Tag: Listicle

How to Get Ready for Grad School in Less Than an Hour a Day: A Guide by Andrea Tyree

 

A young woman leans against a tree, smiling.

Andrea Tyree, MPP’22

Preparing for graduate school can feel overwhelming. After the high of acceptance passes, you’re hit with some tough questions Where will I live? How will I pay for it all? Am I ready for class discussions?

Personally, that last question hit me hard. I worried that I wouldn’t be as politically savvy or knowledgeable as my classmates. Now half a year in, I can assure my past self—and you—that you are fine. Chances are, if you’ve made it into one of Heller’s graduate programs, you know enough about the issues within your field to get by. But if you’re like me and want to be as prepared as possible, do it in the least stressful way: listen to podcasts.

Okay, I know at least 25% of you just rolled your eyes cause it’s 2021 and podcasts are done to death. I know, I know, I know… But that’s also what makes them so great! No matter what you’re interested in, there’s a podcast for it. Need to up your financial game? There’s a podcast for that. Want to better understand race relations? There’s a podcast for that. Want to watch The Office while you’re driving? There’s a podcast for that (and it’s fantastic).

So if you’re looking to prep for grad school by catching up on current events, history, politics, breakthroughs in medicine or science, or anything else, try listening to a podcast in your spare time! With the help of some of my classmates, I’ve put together a starter list of useful podcasts for incoming and current students:


  1. Up First by NPR

I recommend this for anyone who feels like they don’t have enough time in their day. This 10-15 minute NPR podcast is a great listen while you’re getting ready in the morning. It reviews some of the top (usually national) news stories that will help you feel prepared for that 9:00 am class.

  1. Today, Explained by Vox AND/OR The Daily by The New York Times AND/OR Pod Save America by Crooked Media

If you want a deeper dive into current issues (or hear about more than 3 topics), then any of these podcasts are great alternatives. The episodes run a bit longer (~30 min to 1 hour), but if you want to hear a thorough breakdown of the news, these are three podcasts I recommend.

  1. Worldly by Vox AND/OR Global News Podcast by BBC

Tired of hearing only about American politics? Want to stay on top of what’s going on in the rest of the world? Check out one of these podcasts! Worldly deep dives into the issues by placing them in the context of history and politics, while Global News provides daily updates on various issues.

  1. Justice in America by The Appeal

If you’re interested in criminal justice, then this is the podcast for you. It covers a wide range of topics within the criminal justice system and examines each piece’s impact on impoverished communities and communities of color.

  1. Code Switch by NPR

Truly one of the best podcasts out there. It explains how race affects everything, provides a platform for the most marginalized and underrepresented to speak their truth, and puts it all into a digestible format. If you’ve been wondering how to be a better ally to people of color or understand how their struggles affect all of us, then this podcast is for you.

  1. Adulting by WNYC Studios

Okay this isn’t a serious podcast about politics, social issues, or current events, but I couldn’t complete this list without mentioning one of the most hilarious podcasts out there (imo). If you need a good laugh, want to feel seen as a struggling grad student/adult, or just need a distraction from the state of the world, this podcast is for you. Plus, if you’re not a Michelle Buteau stan, what are you doing?

Andrea’s 2021 Resolutions

A young woman leans against a tree, smiling.

Andrea Tyree, MPP’22

Lately, I haven’t even attempted to make a list of New Year’s resolutions. I’ve had too many years of making grand commitments on January 1st, and by April I can’t even remember what I was supposed to do. I find starting a New Year’s resolution in March to be much more effective. Don’t ask me why. Something about March makes me want to change my life…

But for the sake of grad school (and this blog), this year I will try again! If I learned anything from my first semester, it’s that graduate school can take over your life. It’s easy to let hobbies, self-care, and even old friends fall by the wayside when you’re diving head first into academia. And if you’re one of the many graduate students who also has a job or a child (or both!), then there’s really not much time for anything else.

I’m making these resolutions with us in mind. It’s easy to let the world pass us by while trying to simultaneously get a degree and keep our lives together. Yet we have to remember (and honestly, I’m just talking to myself here) to dedicate time to activities that make us happy, relax us, and overall keep us sane. Who has time for that mid-semester mental breakdown anyway?! Here are my resolutions that (hopefully) will help prevent that:


  1. Spend at least 1 hour every day away from the screens

What a sad goal to start with. But committing at least one consecutive hour away from the screens every day is necessary for grad students (especially for those of us in Zoom university). Although we have to stare at our computers for most of the day, we don’t have to spend every study break watching Netflix, Youtube, or scrolling through social media. It’s fun and oh so mind-numbing, but our eyes need a break. I plan to spend this hour relaxing, listening to music, cooking, spending time with my partner, or doing one of the following resolutions!

  1. Call a friend, family member, or therapist every week

Now I’m not saying speak to the same person every week (unless you see your therapist every week… like me), but talking with someone who’s world does not revolve around endless assignments will help pull you out of whatever funk or anxiety grad school may have put you in. Plus your mother/father/old best friend from high school or college wants to hear from you. Trust me. (Note: this can also be checked off by speaking to a neighbor or coworker—about something other than work—for an extended period of time.)

  1. Go outside every day. Even if it’s freezing. Even if it’s just for 3 minutes. Do it!

That fresh air is necessary! Taking ten deep breaths in fresh air can relieve stress that you didn’t even know you were holding onto. Spending time outside last semester brought me pure joy. But I didn’t do it as often as I could have. This semester, I have a feeling I’m going to need that joy.

  1. Do something that makes me smile or laugh every day.

Sometimes we have to consciously bring joy into our lives. It’s easy forget about it with the responsibilities of work and school. This year I want joy to be a priority in my life. For me, most of the previous resolutions would bring my joy every day. For you it may be different and that’s okay! But trust, a good laugh a day keeps the anxiety monster away.


I hope these resolutions can help you too! Whether you’re a first-year, second-year, or newly admitted student, I think all of us could benefit from starting these habits. Happy New Year!

Exploring the Boston Area with Sami

Woman in glasses smiling at the camera

Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

Waltham and the greater Boston area as a whole are such fun, vibrant, and exciting places to be a graduate student. There is always something to do, something new to experience, eat, or see! It’s not easy to narrow down a list of recommendations, but here, in no particular order, are my top five:

  1. Walden Pond is a historic, wooded area that’s a perfect place to spend an afternoon in the Spring or Summer. The lake has plenty of room to swim, get a tan, relax with friends, and enjoy the trails in the surrounding woods. For history nerds like me, there is lots of information about Henry David Thoreau, who famously lived and wrote there. You’ll even be able to visit a model of his house. Walden Pond is only about a 25-minute drive from Waltham, and it is the perfect escape from the business of grad school.
  2. If you’re a fan of Indian food, you’ll love Punjabi Dhaba. It’s a casual spot to eat in Cambridge that is usually overflowing with happy customers. It can be tough to choose what to order off of their long and varied menu! Personally, I’m a very big fan of their Paneer Chili Masala. Combine that with a samosa and a mango lassi, you won’t leave disappointed.
  3. The Isabella Stuart Gardener Museum is my favorite art museum in all of Boston. Having once been Ms. Gardener’s personal art collection, it’s a unique and unusual space filled with art from many different places and times. Be sure to keep your eyes out for a few large frames with no art inside of them: after a robbery (the paintings were never recovered), the museum chose not to replace the stolen work with anything else.
  4. Take a walk along the Charles River and enjoy one of the more scenic spaces in Waltham. There is a long and lovely trail along the water that provides a beautiful walk through Waltham. It’s another great way to escape the stress of a busy day, and a great opportunity to get to know the town of Waltham in more detail. You can also explore the Charles by renting a kayak and navigating through the water.
  5. Enjoy a dance party, see a show, or do karaoke at The Middle East. A funky club and bar in Cambridge, The Middle East is the perfect place to unwind after classes end on a Friday or over the weekend. Once you’re there, you’ll discover new music, make new friends, and enjoy delicious Middle Eastern food. My favorite is getting nostalgic at their 90’s throwback dance party.

There’s so much to see and do around Boston and Waltham, it’s hard to pick just five recommendations! Once you’re here, you’ll have ample opportunity to get to know the area and discover what’s most exciting to you.

Heller Bucket List: Elizabeth Nguyen’s “Must Do” Experiences around Waltham

Woman in patterned shirt smiling at the camera

Elizabeth Nguyen, MBA/SID ’20

There are a number of exciting things to do and see when you start your program at Heller. For those of you moving to the area for the first time (or even those of you who have been here your whole lives), the amount of “must-do” activities can sometimes seem overwhelming, but remember, you have your whole program to cross them off your list. After two years at Heller, here is my list of things to make sure you do at Brandeis, in Boston, and in the New England area!

  1. Go to Brandeis events – Sign up for the general Brandeis listservs and follow the Brandeis Facebook pages to find out more about Brandeis events going on outside of the Heller building. I follow the Campus Activities Board and have gotten information about great events the past two years that I have signed up for with my Heller friends. During Halloween, there was a fun zombie escape room (we escaped!), a zoom chat with John Finlay from Netflix’s show “Tiger King”, free tickets to a Red Sox game, and even free ice cream in the summer!

    A group of eight students smile in a dimly lit room

    My team after completing the Escape Room

  2. Check out the Mapparium in Boston – This three-story tall stained-glass globe is one of the coolest places I have seen in Boston, and every time I have someone visiting, we try to go see it. The map itself is from 1935 and has some countries with different names compared to today. As a traveler and history nerd, it always is so interesting to find new bits of information on the map and see how the world has changed! Since it’s a perfect sphere, it also has fun acoustics, so bring a friend to test it out.
  3. Explore Cambridge and Boston –  There is a great free campus shuttle during the school year that drops you in Cambridge or Boston for you to explore the city for the day. Cambridge has great options for food, including coffee from Tatte or Pokeworks for sushi. I sometimes also like to explore the Harvard campus with its beautiful buildings for some hidden places to study. Boston is a great city to explore as well, from its historic Freedom Trail sites to museums like the Museum of Science, the Aquarium, and the Museum of Fine Arts. Some of these places are free with a student ID!
  4. Take a day trip outside of the city – As someone from California, it still amazes me that driving an hour and a half can easily bring you to another state. Living in Massachusetts, you have the option to drop into Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, and hike mountains, sunbathe at beaches, and explore cute little towns! I like going to Newport, Rhode Island for a quick getaway or up to Maine to shop at the different outlets. Sometimes, I will even drive with friends and family along the New England coast to look at the beautiful lighthouses!
  5. Go leaf-peeping in the fall – New England is famous for its fall/autumn leaves, and rightly so, because they are so beautiful. Make sure to follow along on the leaf peeping maps to tell you where you should drive to see in New England to best see the peak leaf season… but even just walking to campus, you will see the leaves change color dramatically. This fall season makes you fall in love with the Boston area and will make you want to stay forever.

As you can see, I’ve tried to include choices that are safe in our “new normal”, but these will be experiences to cross off your Heller Bucket List for years to come. No matter when you’re joining us, you’ll find that the area has a lot to offer, so make sure you get out and experience all that you can: you’ll be surprised at how fast your program flies by!

Last Chance to Submit Your Application!

Hi everyone! Tomorrow’s the big day: the last chance for domestic students to submit their application to a master’s program at Heller. If you haven’t, check out my earlier post with five tips for finishing your application, but sometimes, we need a little motivation! So today, rather than sharing the how of finishing your application, I’m going to share three reasons why you should submit your application to motivate you to cross the finish line.

  1. Our peers agree: we’re top-notch. Heller is consistently ranked a top-ten school in social policy by US News and World, which reflect peer assessments of deans, directors, and department chairs at 276 schools of public affairs. For 2021, Heller was ranked in the top 10 for social policy and top 20 for health policy and management. Heller is one of only two New England graduate schools of public affairs to be ranked in those specialty areas.
  2. Diversity is more than a buzzword at Heller, it’s a commitment. When you join Heller, you’ll become a part of an incredibly diverse community: last year, we welcomed students from 66 different countries (more than 60 languages are spoken at Heller), making international students about a third of our incoming class. 39% of our incoming domestic students were students of color. Moreover, Heller is home to many students with disabilities, students who are members of the LGBTQ+ community, and students from a variety of religious backgrounds. This diverse environment challenges every student to consider new points of view, and offers the unique opportunity to learn not only from our experienced faculty, but students who are nonprofit leaders, grassroots activists, policy analysts and more.
  3. The Boston area is a great place to be for graduate school. I may be biased because I moved from Atlanta to Boston for my graduate education, but I truly think the Boston area is a great place to be when you’re getting your master’s degree. The MBTA system (which connects to the commuter rail line that goes right to campus) makes the city easy to explore, and the city is filled with intelligent, passionate people in a similar place in their lives, whether they’re studying engineering at MIT, or music at Berklee. The Waltham area is great because if you choose to live in Waltham, you’ll be able to find more affordable living, but if you want to live in the city, it’s easy to commute to campus. Once you’re in Waltham, there’s plenty of restaurants and beautiful paths along the Charles to keep you busy.

You’re almost there! Just push through and press that submit button, and then help yourself to your favorite treat to celebrate! Best of luck; I look forward to welcoming you to Heller!

Heller Reading List: Doug Nevins Shares His Favorite Readings

Man in plaid shirt smiling at camera

Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

For this week’s blog post, I’ll be reflecting on a few interesting readings which were assigned in my MPP courses this past year. Before starting my program,  I actually missed having assigned readings and the opportunity to discuss them in a class setting. Heller has more than lived up to my expectations in terms of the rigor and relevance of assigned readings.

Summer reading: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander Cover of The New Jim Crow

MPP students typically read this book over the summer and discuss it with their cohort during orientation. While I had been familiar with some of Alexander’s findings and arguments, I had never read the complete book until last summer (I regret not doing so sooner). It is truly a remarkable, troubling, and eye-opening book. The book documents how mass incarceration functions as the newest form of racist, structural oppression in a long history of oppressive systems in the United States. Alexander is particularly adept at tracing the judicial history that has codified our racist policing and carceral systems and insulated them from legal challenges. I think The New Jim Crow is essential reading (for policy students and for pretty much anyone), particularly in our current moment.

Fall and spring semester: The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism by Gøsta Esping-Andersen

Cover of the Three Worlds of Welfare CapitalismI know – it probably sounds a bit dry! However, reading selections from this book in two courses at Heller really influenced my thinking about history and comparative political economy. If you’ve heard Bernie Sanders talk about the virtues of Danish health care and social welfare, but wondered what historical factors actually influenced the differences between US and European social policy, this book provides an excellent introduction. It served as excellent fodder for classroom debates about how fixed and permanent the differences between the three welfare state models identified by Esping-Andersen actually are, and about what lessons we might draw from non-US contexts about ways to improve our own system.

Fall semester: Beaten Down, Worked Up by Steven GreenhouseCover of Beaten Down, Worked Up

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I am very interested in labor history and policy, and thoroughly enjoyed the elective which I took on this subject in Fall 2019. This book provided an excellent and very readable historical overview of several key periods in US labor history, from early victories by garment workers’ unions in NYC, to the conflicts between public-sector unions and Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, to cutting edge organizing efforts led by gig economy workers. Greenhouse is a former NY Times labor reporter, and his style is both informative and fun to read. Prof. Bob Kuttner invited Greenhouse to visit our class and discuss labor history past and present. This was a great opportunity to hear stories about labor organizing and to learn a bit more about the process of reporting on unions worker-led organizations.

I’ve really appreciated the balance of different types of assigned readings at Heller, which has included accessible non-fiction works, journalistic and historical accounts, political and sociological theory, and policy and research reports. I hope these three examples provide some insight into the value of the readings assigned in the MPP curriculum. I know I’m looking forward to this coming year’s assignments as well!

Why Choose Heller? 60 Reasons for 60 Years! (Part 2)

We’re continuing to celebrate Heller’s sixtieth anniversary with our 60 Reasons for 60 Years series, where you can hear from current students, alumni, staff, and faculty about what makes Heller a unique experience.

21. “Everybody at Heller wants everyone else to succeed. My classmates would say, ‘I want you to be whatever you want to be in the world. I’m going to cheer you on.’ That spirit— it’s what the world needs. It touched me in a deep way. I am changed forever because I have these people in my life.” Megan Casey, MA COEX’18
22. “Literally in my first class at Heller, which was with Janet Boguslaw, I learned this language around asset building, the racial wealth gap and the hidden welfare state. It was an amazing experience.”  Alexandra Bastien, MPP’12
23. “I chose Heller because I was interested in an interdisciplinary approach. I wanted to think about the issues I was interested in in a broader context, and I’ve had that opportunity—to think about how education and discipline connect with health, mental health, housing, poverty and equity issues.” Joanna Taylor, PhD candidate
24. “At Heller, there’s the opportunity to be proactive and create your own path through the programs. I leveraged what professors had to offer with their experiences, had the experience of teaching and grading, and took advantage of being in Boston to work with NGOs there.” Rebecca Herrington, MA SID/COEX’14
25. “My dissertation experience was wonderful. As the first person in my family to graduate college, I appreciated the fact that my professor encouraged someone like me to write a book, even though it was hard. It meant a lot to me.” Carol Hardy-Fanta, PhD’91
26. “Heller’s a unique environment. I lit a match and it started a fire. I don’t think I could have found that anywhere else.” Isaac Cudjoe, MA COEX’19
27. “Through a combination of academic and real-world experiences during my time at Heller, I became more attuned to the role that government can play in addressing social determinants of health and other upstream factors that can improve population health and reduce inequities.” Fran Hodgins, MBA/MPP’18
28. “I chose to come to Heller because of the international focus and the diversity. The connections have been the best part of my experience so far. It’s given me new perspectives of different places in the world I’ll never go.” Tomesha Campbell, MA SID/COEX’19
29. “I got more than I expected at Heller. Everything from the classes and the professors, to the optional training in Excel, to the Career Development Center staff and website.” Farida Mushi, MS GHPM’16
30. “Heller students are among the most progressive crowds I’ve ever been with.” Alain Lempereur, Director of the COEX program
31. “I realized, to shift paradigms we were witnessing with respect to economic fragmentation, I needed to have the tools to champion all the outcomes I’d like to see and that’s what led me to Heller.” Ricky Ochilo, MPP/MBA’15
32. “With my interest in Heller specifically, I really appreciated the grounded focus on social inclusion and social justice. What drew me to the specific Assets and Inequality Concentration was Tom Shapiro and the work that he does on toxic inequality, and focusing not specifically on just wealth employment but also asset attainment.” Aaron Colemen, PhD Candidate
33. “I chose Brandeis because of the programs here at Heller. They were really attractive to me, as I want to work with people in my home country to bring a change in mindset.” Sita Leota, MA SID’20
34. “The writing quality that I got from the Heller program— writing memos and policy analyses— distinguished me from the other candidates for the job.” Todd Swisher, MPP’16
35. “I’ve seen the school’s commitment to social justice and also how diverse the classroom is. It’s the first time for me that I’m in a place where I see so many other Asian-American women too, so I feel like it’s a great place for my learning, and I also feel more at home.” Chibo Shinagawa, MS GHPM’19
36. “Heller’s curriculum, faculty, staff, and students prepared me well to work directly with senior-level financial and strategic decision makers.” Roger Perez, MBA/MA SID’16
37. “Our students are really, really good at going into a situation, understanding it in a sensitive way, using data-driven analysis to develop objective solutions and figuring out how an organization can implement it. That is a suite of very valuable skills.” Carole Carlson, MBA Program Director
38. “The practicum option was attractive because international development is something that’s so dependent on experience. The opportunity to spend the second year traveling and working and getting exposure was really valuable.” Noah Steinberg-Di Stefano, MA SID’17 
39. “I’ve made very good connections through both Heller and UPEACE. You meet such genuinely wonderful people who have a similar mindset of mutual support, from all over the world.” Kyla Graves, COEX/ILHR’19
40. “We’re trained at Heller to not just pursue business opportunities, but to take on the harder challenge, which is always to look at the social impact of business on our team, on our community, on our economy.” Brenna Schneider, MBA’12

Look out for our final post in this series coming soon!

Why Choose Heller? 60 Reasons for 60 Years! (Part 1)

Since our founding in 1959, Heller faculty, students, researchers, staff, and alumni have remained united by a vision of “knowledge advancing social justice” and a commitment to rigorous research and engagement with policymakers, practitioners and recipients of social policies, as well as academics. To celebrate our 60th anniversary, we’ll be sharing sixty messages from students, alumni, faculty, and staff over the next few weeks.

1. “I’ve never experienced the support that the staff gives the students at any other higher education institution, and for that, I will always be grateful.” Nicole Rodriguez, MPP’14
2. “We always treat the person as the number-one priority when we’re dealing with any issues, be they academic, personal or professional. And we make sure to link them to the resources they need.” Ravi Lakshmikanthan, Assistant Dean for Academic and Student Services
3. “Heller was where I first understood health policy, its links to global health, and the social justice issues around global health. Heller helped me choose a focus on research to provide rigorous evidence that health policymakers can use to make meaningful decisions.” Adeyemi Okunogbe, MS GHPM’12 
4. “My education at Heller, including a deeper understanding of economic, political and sociological theories, coupled with skills in statistics and research methods, has given me a distinct advantage.” Antoinette Hays, PhD’90
5. “Having classmates from all over the world helps you to get rid of some of the biases you have.” Shadi Sheikhsaraf, MA SID/COEX ’17
6. “I was drawn in by Heller’s social justice focus. I didn’t want to have to do a more traditional graduate program and translate that to the work I wanted to do. I wanted to be around people who cared about the same things I cared about.” Maryse Pearce, MBA/MPP’18
7. “My Heller cohort continues to be my extended family and professional network. I frequently reach out to individuals or groups to inquire about specific topics and I’m always amazed by the overwhelming support.” Rodrigo Moran, MA SID’16
8. “The students are enormously dedicated and engaged. I was thinking, during orientation, that it kind of feels like a family, and that’s wonderful, especially when you are dealing with such difficult issues and topics.” Pamina Firchow, Associate Professor
9. “At Heller, social justice is in the DNA.” Michael Levine, PhD’85
10. “Heller not only had the SID program, but also the environmental conservation concentration that I wanted. My coursework at Heller and summer internship are preparing me to address sustainable energy challenges in Africa from a global perspective.” Abdishakur Ahmed, MA SID’20
11. “Our community is passionate about local and global social justice, and we have a strong academic purpose.” Maria Madison, Associate Dean for Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity
12. “Heller sends grads out with the tools to understand data and models, and also with the skills to understand whether a policy is going to help people or hurt people.” Brian Kennedy, MPP’16
13. “I just had a great experience at Heller. The faculty, the students — the community was fantastic.” Susan Windham-Bannister, PhD’77
14. “The most important thing I took away from Heller was the way I approach my work. As someone passionate about social change, I bring a much stronger equity lens to every aspect of my work as a result of my time at Heller. I also feel more confident, more organized, and generally more impactful in my work processes.” Analissa Iversen, MBA/MPP’16
15. “The professors are very approachable, they’re always telling us to come visit them, and they really make themselves available.” Dahiana Loaiza, MS GHPM ’14/MA SID ’21
16. “I’m really, really happy here, with how much I’m learning and seeing everything from other perspectives,” she says. “My professors are convinced there’s a resolution for everything. A lot of us came from war zones, where people just gave up. They show us different ways to do things and what’s possible.” Natalia Hermida-Cepeda, MA COEX’19
17. “Through a combination of academic and real-world experiences during my time at Heller, I became more attuned to the role that government can play in addressing social determinants of health and other upstream factors that can improve population health and reduce inequities.” Fran Hodgins, MBA/MPP’18
18. “I went into Heller to pursue what I was most passionate about and learned things I knew nothing about before, like organizational theory with Jody Hoffer Gittell.” Anne Douglass, PhD’09
19. “Heller helped me to understand the theories behind what I was doing in my work. At Heller, you meet a lot of inspiring people and you learn the way they have done things in their own countries. I now understand the problems in Nigeria, the challenges to young people in America, the struggles around gender identities in India.” Qaisar Roonjha, MA SID’19 
20. “I chose to attend Heller to be part of a community of policymakers intent on incorporating social justice into every aspect of their work.” Billierae Engelman, MPP’19

Stay tuned for part 2 and part 3, coming up over the next few weeks!

Five Tips for Finishing your Application

With many graduate schools (including Heller!) extending their application deadlines, now might be the right time to take the leap and apply for that graduate program you’ve been considering. You’ve done your research, you’ve chosen the programs, and you’ve started your application: but how do you push through to the finish line? As someone who submitted way too many applications when I was applying to graduate programs, I’m a self-proclaimed expert on finishing graduate school applications, and today I’m giving you my top five tips to help you click the “Submit” button with confidence.

  1. Phone an (admissions) friend. Many colleges are changing their requirements during this application cycle to accommodate students. For example, Heller’s Social Impact MBA and Master of Public Policy program are waiving the GRE and GMAT test requirement for this cycle. Programs that normally require interviews may be doing phone or Zoom interviews or waiving them entirely. Check the admissions page for your program or reach out to the admissions staff of the college to make sure you have all the required materials and know the updated application deadlines
  2. Make a schedule. While it’s tempting to set aside a whole day to finalize your applications and just get it over with, I would recommend making a schedule and breaking your time into manageable blocks. Once you know the updated deadlines for your programs, prioritize programs with earlier deadlines, and read through each application carefully. I wouldn’t recommend working for longer than an hour at a time (even if it doesn’t feel like it, you really do lose focus after a while!) and reward yourself after each time-block: take a walk, order take-out, watch an episode of a TV show, whatever helps you to unwind and come back to those applications refreshed.
  3. Profread Proofread! I get it; you’ve read your statement of purpose twenty times already, and the thought of reading it one more time makes you want to scream. But proofreading is one of the easiest ways to polish your application and put your best foot forward. Ask someone else if they would mind looking over your statement of purpose– chances are, they’ll catch more mistakes than you would on your twenty-first read through. Another tip for proofreading: input your statement into a text-to-speech reader and have your computer read your work back to you (I use Natural Readers); you’ll catch way more errors hearing it read out loud. While you’re at it, check your resume too!
  4. Reach out to recommenders. Your recommenders are likely writing more than one letter of recommendation this application cycle, so make sure that you’re on the forefront of their mind by writing them a sincere thank you note. Remember, they’re doing you a favor by writing a letter of recommendation, so make sure you express your gratitude and check in with them if there’s anything else they need from you (if you haven’t already, attach your resume to your thank you note so your recommender can review your qualifications and include specifics in their letter).
  5. Triple-check your transcripts. Although Heller (and many other schools) accept unofficial transcripts for the purpose of admission, reviewers still need to authenticate certain information. Make sure that the transcript you’ve uploaded has your name, your previous institution’s name, and indicates that you’ve completed your program (if you have). This may sound like common sense, but many grade portals on student accounts don’t include this information, so make sure you take a look before you submit your application.

Checked everything off this list? Then you’re ready to press the submit button! Good luck and make sure you reward yourself for taking this important step for your future. Remember: you’ve got this.

Five Tips to Making Your Decision (Without Visiting Campus!)

Brandeis University sign with blooming tulipsAh, spring: when the flowers start blooming across Brandeis’ campus and the weather in Waltham begins to get warmer. Spring is all about new beginnings, and for many working in admissions, it’s one of the most exciting times of the year: when we get to welcome our admitted students to campus.  Back in January, we were gearing up to host hundreds of admitted students to help them make their final decision. For many students, stepping on campus is a lot like falling in love: when it’s right, you just know.

We were able to host two of our six planned Admitted Student Days before the world as we knew it ground to a halt. We’re not alone: all across the country (all across the world!), schools have stopped all campus activities, and students are faced with the challenge of choosing the right program without ever visiting campus.

But there’s good news:  there are many dedicated professionals who are ready and willing to assist you, and a lot of resources available to help you make this big decision. Today, I’m bringing you five ways to get a feel for an institution without ever stepping foot on campus.

  1. Admitted Student Webinars and Virtual Events.  Most colleges have been working overtime to provide students with opportunities to connect with current students or faculty members, so take advantage of this! Heller is currently hosting Housing Chats so that admitted students can connect with current students to ask questions about moving to the Boston area and how to find housing and roommates. We’re also working on creating more virtual content, so keep checking back!
  2. Check out magazines and newsletters. One of the best ways to gain insight into a program is by searching for different perspectives. Magazines, newsletters, and other types of publications aimed at current students or alumni can provide greater insight into a school’s culture. You can find the Heller magazine and our Social Impact Report (which focuses on the ground-breaking research happening at Heller) on our website.
  3. Take a virtual tour (or two). It can be hard to picture yourself on campus without visiting. Luckily, many institutions have been putting a renewed focus on their virtual tours. You can check out Heller’s virtual tour for a detailed look at our building, or the full Brandeis tour to see the rest of our beautiful campus.
  4. Scroll through social media. This is an often-overlooked way to get a feel for a graduate program, but it can be a great resource for trying to determine if the school would be a good fit for you. You should absolutely follow the institution’s social media handles, but also take a look at your program’s and student groups’ social media accounts. Because these have a different target audience, you may get a different insight than you would from just following the institutional account.
  5. Reach out to the admissions staff. Most of our typical spring travel has been canceled, so admissions teams might be even more available than they ordinarily would be this time of year. With many of us working from home, it may be tricky to get someone on the phone right away, but if you send an email, most schools are being very responsive to students’ questions. You can reach Heller Admissions at helleradmissions@brandeis.edu, or visit our contact page to find the email of your program’s admissions contact.

Although it may seem overwhelming, this can be an opportunity to learn even more about the programs that you’re considering. And at the end of the day, remember to trust your gut: you know yourself best! You can make a hundred pros and cons lists, read endless program overviews, and scroll through social media until your thumb aches, but when you’re able to envision yourself on campus and it feels right, don’t be afraid to trust that feeling.

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