Tag Archive | "Grad School"

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Chance of acceptance plummets as grad school applicants increase

Posted on 03 April 2010 by admin

It is the time of year when, with bated breath, graduate school applicants await acceptance letters. Daily, eager eyes scan mailboxes in anticipation, as this could be THE day.  Bills and notices dressed in small, flat envelopes cause momentary panic, until further inspection reveals they aren’t fateful rejection letters.

You’ve done it all. Some have rushed. Some have been too meticulous. You’ve spent hours studying, brushing back up on algebra and geometry, hounding down your best references, editing and re-editing your cover letter, as well as tweaking your resume.  With sweaty palms you clutched the GRE score sheet and breathed a triumphant breath there in the Kaplan test center.  You’re qualified. You’re ready. You’re willing to go into debt.  You’re unemployed and see grad school as a great way to survive a recession–oh, and to get some new skill sets.

And you’re not alone.
Which increases the odds of that foreboding, simple, white, rejection letter showing up in your mailbox.

The nation’s unemployment rate is still at 10 percent.  There are thousands of other applicants with the same intent as you;  weather the financial drought by taking refuge in an academic oasis. But a tight economy means that funding for university programs is going down, even as applications increase.

How bad is the spike?
Well, some universities have seen a 42% jump in applications.  This lowers the acceptance rate and as a result, normally qualifying applicants can drown in the pool of competition.  What can you do?

At this point in the game, it’s too late to get your application in early. Hopefully you did and hopefully you really fortified the weaker points on your resume.  Did you consider Tier 3 schools when sending out applications? Do you have the flexibility to relocate?

Tier 3 schools range in the 50-75th percentile. This means that 50% of other schools are better, and 25% are worse.  Your decision to attend a Tier 3 school should depend on several factors.  If you want to practice law, business, or politics in Washington D.C., you will eventually be competing against Tier 1 and Tier 2 applicants. Yet, if you live in Florida, there are an abundance of Tier 3 schools.  You need to score at the top of your class if you go into a Tier 3 school. You will also need to acquire solid experience that enhances your resume enough to stand out in the pack.

Consider the alternatives.
Suppose you don’t get into your school of choice. Do you have time to wait a year?  Use the time to boost your GRE, or GMAT scores.  Search for an internship situation in your field. The Humanities Indicators Project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences claims that a quarter of humanities students will end up more than $30,000 in debt. More than 14% will owe–gasp–more than $50,000.

In consideration of that figure, here are three questions to ask yourself.

Is grad school in your field worth the debt? Can you justify accepting alternatives to your original school of choice, if it means lowering your chances of employment–while accruing debt?  What out of the box scenarios will sharpen your skill set and resume while  keeping debt at a minimum?

For example, suppose you want to go to grad school for mass communications.  Unless you go to a top notch school where you pick up a lot of contacts and prestige, you might able to acquire some impressive skills on your own at a reduced cost.  The biggest challenge will be discipline.

The internet is teeming with free resources and tutorials. Some, like Lynda, W3schools, and Poynter seminars have a price tag,  but offer tremendous amounts of information. Attend conferences that have a heavy emphasis on teaching skills.  The networking opportunities will also be beneficial. Buy some programs, for example, movie and photo editing, and start teaching yourself. Unless you go to a school with a heavy emphasis on production, you’re basically going to have to teach yourself this stuff anyways. Use Google and research the syllabus for Tier 1 and 2 schools. Read what they are reading. Prove that you are a writer by starting your own website and blogging frequently. You will have greater control over the content than if you were in school anyhow.

That’s just a specific example, but apply the framework to your field of choice, especially if it is in the humanities.  Getting a flat, white envelope might not be a kiss of death after all.  The economy will be resuscitated, and with the right focus and fervor you will find employment.  You might even be able to breathe easier without debt choking you. Some consider grad school to be like signing on in the minor leagues,  “Many get signed, but few make it to the big leagues.”

Let’s not forget that higher education is a business, and not one that always serves the students interest.

*photo thumbnail used under Creative Commons licensing.

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College weight gain can be avoided

Posted on 19 March 2010 by admin

Fat Superman

Photo by swruler9284, used with CC licensing

Graduate students often report a noticeable change in weight during their first year back at school. The causes are similar to those of the notorious, yet fabled, “Freshman 15,” which refers to a claim that freshman usually lose or gain up to 15 pounds in their first year. In all reality, researchers have found the weight gain, or loss,  is around 5-7 pounds.

Instead of thinking with their noggins, many students think with their stomachs and fall victim to the temptation of carbohydrate rich foods, copious snacking, fat saturated “goodies,” and sometimes, excessive drinking. A decrease in time or willingness to exercise only exacerbates the weight gain. Even worse, these habits can stick around, contributing to obesity later in life. Common sense, education, time management, and deliberate lifestyle choices can prevent or help shed bulging waistlines.

The National Institute for Health recommends dairy, meat/beans, fruit, vegetables, grains, and oil as the food sources for a well-balanced diet. Oil? Yea, oils actually help to provide energy, insulate our bodies, protect our organs, and absorb important vitamins. The good oils, or fats, that is, like vegetable oil, canola, or olive oil. You shouldn’t run out and buy a bucket of fried chicken. Instead, get your intake from mono- and polyunsaturated fats–not saturated or trans fat.


  • Fast foods: fried chicken, biscuits, fried fish sandwiches, French fries, fried apple or other pie desserts
  • Donuts, muffins
  • Crackers
  • Many cookies
  • Cake, cake icing, & pie
  • Microwave popped corn
  • Canned biscuits

Oh, the obstacles.
College students very often have meager finances, and tend to purchase the cheapest foods possible, which are likely to be high in saturated fats. Moving away from the parental sponsored and stocked commissaries, as well as structured eating patterns, also presents a challenge. A heavy course load, often balanced with work contributes to erratic eating patterns. Seems like a never-ending cycle, eh? Lack of money and time creates poor diet and lack of time means no money to create the good diet and then a bad diet can’t create the right energy to make more time to use to go create money. Not to mention–stress also triggers the compulsion to eat. It’s easy to scarf down a bag of potato chips and bundle of Oreo’s while studying for an exam, or doing project research on the computer. In between classes, 7-11’s kitchen is always open, peddling saturated fats for just the right price. But at what cost?

Sleepless nights and a decrease in exercise contribute to weight gain. Lack of sleep lowers your lepitin levels, and exercise helps to regulate them. A lepitin deficiency, caused by lack of sleep, or exercise, actually increases the appetite and is directly related to obesity. Sometimes it seems more beneficial to pull an all-nighter or skip a work out, but studies prove the exact opposite. Exercise also helps stimulate blood flow to the brain, and even develop new brain cells. What college student doesn’t want to improve their memory and ability to learn?

There are several ways that college students can incorporate healthier patterns that ultimately enable peak performance and a healthy BMI. Evaluate the snack foods and meals you turn to in a pinch. Replace them with healthier ones, like nuts, hot-air popped popcorn, peanut butters & crackers, bananas, or dehydrated fruit (yum pineapple). Try hummus with carrots, or tortilla chips instead of nachos, french fries, or junky food. Plan ahead for your busy week by grocery shopping and preparing meals ahead of time. Pack a lunch to bring on campus, instead of visiting the local sub shop or 7-11. Buy some frozen veggie burgers to skillet cook a meal in about the same time as heating up one in the microwave. Buy bulk foods, available at most grocery or health food stores, to save money. Reward yourself with snacks after a certain amount of your workload is finished, instead of just mindlessly snacking. Mindfulness, after all, is the ultimate “life-hack,” and can apply to everything.

Be mindful and create time to go the gym, take a nap, or call it an early night. Even if the day seems too short, maximizing your health will ultimately help you maximize your time, because you will always be in your prime. If you can’t fit in a trip to the gym, take several breaks and simply walk around the block, and do some stretches/push-ups/sit-ups.  Dog owners always find a way to squeeze in three walks a day, so can you. Dick’s Sporting Goods sells cheap weights that will help you keep, or build, muscle without leaving the house. Just take 10 minutes away from the computer, and do it.

The obesity problem in America is on just about everyone’s radar. Education can prevent future weight and health problems. As you become an adult, and step into the hectic pace of college life, make sure to get an early grip on what could be a potential problem. If you find yourself at Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania, definitely take this advice to heed. You won’t be allowed to graduate if your “Freshman 15,” moves into the upper levels!

P.S. If you feel like slamming down a drink after reading this post, first take a look at the alcohol calorie counter.

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