Category Archives: The Inspired Student

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

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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!

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 Can I Promote My University Club?

Hey Everyone!

A great comment/question was left on our humourous post “The Only Sober Apple in a Drunk Barrel” and we thought other students may be interested in our answer. If you are starting a new university-affiliated club, or maybe you are part of a well-established club that needs new members, check out our publicity and promotional ideas, in response to Meimei’s question.

Well, after careful consideration I’m going to start a group on campus this Fall! =)

My group is going to be the official group for Roots & Shoots Canada (part of The Jane Goodall Institute of Canada), not sure if you’ve heard of it…haha…The mission is to foster respect and compassion for all living things; to promote understanding of all cultures and beliefs; to inspire each individual to take action to make the world a better place for people, animals and the environment! Currently trying to figure out how to recruit members……any ideas?

Meimei

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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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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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(Ugly) Betty Blogging Boom

Okay, so I know I generally write about academic things, but … I love the show Ugly Betty, and their most recent episode had plenty about blogging, and I just couldn’t resist. It was an episode that reached out to me, as a blogger, and encouraged me to reach out to you outside the world of academia.

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