Category Archives: The Frustrated Student

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!

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

How to Get Good Grades in University

If you are in university, this is probably right around the time you feel like hell, with exams, papers and a million readings that you put off, even though you swore this was the year you would keep up. Don’t fear, you are not alone.

My younger sister came home for the weekend, in a rather perplexed about her current university experience. She is travelling through her first year and, like some foreign visitors, was marred by an experience of unexpected surprises. Rather than brave the university world alone, she got smart and decided not to re-invent the wheel; instead, she opted to talk to her older siblings. It was a rather rousing debate – there are four of us, all at different universities and programs, and it seemed post-worthy for any university student who needs a little guidance to the elixir of good grades. I’ll confess – none of us are geniuses – but I maintain that because we each have averages above 3.5/4.0 GPA, we feel qualified to give a few tips on improving.

This post is a tough-love post: it is for those students who have been cruising through university, and have suddenly realized their grades are not high enough – whether it is for professional school or grad school, for graduation, for your parents, or just for yourself. One thing my sister mentioned is that university students (including herself) feel lost in their student experience, and that a little tough love from some older siblings might have helped. So we’ve decided to play “older sibling” to all of our readers and dish it out, cold (ice-cream!) style.

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Re-Living the Oct 2010 LSAT: A Recap and Your Thoughts?

I thought the anxiety of the 2010 October LSAT would magically disappear after I wrote the test. Evidently not, as Surviving Studenthood kindly designates another post about this test despite the fact that there are only a few of us wrote it. In keeping with whole-hearted fashion of pursing every post to its fullest, we have decided not only to write a re-cap post, but to keep posting updates   – all the information we can find, as soon as we find it! – about the LSAT; such as the grading curve (that is, how many questions you can get wrong and still get a 170), when scores start to be released (as they take several hours to process – we will let you know when people start getting their scores) and any other exciting news about this LSAT!

So, lets recap:

Test Difficulty: There seems to be a tug-of-war opinion about whether this test was harder than the June 2010 LSAT. A friend of mine (and a co-writer for Surviving Studenthood!) who wrote both said she though the June one was harder, but her testing experience was different then – more commuting, more pressure, and more panic – all of which may contribute to her opinion. What are your thoughts? Was the test more challenging in Oct or June?

Section Difficulty: Reading Comprehension seems to have been a big problem for many test-takers – less for content reasons, and more for structural reasons. Apparently a passage on African-American nationalism had people’s knickers in a twist – I didn’t find it particularly challenging, but I did have to stop after reading the passage and really think about the author’s point before I moved to the questions. It has people in a rather uncomfortable and unhappy position. Apparently Reading Comp was time-consuming and had too many questions regarding inference or required referral back to the passage (e.g. detail questions).

Logic games seems to be a mixed bag – some people found it to be perfectly fine, and others thought it was not so hot. It seems wording was also a problem here: what were relatively easy games (e.g. grouping, distribution etc.) discombobulated people with strange wording. One person mentioned the car game as sporting unnecessarily round-about wording (though not a tough game once you got your head around it), and another student mentioned there were too many conditionals – requiring test-takes to re-draw out the game for every question. It seems wording rather than difficulty is what snatch away time for excellent score in this section.

If you felt that way about either of the sections, don’t worry about it – enough of a similar response from other LSAT takers will result in a more lenient grading curve (as in June 2010).

Logical reasoning seemed to be the most positively received – there is a debate going around about whether there were new types of questions on the LSAT. One student mentioned the question about the abridgment to Shakespeare’s Hamlet – which I confess had me stumped. I spent over a minute thinking “Wait, how am I supposed to know that? What are they even asking me?!” – but I think it was, subtly, an inference question. The same individual mentioned the car-theft question as well, but I confess I don’t remember it clearly enough to admit if it could be or couldn’t be categorized into an existing category of question types. Apparently one Logical reasoning section was notably harder than the other, but they both seemed to be better received than the other sections.

Testing Conditions: Like every other test, testing conditions vary around the world. I’ve read posts online of someone’s phone going off for a full minute during the test, someone else had a cougher right next to them that threw off their concentration.

From one of my favourite LSAT blogs, I read the following:

### In breaking news, our NY affiliates report a rumor that in a testing center in Columbia, the proctor asked that anyone with a phone place it on the table in the front of room. Those that did so were dismissed. Ouch.

Ouch is right. Aren’t you glad we told you not to bring your phone at all to the testing site in our previous post?

A couple of test-centers had an issue with hoodies – of course, there are always students who never bother to read the rules, and three hundred people have to sit and wait for every hooded test-taker to be escorted by a proctor one-by-one to place their sweater on the side. It happened at my testing center, and I think those students are very lucky – they could have been dismissed, like at Columbia. For future LSAT takers – PLEASE, read the rules IN FULL, well in advance of the test date – it will make your own testing experience more pleasant.

Should You Cancel Your Score?

Off the bat, I would discourage you from cancelling your scores. Often test-takers come home with unfounded test-day fears which subside when they receive their scores. For others, keeping your score is important for an accurate reflection of your true LSAT ability on a testing-day – an experience you cannot get from your practice test experience, no matter how closely you mimic the test day environment.

I talked to a student who wrote the test in June – she didn’t do so great, and she came back with a vengeance for October. While you may not be able to accurately predict how you did, there is no stigma in needing to repeat your test. All Canadian schools, and many US schools take your highest, rather than an average score. According to an admissions office I spoke to, there are too many students who re-write the test to be discriminatory. And although I suggested writing the LSAT multiple times may influence the admissions panel’s opinion about you when comparing to a candidate who only wrote it once, she firmly disagreed. Her advice (along with other admissions officer at difference schools) is: if you can improve your LSAT score, write it again – the point is to present the very best application and score you can. They recognize that students have a bad day or testing experience, and they don’t discriminate because someone had a good testing experience the first time they wrote the test as opposed to the second. In the end, you are judged on how well you fair in that testing session, and that’s that.

If you really feel the urge to cancel your score, you have 6 calendar says from your test date to notify LSAC. If you have LSAT jitters, wait it out, and spend the next three weeks immersed in something else. In my opinion, its better to know than be left guessing, but you need to go with your gut feeling. Remember, even if you do cancel your score, it will count as an LSAT sitting – and you are limited to writing the LSAT three times in a span of two years.

** Updates **

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4:37PM Friday October 29th, 2010

Its 20 minutes to 5pm, and according to our sources, NO ONE has received their scores. There has been no changing of little green icons to grey. While there is still time yet, it seems unlikely to me that everyone’s scores can be processed today – hence, no one scores will be.

We will keep you posted, but my suggestion is you enjoy a wonderful Halloween, and then come back here Monday morning and we will give you any updates we find.

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2:01 PM Friday October 29th, 2010

We’ve hit the 2 o’clock mark, with no updates on scores yet. It seems NO ONE is reporting a score release. There is talk that generally most of the scores come out between 3-4pm, but there is also a question of whether scores just might be released on Monday, as reported.

We’ll keep you posted!

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12:25 PM Friday October 29th, 2010

Okay, so some sources say the June LSAT scores started coming out around 3 – I got mine at 2:50, so maybe I was one of the earlier batches, I don’t know.

No one seems to know how the scores are released – by test centre, by score, by your favourite colour :). Haha!

Hang on tight – and leave your comments below! I get the impression the time is close – people are seeing weird changes in their previous LSAT scores, which may indicate accounts are being activated.

Hmm…

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11:37 AM Friday October 29th, 2010

I finally made it to bed last night, and got up to frantically check my email. I read somewhere that people have gotten their scores by 6AM but no such luck for me. Further research and talking to sources makes it seem that no one has gotten their scores yet, which is very interesting.

The June 2010 lsat scores were first received around 11ish, I believe – I know for sure by 3pm I had my score, but several people were waiting well into the evening. The fact that there has been no activity at all (changing of the score date from Nov 1st to Fri Oct 29th, little icons changing) is interesting.

If something happens and scores are not released today, there will be no processing till Monday. I understand LSAC is closed over the weekend, so at least there will be no agonizing during Halloween.

There is plenty of time yet – so we will keep you posted 🙂

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12:11 AM Friday October 29th, 2010

As we mentioned in this last update, it is likely today is the day we will start seeing changes. I’m so nervous – I feel sick. 🙂 But hey, we are in this together, and worrying isn’t going to help!

What can we tell you so far?

Your LSAC account will show your score before you get an email. To view your score, log into your LSAC account, place your mouse on the “LSAT” tab and select “LSAT Status” from the drop down menu. It will show your score there. A good way to tell your score will be coming in is when the green icons — not available — which stand for “not available yet” will change to grey icons — cannot be displayed — which means “cannot be displayed”. Your account is being processed and a score will be available then.

The scores come out in batches, but no one knows what the order is. Previously people on the east coast got their scores first, but it is up in the air every LSAT. We shall keep you posted on the score release progress, so check back here for details, and for other wonderful posts on surviving ‘studenthood’. Please subscribe to our blog (you can enter your email address) to get emails on all of our other wonderful posts!

Good luck to all!

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One week to go! Based on the last six previous LSATs, score have been released early. Starting Friday Oct 29th, people should start to see changes in their LSAC account – icons will change from “unavailable” (or little green icons) to “pending” or little grey icons. We shall keep you posted on the developments of scoring. Hang tight! We are almost there!

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Nothing yet – we just posted this post! 🙂 Keep coming back to check – we will post up any and every update we scour out about the LSAT on this post.

Please leave your thoughts, advice and experiences in a comment section below! What did you think of the 2010 October LSAT test and testing experience?

Respect the TUSBE System

A friend of a friend (props for a ‘chain-post’!) was discussing how students have a terrible habit of abusing the TUSBE system. TUSBE, for those of you who do not know, is the Toronto University Student’s Book Exchange – a website where students in the Toronto Area (including those from York University, Ryerson University and all three of the University of Toronto campuses) can post their course textbooks online, free of charge, or peruse the list of available textbooks to purchase for a significant discount from other students.

Now, it seems that students have become a bit mistaken about how the system works – and after four years, I thought it would be worth sharing with newcomers how to go about TUBSE-ing (yes, I just made that up.)

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Financial Aid: The Middle-class Always Get Screwed

I have discovered that I attend a very smart university institution. I came to this conclusion without examining the facilities, quality of teaching, or measuring available resources. I drew this simple conclusion by the fact that my school has managed to increase tuition by six hundred dollars in the last three years without anyone noticing. Six hundred dollars! Thats over half a thousand dollars (meaning more than a course for 1 term); making my annual university tuition a whopping $6212.88 (this is the first year it has hit the six-thousand range) for 8 months of university education, not including books (which generally total $1000, even when buying used copies) or travel expenses ($324/mos, or $2592 per school year).

With my total costs for the year hitting almost ten-thousand dollars ($9,804.88, to be exact), you can’t imagine how much I am peeing my pants. And my school is getting even smarter: in recognition that students are having a harder time paying school fees, the university now expects you to pay a minimum deposit well before classes start in order to register. “Minimum deposit isn’t so bad!” you think to yourself indignantly. No, no – wait for it – my educational institution’s conception of “minimum deposit” is 65% of the total tuition cost. This means I have to come up with $4038.32 to simply register – and the real kicker is, I have only one month to come up with this money. One month.

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To Be Pluralistic In the Face of Adversity

The following post was kindly re-published with permission from Change Tomorrow’s World.

My naive side loves Canada – a country that encourages  its people promote pluralism and acceptance for different cultures and ethnicities. I love that I can walk in the streets of Toronto and be proud of my culture and heritage, and be able to be excited to share – with the world – my thoughts, ideas and attitudes stemming from my religious and cultural background. I like to learn from others about their customs, and I believe Canada is a country that discourages racism.

Unfortunately, my naive side seems to not quite have an accurate picture of this country of which I am so proud. A recent trip to Windsor opened my eyes to the racism that is ever present in our forward-thinking society. While sitting on a bus (public transit), a young woman dressed in traditional Muslim clothes – long sleeves blouse and long skirt and a traditional head scarf known as a hijab – got on the bus. Her face was visible, and she was a beautiful young lady, who sat quietly on the bus, waiting for her stop. I couldn’t catch all of what transpired next, but here was mostly how it went.

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From Betrayal Comes Self-Discovery

A friend of mine made a big mistake. She went behind my back about something, knowing full well that I would be furious about it and that it would severely jeopardize our friendship. Unfortunately for her, she made the crucial mistake of underestimating me and assuming I wouldn’t find out about what she did- or rather, I’d only know whatever she was finally willing to confess to me and not actually bother to do my own research. Sadly for her, I know much more about the situation than she realizes and am startled at her lying ability. After being friends for so many years, I was sad to realize that I was not surprised to discover that she never had my back in the first place.

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When The Fat Gets To Your Head

I must admit I am a bit overweight. I used to be in very good shape, and quite skinny, but undergoing several years of undergraduate study, and the realization that food can keep you awake, my Freshman 15 went to Freshman 45. I confess openly however, that while I am now insecure about my body, I’d also enjoy being a bit overweight. I like the curves. 🙂

Recent picture-taking has revealed I am heavier than I think I am (or does the camera add 10 lbs?) and that is not a realization I was happy to confront. I’ve become a bit … wary of seeing my own picture, and tend to shy away from the camera now, but it has never been more serious than that. I love my body. Despite these positive feelings, a recent event made me insecure – leading to a startling realization that all this fat was starting to mess with my brain.

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