of learning, and that some people may get Cs for a number of reasons – not because they weren’t working hard. For the writers at Surviving Studenthood, university or college or trade school should be about self-development. That is what makes university such a wonderful experience – you have no other distractions, and you can work on bettering yourself. This is your chance – now is the time to seize your future and equip yourself with the skills you will use 10, 20, 30, 40, and even 50 years from now.

As for your last question: “How would you recommend to spend time in your life, not just in university, but in the bigger picture of time?” … I think the way to look at it to say – what do I want to get out of life, and therefore, how should I spend my time? Personally, I want life to give me good things – I don’t need a big house or fancy cars, but I would like to raise my children in a safe neighbourhood, to have to luxury of going on vacations every once in a while, to have the  option to take a year off when my child is born, to be able to give back to my community both financially and in giving a service … all those things result in a certain standard of living, and thus, I have agreed to put my time to achieving that standard of living. It doesn’t mean that at the end of a long day, I’m not sitting in front of the TV or cruising facebook; it means that I am willing to work very hard in school, and I am willing to do it often. It means that I use education as a tool to achieve my bigger goals, rather than using the freedom in school as a means to escape from life. The experience in university and the education you get, the skills you get, are supposed to empower you, not provide a method of escape.

There are so many people around the world who will never have the chance to educate themselves. You are so fortunate. You live in a country where higher education is available; where, for a reasonable fee, you can choose to study anything, learn anything, develop any skills, and better yourself in any way. What a luxury – how blessed we are to have this opportunity. And thus, we at Surviving Studenthood encourage every student to take advantage of the glorious opportunity and life-changing experience education will offer you. So many others ache to have the opportunity you have … don’t let it go to waste.

 

~ Surviving Studenthood & The Wonders of Womanhood

Part I: Tips on Getting into Law School, Medical School, Teacher’s College, etc.

Recently, we’ve been getting a lot of emails from high school and university students about how to get into law school, medical school, teachers college, and post-graduate programs. We surveyed 10 different students in different professional programs and collected their responses and combined them to give you some tips.

TIP # 1: Talk to Others / Use the People Around You as a Resource:

The number one tip all five students gave us had nothing to do with grades, or building a resume. The number one tip was for applicants to better use the people around as resources. Some of our tips came from students who hadn’t gotten in the first time they applied, but by talking to those who had gotten in, they had gained insight and adjusted their application to be more diversely appealing, resulting in an acceptance the second time around. “It always surprises me,” said one student, “when I talk to a high school student who says they are interested in medicine, and I give them my contact information so they can email me questions, and they never follow-up. What better way to gain insight into the process than to ask someone who has been through it successfully? There, right before you, you have someone who is living your dream – why would you not want to soak up all the knowledge and insight you could possibly get?”

We think this is an excellent point. Students often get insight into the career by talking to professionals in the field – in the same way, talking to a student who has successfully gotten in, and has completed a year or more, can give you incredible insight into submitting a successful application. We know it’s really hard to stroke someone’s ego, and listen to them brag about how awesome they are for getting in, while you are waiting so patiently, but put your pride aside, and make the most of the resource. People value their time carefully – if you have someone who is willing to sit there and email back answers to your questions, or meet you over lunch and share their knowledge, take that offer gratefully. They just might have that little something you are missing.

Another student talked about using people as a resource in a different way: “I always thought asking a current, academically strong law student to write you a reference letter would be a smart idea. For a current student to write ‘I’ve been through two years of law school at X school, and I can attest that this person would do wonderfully in law school, and would make an excellent addition to our student body’ – that would hold a lot of weight, I think, because it’s a person talking from current experience in the program. If you have to get three references anyways, why not get a friend or extended family member in law school to write you a character reference? They are sure to write you a strong reference, and will only be willing to do so if they think genuinely that you are a good candidate – after all, their reputation is on the line by recommending you.”

This is another great idea. On the Windsor Law application, for example, they have a question on each reference form that asked if the reference writer had been to law school themselves. We thought this was such a smart question – how can anyone who has never been through med school or law school attest to whether or not you would do well there? How would they know if they have never been themselves? Plus, there is no harm is getting a diverse set of references – from an employer, from an academic, but also someone who can attest to your character.

TIP # 2: Apply to a “Guaranteed In”/”Sure Thing” School – Even If Its Far Away

Some of the students we talked to applied to only a few schools during their first round, and regretted it deeply: “I was so sure I would get in the first time, that I didn’t apply to my back-up school. I was so shocked when I didn’t get in anywhere and so disappointed… but the second time, I applied everywhere and sure enough, I got in.”

Another student warned against this, though, stating “Applying everywhere is NOT the same as applying to a ‘guaranteed in’ school. My friend has applied to every med school across the province, but when you ask him where he think he is sure to get in, he shrugs, because he isn’t sure. If he really wanted to go to medical school, then he ought to apply to a guaranteed back-up somewhere outside the province, or outside the country.”

We really want to emphasize this point – applying everywhere isn’t the same as applying somewhere you are likely to get in. A lot of students become short-sighted, and worry about writing transfer exams back to Canada after they complete a professional degree in the US or UK (both of which are becoming increasingly competitive), or racking up a lot of student debt. Undoubtedly, those are real concerns (especially the latter) but the alternative is you might not get in anywhere at all. For those of you who haven’t applied to a “sure thing” back up, consider doing so now – many state schools still accept applications through the summer, and some will even let you apply for free. What could be the harm? You can always turn it down once you get accepted somewhere else. But do you really want to lose a year because you didn’t apply to a sure thing the first time?

There is another quick point we wanted to make – there isn’t any harm in spending a year to take extra courses to boost your GPA, or taking a year off to re-write the MCAT, LSAT, GMAT, etc. and get a really good score. Taking that time and improving your application might just be the thing you need to get in, and you could save yourself literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. But be realistic – if your chances are still looking bleak after trying to improve your application, there wouldn’t be any harm in applying to a few back-ups. As we pointed out – you can always turn down the school once you’ve gotten in … but as the famous Wayne Gretzky once said, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

Part II is coming soon!

Got any tips of your own, or questions about surviving your studenthood experience? Leave a comment below, or send us an email at survivingstudenthood@gmail.com!

Cost of Res vs. Campus Experience

We got a great question on our previous post “Should I Live on Residence During University” and we decided it was worthy of a blog response! The question was:

I have a question, my step mother is stressing me out about the constant costs of residence and would prefer me to stay home to save money. like i hear what she is saying but like i really want that first time experience and to say “hey i lived on campus before”. And she is also stressing me out that i need a job, if i am going to live on campus….

I don’t know what to do!

Whitney

Hi Whitney,

Great question. Actually, I was in the same situation and so have many of our other writers – we have had parents that didn’t want me to live on campus, because of the cost. Totally get your position.

Here are some of your options:

1. Live at Home, and Get Involved in Other Ways: Campus life is very much what you make of it – in fact, I found I was involved much more in campus activities when I was living at home, rather than on campus, where I tried to get away from it all. What you really want is not “Hey, I have lived on campus before” – its more about “Hey, I got the campus life experience while I was studying at university”. And you can get that experience whether or not you live on campus by getting involved in clubs, volunteering, and participating in extra-curricular activities.

Further, it might be worth trying out travelling for first year, and if it really isn’t working, you can jump to number two, three, or four.

Continue reading →

Should I Live On Residence? Part II

We forgot all about our follow-up post, but a comment left on the original got us back on track. The question is, what are the alternative options besides living on campus, and commuting?

We will confess, the choices are slim.

Apartments On/Near Campus

One option is to live in an apartment near campus. If you get lucky, you can avoid the drunken mess of “newly-released” undergraduate students. On the other hand, if your neighbours end up being a family with small children, you aren’t going to have it might quieter. You don’t get to control or choose your neighbours in an apartment, and they may not be into studying – or keeping the noise down – at all. You’d be surprised how noise, sounds, even cooking smells! can waft into your apartment and destroy your concentration.

There are other important points to consider:

The anonymity of apartments means that safety is an issue. If something went wrong, it could be days before anyone noticed you were missing. It’s really important, if you live in an apartment, to keep in touch with friends or family. After what happened to the poor York University student Liu Qian, we urge you not to take safety as a light issue.

Additionally, the cost of the apartment might be 12 months, which means you need to sublet your apartment for the summer months, or you end up incurring a hefty charge paying for rent in an apartment you aren’t using.

Speaking of extra charges – finding an apartment farther from your university means you pay a double whammy for public transit. “Only 15 minutes away” becomes really challenging to walk when there is a blizzard outside. You also have to lug all your books to campus, because coming back during the day isn’t really a viable option, unless you don’t mind paying a lot for transit.

Definitely, there are pros – better facilities than residences, more amenities, no students, etc. People who live in apartments don’t consider it an 8-month rental: its their home, and they want the space respected – an attitude you don’t often find on residence.

Sharing  House Near Campus
Alternatively, you could share a house near campus. Some students live in a basement apartment with a family (that comes with its own share of problems) or they share a house with friends.
  • Living in a basement apartment in a family home is much like living in an apartment building. You have more control over where/who you live with (as opposed to residence) but there are safety considerations you need to take into account. On one hand you have a better support network, but make sure you are living somewhere safe. Nice to have a home away from home, but living with another family can be very distracting, especially if they have young kids or pets. Also watch out when lease terms include “baby-sitting” or “light chores” –> those “good deals” can come back to haunt you during exam time.
  • Renting a house with friends has been a popular option for upper year students. While we caution you to choose roommates that suit your living habits, we have seen it turn into a very successful option for students who know each other well. Living with someone requires much more than just being friends – you need to be able to (a) see the person at school and still be able to live with them at home and (b) have a strong enough relationship to be open and honest with someone about how you feel about their living habits without it destroying your personal or professional relationship.

Other thoughts? If you don’t live on res or commute from home, what are some note-worthy options for living?

Pre-Graduation Jitters

(This post was written in conjunction with The Wonders of Womanhood writers. Many thanks for your words of wisdom, ideas, thoughts….and just the right amount of feminine touch.)

I don’t know what it is, dear readers, but I have a terrible feeling settling in my soul. Partly, it’s because of the upcoming “U of T Hell Week” that sinks its teeth into us next week – I think the amount of assignments, exams and papers I have due next week is worse than any other week I’ve had in four years of undergraduate study.

But the other part, I think, is the realization that a very important chapter in my life is coming to a close. No matter how challenging and destitute university feels while you are in it, its impending close is bittersweet. While it is exciting to move on to other projects, it is so hard to let go of that which you know and feel comfortable with, and more importantly, the wonderful experiences you have had as a university student. As I always say, there is no other time in your life where every day, you will develop and grow so much as a person. Every time you leave a classroom, you are irrevocably changed through the knowledge you have gained. That experience is irreplaceable.

Somehow, I am not sure if I am ready to leave that behind…I guess you could say, I have pre-graduation jitters.🙂

I guess one of the reasons endings are so important to us, is because we want to feel like we made a difference; that we impacted someone’s life, and that even when we leave, the memories and the friendships that we have made in university will carry with us into our future paths. I think its scary when you realize you haven’t as much of a difference as you hoped, where the ever-lasting friendship you thought you had was really just you putting in 70% of the work, and receiving only 30% back, or when the relationship you spent so much time investing in is suddenly moving away and moving on without you. Some of those realizations hit me these past few weeks – while perhaps I hadn’t made as much of an impact as I had hoped, I also realized that maybe others were more ready to move on than I expected, and I was the one holding back and holding on.

Friendships and relationships are a bit like holding sand tightly in your hand – the more you clutch, the faster it slips from your fingers and the move you lose. But letting people go and hoping they come back in their own time, is daunting in itself – with the realization that you must let go without any conditions of hope for return. It requires a lot of faith, which is also ingredient for investing in one’s own future.

That is hard for me; I’ve never been the “wait and see” type, and maybe that’s why I’m still trying to hold on to what I know – because it is real, and true, and tangible and right there in front of me, while the future is still unknown and fleeting, like wisps of clouds. My view into the future is foggy, and I am afraid to venture out into that which I cannot see. I feel vulnerable, afraid, and exposed. And, while the other side of the bridge may lead to a place that is better than I ever imagined, it’s always hard to take those first steps, to close your eyes with blind faith and recognize that you have worked so hard to be standing, here at this precise moment, that not taking that first step will always be more of an injustice than any misstep you could ever make along the way.

As I write this post, I realize that we approach the final stretch; the last few miles on the well-worth path that we have always known. And while the beaten path is familiar and comforting, the new path may lead to exciting adventures and tales of wonder that are just beyond the horizon.

Cheers to all of you graduating this year. Here’s to something new.

– Surviving Studenthood & The Wonders of Womanhood

FEB 2011 LSAT: The Valentine’s Love Fest Everyone was Hoping for?

Welcome LSATers! Congrats on completing the first LSAT test of the new year. While its not exactly the Valentine’s weekend you had planned, hopefully the LSAT was so awesome, it was like giant lovefest for you.

We’ve discovered how important the LSAT is to our readers and subscribers, so we will dedicate a post or two which include everything and anything about the LSAT – your experiences, updates we get on scores, and what people around the world thought of it. We open the comments section up to hear your thoughts and feelings, so comment away! We will also be posting updates right here on this post, so bookmark our website, and check back here every once in a while before your score comes out to see what people are saying.

Upon completing your test, I am sure anxiety set in, coupled with your irritation that you didn’t have your cellphone on you and had to wait forever to use the pay-phone and for someone to come pick up. But while the gnawing feeling in your chest may last until your score comes in, we here at Surviving Studenthood, are here to ease the burden and share in communal experiences.

Now that it’s over, relax. Enjoy a big lunch, turn on the TV and catch up on your old shows, so peruse the web for awesome sites (like ours, and The Wonders of Womanhood!), and after a re-charing break (or day) get back to the assignment you have due Monday.

How was the Feb LSAT? Any sections particularly hard? Was it easier or harder than previous sittings? What would be advice you’d give for the June 2011 LSAT-ers?

Updates and Additions to our Feb 2011 LSAT post

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Wrapping up a snowstorm-y day; Salute to U of T and Ryerson Students

For those of you just heading downtown, I am sure “wrapping up” doesn’t even begin to describe your day (come back to this post when you are ready to curl up in bed with your laptop and peruse blogs!), but bear with us as we provide some perspective and well deserved credit.

Today was a day that put students to the test. For the lucky ones at York or UTM or UTSC, the test didn’t apply. But for U of T St.George or Ryerson or York Region District School Board secondary school students, there was a big examination. It was an examination that tested your commitment to your education.

Did you pass?

Continue reading →

Hoping for a Snowstorm?

I’ve been greatly frustrated with being at school…something about the courses, my friends, and just about everything else has got my brain in a blizzard. When I heard there could be a snowstorm, I have to admit – I was a bit relieved.

According to the weather network, every major city from Windsor to Kingston will see at least 15cm of snow on Wed. In fact, some areas could see up to 30cm between Wed and Thurs. This is going to be a significant winter storm for much on North America; many of the US states are also expecting a massive snowfall and freezing temperatures – snow could be measured in feet in some places! Dozens of flights have already been cancelled as freezing rain is predicted tonight.

Continue reading →

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