Tag: Tips (page 1 of 3)

I’m Admitted, Now What?: Preparing for your Program

Students come to Heller from all walks of life:  in one Heller classroom, you could find a forty-two year old father of two sitting next to a twenty-five year old who has just returned from her time in the Peace Corps, and sitting next to her could be a thirty-six year old Nigerian doctor who has brought her husband to the United States with her. The funny thing is, is that if you were to talk to each of these imaginary students in the months before their program began, I bet they would all tell you that they feel really unprepared for graduate school. The father of two may be worried about how he’ll balance being a parent and being a student, or worry that he’s been out of school for too long; the twenty-five year old may be concerned that she lacks the life experience of her classmates and doesn’t have the financial stability to be successful in graduate school; the thirty-six year old might fret about different academic standards in a new country or that she’s never taken a statistics class.

All of this is to say that if you’re worried about entering graduate school, you’re definitely not alone. The good news is that at Heller, you have a lot of support to make this transition, and today I’ll be talking about two of our stand-out programs: The Summer Institute and the Summer Career Academy.

The Summer Institute

The Summer Institute is an online platform built by Heller faculty for incoming students to meet, prepare for courses, and share support resources. It’s free to enroll and is available starting June 15th to all incoming students who have accepted their offer of admission, made a deposit, and created a Brandeis email account. Through the Summer Institute,  students can take a Professional Writing Course with Heller instructor Evie Sessions, guide themselves through a self-paced learning opportunities tailored to your academic program,  meet your future classmates, take an Avoiding Plagiarism refresher tutorial, and get information on DEI initiatives at Heller like the near-peer mentorship program. From quantitative tutorials to learning how to cite something in APA formatting, the Summer Institute will give you the building blocks to get you ready for graduate level coursework.

Summer Career Academy

The Summer Career Academy is 4-week, self-directed, online career preparation program designed to give students the opportunity to jumpstart their career planning and preparation, to access career resources, and to learn more about themselves, resumes, and networking tools among other career essentials. Like the Summer Institute, it is available to all graduate students who have accepted their offer of admission, made their deposit, and created a Brandeis email account. Starting the week of July 25th, students will gain access great lessons on Career Development Center Resources, Self-Assessments, updating your resume, how to effectively network, and how to leverage LinkedIn.

I know the transition to graduate school can be really overwhelming, but taking on a few extra things now can help you build up your confidence and ensure that when fall does come around, you’ll be ready.

I’m Admitted, Now What?: Avoiding Housing Scams (for 2022!)

I’m following up on my recent post on finding housing while in graduate school with a special post about avoiding scams while looking for housing. According to a recent survey conducted by College Pads, approximately 15% of students encounter a rental scam when looking for housing— unfortunately, it’s much more common than you would think! Although some scams are easily weeded out with just a little bit of investigation, others can be quite convincing, so it’s important to do your homework and keep these tips in mind.

  1. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Before you fall in love with a 2,000 square foot studio apartment with sweeping views of the Charles for only $500 a month, ask yourself if the price lines up with the other apartments you’ve viewed. Although there are certainly good deals to be found, Boston real estate is notoriously expensive, and anything significantly less than the average for the area should be treated with caution. With roommates, you should expect to pay between $500 and $800 in rent in the Waltham area, and between $600 and $1,000 in Boston or Cambridge. If you’re looking to live alone, most studios in Boston start at around $1,600. Anything significantly lower than that should be treated with caution. You can check average rental rates on websites like rentbits.com.
  2. Do a grammar check. Once you start communicating with a landlord or realtor, pay special attention to the emails you receive. Poor spelling, incorrect grammar, excessive punctuation, or language that seems overly “robotic” should all be red flags that the listing may not be legitimate. If the signature of the realtor contains a company website, check that out too; company websites should also look legitimate and use correct grammar and punctuation.
  3. Make Google your best friend. Always, always, always, do a search on the person or company you’re dealing with. If a scammer is targeting you, chances are that it’s not the first time they’ve done this, and you can usually find negative reviews and comments online. Remember that people can pay for positive reviews and delete negative comments on their websites, so look for third-party review pages (like Yelp or GoogleReviews) and look past the first few comments. If there are multiple people complaining about their experience with the landlord or real estate company, treat that as a red flag.
  4. Know your rights. In Boston, landlords are not allowed to charge you an application fee, a credit check fee, or a fee to ‘hold’ the apartment. If they ask for any of these, that should be a huge warning sign. Once you sign a lease, you may be asked to pay first, last, and a security deposit on an apartment, but you should only do this once you’ve signed a lease or seen the apartment at the very least. You can find more information about your rights as a renter on the City of Boston’s website.
  5. See the apartment if at all possible. For students coming from across the country, or even internationally, this may not be an option, but if at all possible, try to see the apartment. If you’re not able to visit the apartment, see if one of your roommates or another close friend in the area can visit it on your behalf, and ask them to take a video of their walkthrough of the apartment so you can see it. This is slightly complicated by the current pandemic, but most landlords are now showing apartments; at the very least they can do a video walkthrough for you (ask to see the apartment from the outside to verify the address and ask them to state your name or the date so you can verify they’re not showing you an old or out-dated video).

In addition, here are some tell-tale signs that the person you are speaking with may not be legitimate:

  • refuses to speak to you on the phone
  • asks for your social security number or other personal information
  • says they are out of the country
  • asks you to pay a deposit before you see the apartment, or
  • asks you to wire money. Also avoid using PayPal’s “My Cash.” It does not protect you from scams.

Unfortunately, if you have been scammed, it’s often difficult to get your money back, so if possible, pay with a check so your money can be traced and you can cancel the check if something goes wrong. The good news is that if you follow these tips and use good judgement, you’ll be able to weed out the vast majority of rental scams. Happy apartment hunting!

 

I’m Admitted, Now What?: Housing Part 1 (for 2022!)

For the latest in the “I’m Admitted, Now What?” series, I’d like to talk about some steps to take after you’ve made your decision and sent in your deposit. Some students may live close enough to Brandeis to commute, but for many, a new graduate program means a new city! I myself moved from Atlanta to Boston for graduate school, and I remember the mixture of excitement and nervousness that comes with taking this next big step. Here are some things that I learned along the way, along with some Brandeis-specific tips, that I hope will help you in your journey:

Location, location, location. Most Heller students choose to live in Waltham, because they prefer to be close to campus; it’s so convenient to be able to walk back to your home in between classes to grab a textbook, have a snack, or (let’s be honest) take a nap. Waltham is a great historic town right along the Charles River, and there are a ton of great restaurants along Moody Street (I love Moody’s Delicatessen for a quick lunch and Sweet Basil for a special-treat dinner). Waltham is also less than half an hour from Boston, so getting into the city is really easy, but rent in Waltham is generally a little more affordable than in Boston or Cambridge.

However, if you are looking to move to Boston or Cambridge because you want the experience of living closer to the city, I would recommend researching the Somerville, Allston/Brighton, or Jamaica Plain neighborhoods. Somerville is popular amongst Brandeis graduate students for its proximity to North Station, where you can board the commuter rail line that will take you right to campus, and the neighborhoods around Porter Square and Davis Square are especially fun, with lots of shopping, restaurants, and cute cafes. Allston and Brighton are common places for students to live in Boston for their great restaurants and nightlife options; for those without a car, it’s easy to take the MBTA to North Station. Jamaica Plain isn’t as good an option for Heller students without a car, but for those that do, this neighborhood is a great mix of students and young professionals and has plenty of great food along Centre Street. Just south of Jamaica Plain you’ll find Roslindale, which is another good option: although it’s a bit further from the city, it’s still only a twenty minute MBTA ride to Downtown Crossing and about a thirty minute drive from campus (it’s where I live myself!).

Mix and match. Unless you’re from the area or are moving with your family, you’ll most likely need to find roommates. There aren’t very many affordable studios or one bedroom apartments in Boston (usually starting around $1,600), so roommates are definitely recommended as a cost-saving measure. The Brandeis Graduate Facebook group has a lot of great information and apartment postings, and many students use it to find roommates. Brandeis also hosts a Grad Housing listserv where you can sign up to get emails about available apartments or students looking for roommates, so I would also recommend subscribing to that. Many Heller students choose to live together; having a built-in support group in your program can be really helpful to students new to the area. Living with other students in your program can lend itself to group study sessions, but having students outside your program can often add a new perspective, so don’t be afraid to mix and match with classmates both inside and outside your program!

Timing is everything. Many apartments in Boston have leases that start on September 1st, but I would recommend looking for leases that start on August 1st or August 15th, so you’re not rushing to set up utilities and get settled in during the first week of classes. Boston housing fills up fast, so I would recommend starting to look as soon as you are able; Brandeis’ Graduate Affairs Office has a great website with a lot of different resources for finding short-term and long-term housing. It can also be very competitive, so if you find a place that you like, be prepared to commit that day: have your documents ready, your checkbook on hand, and a co-signer lined up (if necessary).  During the COVID-19 pandemic, most realtors started offering virtual tours, which can make it easier to decide on an apartment even from far away (and an effective tool to weed out scams!). If you’re renting an unfurnished apartment, make sure you’re also budgeting enough time and money to find furniture; there’s an IKEA only thirty minutes away, and a Target less than fifteen minutes from Waltham, but there are also a lot of thrift stores along Moody Street and Main Street where you can dig up a lot of great finds for very low prices. I

I hope these tips are helpful as you start your housing search! I’ll be sharing more housing tips in the coming weeks, so make sure you subscribe by entering your email address in the sidebar to the right.

An Open Letter to Accepted Students

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

Dear Accepted Students,

Congratulations ono your acceptance to Heller! This is a very exciting time 🙂 I know when I got my acceptance letter, I was really ecstatic and could not wait to start picking out my classes, exploring campus and making new friends. I know this can also feel a bit overwhelming with the amount you have to prepare, but it’s also important to congratulate yourself on this important achievement. You did it!

Here’s some tips I would give as you start preparing to contemplate your decision to come to Heller:

1. Celebrate

First of all, congratulate yourself by celebrating this important achievement! All that hard wok of writing essays, seeking out recommenders and paying for transcripts has paid off, and you deserve to treat yourself. Whether that be by going out to a nice dinner, having a small party with your friends or just by watching the new season of Bridgerton, make sure to take time to celebrate your accomplishment.

2. Talk to a current student

When deciding which graduate school to pick, the amount of information to go through can be extremely daunting. However, one great way to get that information and an insider’s point of view is to talk to a current student. You can do this by reaching out to your existing networks, or even scheduling a time to talk with one of Heller Admissions’ fabulous graduate assistants here! Make sure to come with some questions prepared and think about what is most important to you in a graduate program.

3. Figure out which classes excite you the most

One thing that really helped me decide that Heller was the school for me was by looking at the classes that were going to be offered for the Fall. I get to investigate the required classes as well as the electives I was really excited to take (like Contemporary Issues in Gender and Public Policy and Global Social Entrepreneurship). This is a great way to make sure you can focus on your interests while in grad school, while also getting to explore new ones.

4. Budget, budget, budget!

While grad school can be great, it’s also really expensive. Something that helped me in my decision was by taking a look at Heller’s cost of living and figuring out how it would work into my budget. I looked at how much loans I would have to take out and if I would need to work or not. While I know this isn’t always the most fun thing to do, it’s really essential when making that graduate school decision.

5. Come visit us!

As of Fall 2021, Heller is officially in person and on campus! Although we aren’t offering in person events for this spring, if you’re in the area, feel free to swing by and get a look at the Heller school and the larger Brandeis campus. It’s great to get a chance to walk around campus and get a feel for what it is like.

That’s it for all my tips for accepted students. Congratulations again on being accepted and good luck in making your decision. Heller is a great place to be, and I hope to see you around here really soon!

The Sprint to the Finish Line

Hannah Lougheed, MA SID/MS-GHPM’22

I see the end. I am in the last half (or Module 2 as Heller lovingly refers to it), of my final year of grad school.  I have less than 6 weeks left, wrapping up a 2 year process in the pursuit of my MS in Global Health Policy and Management, and my MA in Sustainable International Development.

I had this rose-colored ideal of what my final month at graduate school would look like: dancing through a field of spring flowers while socializing with friends and having enough time each day for a midday nap. In this ideal, however, I was not accounting for the triad of a 20 hour a week internship, courses (and a capstone paper), and job applications. Oh, how the mind deceives.

So, in the midst of this chaos – with acute senioritis kicking in – it can feel like you are slowly being lowered into a bubbling vat of assignments with no way to slow the speed at which you descend… a bit dramatic?  Okay, maybe just a bit.

BUT, I am here to tell you – with time management and small goals, you can work to overcome this  impending sense of doom when you too are at this point in your graduate career. Today I present to you (to take or leave as you’d like), some ways in which you can work to proactively stay on top of assignments, especially when lengthy papers are all due the same week.

  1. Do a little each day – even weeks before it’s due. I have found that when I have time, I like to bite off small pieces of monster papers. So, when I wake up early I may work on a paper for just 30 minutes to write even a paragraph or two. For me, the hardest part of doing an assignment can actually be starting it, so this helps with that roadblock. It does not seem like much, but you will thank yourself later when almost half of the paper is written before the time crunch sets in. It also allows you to brainstorm when not working on the paper over a couple of weeks, instead of days.
  2. Set a time for your mind to rest. If you have read my other blogs, or know me at all, you will know I am a morning person, which means that bt the end of the day I am hardly capable of following a recipe. In undergrad, I used to think that I should not have the luxury of relaxing until I had everything done on my list. Now, however, I have learned that it is okay to set a “no-homework” threshold. For me, that is 7pm (keeping in mind I wake up around 5am, so adjust that time as you see fit in your schedule). When I hit that time, I allow myself to watch tv, go for a walk, call a friend, take a bath, whatever I need to do to relax. I do not think about the assignments due, nor do I allow myself to stress about them. This has really helped me in this season.
  3. Set manageable weekly goals. I have, in total, around 50 pages (at least) of writing I need to complete in the next 6 weeks for various classes and projects. If I opted to put them off until the last two weeks of school, I would not only be stressed out of my mind, but the work quality would surely suffer. So, I have listed out all – that’s right, every single assignment due from this point until the end of the semester and broken down how I can work on them each week. For some, I give loose guidelines like “general outlines” or “begin research and start listing sources” for this week. For others, I give hard guidelines like “at least 2 pages written each week”. This helps me because I am slowly working through a project, and doing various ones on rotation so it keeps my interest levels high; also, I am a list-maker so having the ability to cross things off each week really keeps my motivation level soaring. I make the tasks doable as well, so I don’t get discouraged.

As a graduate student, assignments are such an important part of the learning process, but sometimes – it feels like just too much. I hope my  little tips help – I have found them to help me. Keep reminding yourself why you began this process in the first place, you can do it! We can do it!

 

Financing Graduate School as a First Generation Graduate Student

Ronunique Clark headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

The feeling you get when you receive your offer into the graduate school of your choice is undeniably one of the best feelings ever! You may have been working on your application for months, recommenders may have bailed out on you, the personal statement began to look like a blur after too many rewrites, but you finished it, submitted it, and got in. The next order of business is always “so how will I pay for this?” This can be answered in many ways, but for now, I will just offer my own two cents.

For me, I was lucky enough to leave my undergraduate institution with minimal student debt because I was granted a full scholarship. However, unlike undergrad, I knew that it would be difficult to secure sufficient funding in grad school. When I started my grad school application process, I would search the websites to determine how schools would disburse financial aid. Heller usually offers at least a 30-50% merit scholarship to most students applying to their programs, though some programs may offer more. This was a green flag for me when applying because it showed that Heller did not want students to unnecessarily worry about the financial part, but to come in and be able to learn without the additional stress.

A few things I learned when seeking funding for grad school: First, I learned when searching for funding, you need to be specific in your wording. I would recommend searching for “scholarships for public policy students” or “scholarships for graduate students”, which would narrow the information down to my particular request, avoiding the disappointment that comes with finding a great scholarship only to see in the description, “this is only for undergraduate students only”.

Second, I live by the saying “closed mouths do not get fed” and from this, I took the initiative to reach out to my mentors, former supervisors, or programs that I worked/volunteered for. This can be helpful because many jobs or programs have funding to support individuals’ academic efforts. Sometimes these can be free without any additional requirements, or you may have to fill out an application and work out a system to receive the funds. If you do not advocate for yourself and your work ethic, then who will?

Lastly,  working and going to school can be difficult. I found full-time or part-time work-study jobs to be beneficial. Note that most schools do not offer work-study for graduate students, especially international students. But even if it is not work-study, some on-campus jobs are able to hire students directly to their payroll if the department allows for it.  I advocate for on-campus or work-study employment because they work the best with students’ academic schedules, and they also are able to provide support and resources, and you may be able to score a job that fits your academic interests.

Seeking funding for graduate school can be rough, but it does not have to be. Always reach out to the school of your choice and see what resources they provide to graduate students; if you do not ask, then you will never know. This information is sometimes public but not always, so it is important to really advocate for yourself and your needs when you’re applying, during your time in the program, and even after you graduate.

The Art of People Collecting

Hannah Lougheed, MA SID/MS-GHPM’22

Those who know me know: I am a busy person. I thrive when my agenda is packed full. When people ask me how/why I am so busy I love to refer back to Newton’s First Law of Motion,  AKA the Law of Inertia (with a few small edits): 

 “a Hannah at rest stays at rest and a Hannah in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force (ie. my laptop breaks and I have to buy a new one which happened last night, RIP my laptop).” 

People collecting – or ‘networking’, as some fancy folks may call it – has increasingly been my focus during my last year here at Heller. Yes, I am busy, but I am busy with purpose. What does that mean? It means I have been very calculated in choosing which jobs/roles to take on outside of my classes while wrapping up my final year. When I boiled down my goals and desires for this year it pointed me to three major aspirations:

  1. Collect people, both within Heller and within Boston as a larger community, who can help pour into me and build links to finding a career upon graduation
  2. Make enough money to survive (hey, Boston ain’t cheap)
  3. Do well in classes and get to know my classmates

So, I started with evaluating the types of jobs I would like to pursue this year and landed on these four (yes I did say four, but they are all only a few hours each week):

Graduate Assistant (job 1): Naturally, as a Graduate Assistant at Heller Admissions, I get to connect with many folks who come and go (both students, professors and staff). Plus, I enjoy this role and am learning and growing with each shift. I have also worked in this role since last January so it was easy for me to continue in this position, checks all three boxes! 

Babysitter (job 2): At this point, my mind started running… how can I find another job that allows for schedule flexibility but also pays decently and allows me to collect people? My research led me to: babysitting! Shout-out to Care.com. At first I thought, well, it’s pretty easy money. Then I realized, you never know what kind of connections individuals have, and by babysitting for various individuals across Boston I am building my people collection up outside of my direct network within Heller. Checks 2 out of 3 boxes!

Digital Assistant (job 3): An opportunity arose to be a “Digital Assistant” in a few of my classes. This role piqued my interest because it checked box 2 and 3, and arguably 1 as well. This has allowed me to build deeper relationships with some of my professors as I help them navigate Zoom during class. 

Health Systems Education (job 4): As things started ramping up, a job in health systems education I had applied for in the summer (and was told I did not get) arose yet again. Through connections made here at Heller, I have been able to secure another part-time job that is in the field of my interests. Working in health systems education is a great way for me to continue to learn and contribute to class (checks box 3), make some money (box 2), and build a strong network of connections across Boston (box 1). 

So, it may sound like I am overworked (or just crazy), but let me assure you – I am doing okay! People collecting can look different for each person. For some it is in attending various career networking events, for others it is through informational interviews, but for me I have made it a point to work with and for those who I want to maintain connections with. I do make it a point to slow down and enjoy rest and hobbies (as my Macaron post can attest to), but “a Hannah in motion stays in motion!” and intentional people collecting has been increasingly important as I plan to stumble onto my career path.

You Ask, I Answer: How to Email the Admissions Office

I’m continuing the “You Ask, I Answer” series where I respond to the most common questions I get from prospective or admitted students (you can find a previous You Ask, I Answer: When Should I Start Graduate School? here). If you have a question you’d like me to answer in the next post, be sure to comment below!

To be honest, this actually isn’t a question that I get from prospective students too often, but at graduate fairs, students often mention that although they have the desire to reach out to admissions contacts, they aren’t sure how, or feel awkward or nervous about contacting admissions personnel directly. Which I totally get! When you’re writing a message to someone in an admissions office, you should think of your email as serving multiple purposes. First and foremost, you’re trying to get an answer to a question you have, either about the program or the application process. That should be what the content of the email is focused on. But secondly, you’re also trying to make a good first impression on the people who will be involved in your application process. This doesn’t mean that you should re-iterate the highlights of your application to demonstrate why you’d be a good fit for the program, but it does mean that throughout your email, you should be making an effort to show that you’re interested in the program, you’ve done your research, and you’re a clear communicator. Let’s take a look at a (fictional) email from a prospective student and then talk about what the student could have done better:

To: AdmissionsContact1@college.edu, AdmissionsContact2@college.edu, ProgramManager1@college.edu, DeanOfCollege1@college.edu

From: FictionalStudent@gmail.com

Subject: questions

Message:

hey ProgramManager3,

,my name is Fictional Student and i want to ask some questions about the mpp porgram ur school. i graduated 1st in my class in fictionalprogram at fictionalschool with a GPA of 3.76. since then, i worked at fictionalcompany for 4 yrs as a fictionaljobtitle, where i had fictionalresponsibilities. then i got a job at fictionalcompany2, where i works as a fictionaljobtitle2, which has the additional responsibilities of managing people. i also volunteer as a volunteerposition, and in my spare time i like to read and play music. but now i’m interested in advancing my education threw youre mpp program  bc i want to make a difference in the world. can u tell me when the deadline to apply to the program is??

thanks, Fictional Student”

You can probably tell that this email probably wouldn’t make the best first impression, but what could FictionalStudent have done better? First, they could have looked up the person in the admissions office that handles the program that they’re interested in and emailed that person (and only that person!). Sometimes students email multiple people in the hopes of getting an answer to their question, but it actually can backfire and create confusion among staff, even resulting in students not getting a reply because everyone on the email assumes that someone else will take care of the student’s question. Next problem? The tone is very informal, especially the text-speak. This doesn’t mean that you have to write in an overly formal way, but you should aim to write as a slightly more polished version of yourself, the same tone that you would use if you were emailing your boss or someone you have a job interview with. In addition to the too-casual tone, FictionalStudent also didn’t remember to proofread their email; a single typo isn’t going to ruin your chances of getting accepted to the program, but an email riddled with spelling and grammar errors definitely isn’t going to make the best impression.

Those are the more obvious errors, but I’d also add two more that may not be so obvious. First, the student is including information about themselves that isn’t relevant to their question and will most likely be repeated in their application. Think of it this way: your application is your opportunity to share more about yourself with the admissions committee, but when you’re emailing someone in admissions, that’s your opportunity for the school to share more about itself with you. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t include any information about yourself (in fact, there are a lot of instances where you’ll need to include information about your background and interests), but try to keep the content of your message focused on the question you have and include only the information that’s relevant. Secondly, the student asked a question that can be very easily found on the website. I’m not saying that you have to make sure you scour a school’s webpage before you email someone in admissions, but things like deadlines and application requirements are almost always on a school’s website. Sending an email asking for something that’s featured prominently gives the impression that you haven’t taken the time or the effort to do your research. Let’s end with a corrected email that’s sure to make a good first impression:

To: AdmissionsContact1@college.edu

From: FictionalStudent@gmail.com

Subject: Questions about Submitting Test Scores

Message:

Dear AdmissionsContact,

I hope you’re doing well! I’m Fictional Student and I’m currently applying to the MPP program at your school. While reviewing admissions website, I saw that the GRE requirement is waived for students applying to the MPP program for the Fall 2022 semester. I have already taken the GRE, and I’m considering whether or not to submit test scores as a part of my application. Would you be able to tell me how the GRE is used when evaluating a students application, or what the average scores are for successful applicants? Any guidance you could provide would be very appreciated.

Thank you, Fictional Student”

How to Choose the Right Program: Attending a Virtual Prospective Student Event

About a year ago, I wrote a few posts about how to find the right graduate program for you in How to Choose the Right Graduate Program: Narrowing Your Search and How to Choose the Right Program: Doing Your Research. In the Doing Your Research post, I referenced that one of the best ways to do your research is to attend prospective student events for the programs you’re interested in. At Heller, we’re currently adding Virtual Events for Prospective Students, so I want to share some quick do’s and don’ts for attending a virtual event for prospective students that will ensure that you get the most out of the session and make the best first impression possible.

✓ DO be camera ready. I get it, it’s tempting to keep your camera off and take the meeting from bed, in your pajamas. But this is your chance to make a first impression, and it’s hard to connect with a blackened Zoom box. There’s no need for a suit and tie, but aim for business casual. If the room behind you is visible, make sure it’s in a reasonably presentable state, or better yet, use a Zoom background if your camera has the capability. A good rule of thumb is to prepare the way you would if this were a virtual meeting with your supervisor.

X DON’T use Zoom as a chance to zone out. Treat this event the way you would an in-person event: that means keeping your phone in your pocket (or across the room, if you’re like me and have a difficult time resisting the siren call of Instagram). It can be really tempting to use a Zoom meeting as an opportunity to multi-task; after all, what’s the harm of checking your email when you’re already on the computer, right? But it means you’ll be less focused and engaged, which is detrimental to you and can come across as rude to the person speaking.

✓ DO research who will be presenting. No, you don’t have to know the high school that the program director went to, or Insta-stalk the current students on the panel, but as much as possible, you should try to familiarize yourself with who is presenting and prepare appropriate questions. For faculty or program directors: “Do any of your current research projects employ students?” “What type of student is successful in this program?” “Do your classes rely more on independent work or collaboration?” For current students: “What surprised you about this program?” “How available are faculty members?” “What’s been your favorite class and why?” For alumni: “What skills did you gain in the program that have proved most useful?” “How helpful was the Career Development Center in finding employment?” You can even write these on post-it notes to stick to your computer so you won’t forget!

X DON’T be afraid to engage. That goes beyond asking questions, although that’s certainly one way to show that you’re engaged and interested. Leaving your camera on, nodding and smiling when someone makes a point you agree with, and using Zoom’s reactions and chat function to respond to others’ questions and points are all other good ways to interact with the presenters and show that you’re interested. Another good tip is to look into your camera instead of the screen; it may seem counter-intuitive, but to others, that will make it appear that you’re establishing eye contact.

✓ DO follow up. Writing a note to the host of the event afterward is a great way to set yourself apart and an opportunity to ask any further follow-up questions. Even if you don’t have any more questions, even thanking them for hosting the event and telling them something you appreciated establishes that you’re paying attention and have a legitimate interest in the program.

Back to School Planning with Doug

Man in plaid shirt smiling at camera

Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

One month to go!

As I write this blog post, less than a month remains before classes start at Heller. For admitted students, I imagine the next month will be filled with excitement, anticipation, and impatience. If you are planning to begin classes at Heller this fall, I hope you have the chance to take a break from work and other obligations and relax, travel, and see family, as well as apartment hunt and begin preparing for classes. Here’s my advice for preparing for the academic and professional side of things, so that you can hit the ground running once classes begin.

At this point, you should be able to view the schedule of classes either on Workday or on the Registrar’s website. You can get a sense of what classes you are required to take this fall, as well as what electives are suggested, by looking at either the website of your academic program or the Individualized Learning Plan forms available for most programs on the “for students” section of the Heller website. These forms can help you to outline your schedule for the next couple semesters. While it’s not necessary to have everything planned out before you start, I found it helpful to peruse these materials before the semester began.

Some additional cheat codes regarding class registration: you can view previous semesters on the Registrar’s site to get a sense of what electives are available in the spring, and once you have access to Workday, our course administration site, you can “browse syllabi” from previous semesters to learn more about courses you might take in the future (with the caveat in both cases that it’s subject to change).

Now is also a great time to review the list of faculty in your program and see who shares your interests and chairs your concentration (if applicable for your program). You might consider reaching out during orientation to a professor with whom you aren’t taking a class this fall – that way you can meet them a bit sooner and hear their perspective in addition to that of your adviser and first-semester professors.

I’d also encourage you to view the career center website and get set up on Handshake as soon as it is possible to do so. Fall information sessions with employers will be available to register soon. I’d definitely recommend scheduling a career advising appointment early in the semester and introduce yourself to the staff.

Lastly, once you have access to Workday, you can view jobs for students and apply for an on-campus job. You can also join career-focused Heller groups on Facebook and LinkedIn (there is also a Brandeis graduate student housing group on Facebook).

While you’ll be provided with the info you need by email and once you arrive on campus, spending some time perusing the website and finding information specific to your own interests and goals doesn’t hurt. Good luck as you gear up for the fall semester!

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