Ready for Finals Week?

Finals week is here! Whether it’s your first semester or your last, finals week can be a challenge. Here’s our take on how to minimize the stress and anxiety it might bring.

Plan & Prioritize
Is your finals week full of exams, or are you going to be spending the next few days writing papers? It could be that you’ve got loads of online homework assignments to finish up, or maybe you’ve got a mix of things to do. No matter what your schedule looks like, the best way to prepare is to create a plan that helps you prioritize your time.

Creating a plan keeps you focused on the exams and deadlines that are coming up first. The better you plan and the more you stick to your plan, the less likely you are to begin feeling overwhelmed.

Studious Surroundings
Preparing for exams means you’re going to have to study, but studying doesn’t just involve putting your nose in a book and hoping something will stick. Everyone studies differently. Some prefer complete quiet, others enjoy listening to music, and many people benefit from studying in a group.

The Silent Zone
If you find yourself distracted by a lot of noise and need to focus on tomorrow’s exam or the paper that’s due at midnight, you may want to try to find a quiet place on campus that will allow you to be productive. The newly renovated 5th floor of the Library has some pretty awesome study pods, but if those are all taken up, you may be able to find a spot in the Marshall Student Center or your residence hall. If you commute to campus, check out your local coffee shop for a cozy spot that’s already stocked with caffeine.

The Creative Thinker
Need to focus? Try listening to a playlist of instrumental music. Research has shown that listening to music while studying can help you memorize the information. There is one caveat; if you’re trying to memorize things in order, say, the steps in photosynthesis, then listening to music might hinder your ability to recall the steps in the correct order.

If you can’t listen to music, or if music is hurting your chances of remembering something later, there are plenty of other ways to study creatively. You can use colored pens, markers, and highlighters to make memorizing information more engaging and fun. Mnemonic devices – patterns of letters or ideas – are another common way of helping you remember things. For example, PEMDAS is a mnemonic acronym for the order of operations in math, and the phrase “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” helps us remember the order of the planets in our solar system.

The Group Effort
If you benefit from learning in a group setting, consider stopping by the Academic Success Center for Tutoring, or see if your class will have a study session as part of the Marshall Study Center finals week events. If those options don’t work for you, try posting in the discussion section of your Canvas course or on your class Facebook page to see if some of your classmates would like to get together.

Treat Yourself
As you create your finals week plan, be sure to build in time for breaks. Breaks allow your mind to process information and recharge, and can help you if you’re feeling stuck while trying to write. If you make time for your breaks, you’ll be more likely to stick to your plan and you’ll always know how much longer you’ve got to stay focused!

When you take a break, consider going for a walk or exercising at the Rec Center, cooking a hot meal, watching a show or movie with your friends, or checking out one of USF’s many finals week Wellness Activities. Do something that makes you happy and reward yourself for your productivity!

Once your break is over, you’ll be ready to knock out more studying!


Good luck on your finals!


Are you graduating? After you ace your finals, come back here to see how we’ll help you walk across the stage and into your career.



Become the Master of Your Career – Part 4

Welcome once again! We’re wrapping up our Become the Master of Your Career series today with Part 4. You can revisit Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 if you need a refresher.

Don’t forget, our Career Readiness Badging Program allows you to become the master of your career by helping you make meaningful connections between your experiences here at USF and your life after graduation! You’re now well on your way to understanding what it takes to become a master, so you may want to consider signing up for one of our Career Readiness Badging Orientations. We only have a few orientation sessions left this semester, but we’ll be back with more in the Spring!

Now, let’s talk about the last two essential skills you need to become career ready: Critical Thinking and Global Citizenship!


Critical Thinking
You use critical thinking skills every day when you do things like driving your car or choosing courses to fit your schedule. But when you want to show future employers that you’ve mastered the Critical Thinking essential skill, you’re not going to simply flash your driver’s license as proof.

Whereas most of the other essential skills have some kind of tangible manifestation, Critical Thinking is very cerebral. Master Critical Thinkers are able to obtain, interpret, and use knowledge, facts, and data to analyze issues, make decisions, and overcome problems. While you may have some type of final product, like a research paper, the original and creative thought process you use to get there isn’t always immediately understood by others. This can make talking about this skill to future employers a little difficult.

Through the Career Readiness Badging Program, we make having conversations about your mastery of the Critical Thinking essential skill easier. We’ve given you a few ideas about where you can learn this skill, like math courses, research workshops, and conferences related to your major or future career field. We have also partnered with offices across campus, like the Office of Undergraduate Research, to make sure that there are opportunities for you to get experience using this skill that you can put on your resume. One you’ve gotten some experience, we’ll help you discover ways that you can talk to employers about this essential skill with a sample interview question.


Global Citizenship
USF is proud to be home to an incredibly diverse population of students, staff, and faculty that represent more than 125 countries! We’re nationally recognized as an institution that embraces its diversity and offers a variety of global opportunities to its students.

If you remember back to Part 1 of our series, we talked about NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, and how they created the eight essential skills we’ve been talking about. Global Citizenship, the final essential skill we’ll discuss in our series, was just added to NACE’s list in January 2017. Its addition speaks to the importance of employees who are masters of Global Citizenship within our increasingly global economy.

Masters of the Global Citizenship essential skill value, respect, and learn from diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, religions, and viewpoints. They are also open, inclusive, and sensitive, and are able to interact respectfully with all people.

Because USF is so diverse, there are tons of offices (like the Global Citizen Project) and student organizations (like the Latin American Student Association) on campus for you to get involved with. In fact, USF is home to 43 multicultural student organizations! You can find them all and learn how to get involved on BullSync.

As you start to learn about the Global Citizenship essential skill, find ways to get experience that is related to your major or future career field. Global Citizenship impacts every industry in some way, and even if the company you eventually work for only has domestic offices, you’ll still come into contact with people who have different backgrounds than you. Try doing some research into companies within your field of interest and see how they’re impacting their local and global community for ideas on where you can get experience and become a master of Global Citizenship!


We’ve spent the last couple of weeks telling you a little bit about each of the eight essential skills in our Career Readiness Badging Program, but there is so much more that you can learn! If you’re ready to become the master of your career, join us for one of our upcoming orientation sessions. We only have a few dates left this fall semester, but we’ll have a full schedule again in the Spring!


Until Grad School …

You have finally walked across the stage, shaken hands with President Judy Genshaft, and received your diploma. Many graduates plan to continue their education in graduate or professional school. There are many reasons to consider furthering your education right away, but what if you’re not ready for that step yet? In today’s post, we’ll discuss possible options that you can consider until you’re ready for grad school.

Entry-Level Jobs
When you graduate with your undergraduate degree, you will likely pursue one of two paths: furthering your education or entering the workforce. While some students go straight to grad school and others may have plans of returning to school later, the vast majority of students choose to immediately begin working in entry-level positions.

Entering the world of work allows you to begin using your degree instantly. You’re able to gain experience and continue to build on the essential skills that you developed in college. You’re also able to start establishing yourself financially, and while this isn’t impossible to do in graduate school, it may be a little easier to do.

Entry-level jobs also help you understand the industry that you have decided to work within. You can learn from your supervisors and coworkers, ask questions about how upper management makes their decisions, and continue to build your professional network in ways that can help you advance your career. Learning the ins and outs of the company and industry that you work within can help you determine whether or not furthering your education may be the right choice for you and can help you select an appropriate program of study.

If you’re considering an entry-level position, check out our Spring 2018 Career & Internship Fair Week. Employers will continue to register up until the week before the first fair on January 31, 2018, so mark your calendars now!

Myth: Internships are only for current students. Fact: Many companies accept recent graduates into their internship programs on a track toward full-time employment.

If you focused on your studies during your undergraduate years, a post-graduate internship can help you get some work experience on your resume. This allows the company to test your essential skills, like professionalism, teamwork, and communication and gives you an opportunity to see if you like the position and company before you agree to a full-time role.

To find these opportunities, you can attend our Spring 2018 Career & Internship Fair Week, but you may want to check out our other employer events as well. On November 14, we have an Industry Networking Night event for the Financial Services Industry, which will allow you to meet with representatives from a few companies all in one place. You don’t have to be a business or finance major to attend, but you should have an interest in working within the Financial Services Industry.

You can check out all of our opportunities to meet with employers on campus in Handshake in the Events and Fairs sections of the site. You can also use Handshake to do research on your own to see which companies have internships available for seniors or recent graduates.

Trade Schools and Certifications
Graduate and professional schools are not the only places where you can pursue post-graduate education. Trade schools are institutions that are focused on teaching their students a particular skill or about a specific industry. These include art institutes, technical schools, and specialists schools.

You can also consider pursuing a certificate program. These are often offered at colleges and universities and are less intense than graduate programs. They may be less expensive, require fewer classes, and take less time to complete than a traditional Master’s degree. Certifications are offered for a variety of different subjects or technologies. If you’re planning to work in a technology-driven industry or role, you can get certifications for Adobe, Microsoft, and Google, to name a few.

For both trade schools and certifications, be sure to do your research about what is offered, how much it will cost, how long it will take, and whether or not it will benefit you in your industry. If you need help considering this option or beginning your search, schedule an appointment with your Career Consultant through Handshake.

Time Off
If you take time off between graduating with your undergraduate degree and pursuing graduate school or entering the workforce, you may get some questions about what you did with that time during the interview process for your future program or job. Rather than going back home and working in a part-time job (a trap that Don Asher says you may not escape from!), consider taking time to explore your interests. A common option is to travel domestically or internationally. Even though it’s something a lot of people do, you can use this time to help you narrow your interests and solidify your passion for the field that you enter when you return, so don’t be afraid to talk about your unique experience during interviews.

If you absolutely have to return home, but still plan on going to graduate school or entering the world of work later, make your time off count. You may need to have a part-time or even full-time job to help make ends meet and begin paying off student loans if you have them, but you should also consider getting involved in your community. Volunteering can be a great way to demonstrate to a future program administrator or interviewer that you have passion and drive. If you can find volunteer opportunities within an area that you plan to continue to study or work, this will give you some great hands-on experience that can make you stand out during the application process.

My Uncle For Whom Your Library is Named …

If you weren’t at Don Asher’s talk last night, you missed out on a lot of laughs, the hottest tips in grad school preparation, and the chance at some free money just for raising your hand! But don’t worry, we’ve brought some of his tips to Professional Edge so that you can successfully apply to and pay for your post-graduate studies.

Turn Your World Upside Down
If you’re graduating in December or May and hope to go to grad or professional school, Asher has a few reasons why you should stop doing whatever you’re doing and start applying right now.

Deadlines are approaching quickly, and you don’t want to turn in your application moments before it’s due. If you’re applying to programs in the humanities, you want to apply at least 7-10 days before the deadline, but if you’re applying to STEM programs, you need to turn your applications in even earlier. Many STEM programs begin admitting students as soon as they start receiving applications. Turning yours in 10-30 days before the deadline helps make sure your application is even considered.

Another reason Asher has for starting your applications immediately is that taking time-off is dangerous. You may be thinking about taking a gap year, but when you get home you get caught up in family drama, or you start making money at a full-time job, or suddenly you’re married with kids, and you never end up coming back to school. If you want another degree – get it now!

If you’re on the fence about whether or not you need another degree, consider this:
An individual with a Master’s degree will end up making over $400,000 more during their life than their peers with a Bachelor’s degree. Someone with a PhD will make over $1.4 million more. Those with a professional degree in medicine or law will make over $2 million more. That’s at least 400,000 really good reasons to continue your education!

What if you’re not sure about your career path after you get a graduate or professional degree? What if you’re not sure you’ve picked the right schools to apply to or the right program of study? Asher’s advice to those lacking confidence is “don’t try to get perfect – try to get going.”


Get Narrow
Do you want to be a doctor? Get a law degree? That’s great, but it’s not what admissions committees want to hear, and it’s not going to get you a strong letter of recommendation from your current professors.

Asher says that you need to “get narrow,” be particular, get specific. So, not a doctor, but a pediatric oncologist. Not just a lawyer, an immigration lawyer.

Narrowing your field of study can also help as you research programs, because, Asher says, you shouldn’t actually be researching programs. Instead, search nationwide for faculty who are already doing what you want to do and see how they talk about their work. Do a google search for your interests and limit the domains to .edu, then look for the faculty information pages and use them to start your research. The schools that they are at are the schools that you should be thinking about applying to – and they’re going to help you get in.

Reach out to the faculty that come up in your search and see if they’d be willing to discuss your shared interests with you in person, by Skype, or over the phone. Make these connections early on in your application process – and mention your relationship in your application essays – and then you’ll have an advocate on your side during the admissions process.


Customization Starts at the Top
Asher says that the best first line of a graduate admissions essay, and an almost complete guarantee for acceptance is “my uncle, for whom your library is named, …” But, you don’t have to have nepotism working for you to write stand-out essays. Instead, Asher says, “customize, customize, customize.”

First, it’s important to know what kind of essay you need to write. Personal Statements are normally for professional schools, while Statements of Purpose are for graduate programs. So, what’s the difference?

A Personal Statement, Asher says is a misnomer. These should be called Professional Statements. Professional schools aren’t interested in you as a person – they want to know who you are as a professional. You should limit your “I Statements” to a maximum of four sentences that begin with “I” and instead focus on your ideas. A really easy way to do this is to rework your sentence structure. Don’t write “I am interested in highly successful people.” Do write “Highly successful people are interesting.”

A Statement of Purpose, or Statement of (Research) Intent, should discuss your interests and abilities. What are your interests, what do you want to do in graduate school, and what do you want to do with your degree when it’s complete? Try to tie in your future career aspirations, scholarship, non-profit work you hope to do (or are already doing), and ways you can give back to the school as a future educator.

Asher has one area of caution for any admission essay: “don’t talk about your childhood.” While he says there can be some exceptions, admissions professionals are tired of hearing about the chemistry set that every future scientist received at the age of nine. It’s cliché, and of course it made you want to be a scientist. He also says that those applying to psychology programs should avoid mentioning the family member they know with a mental illness.

If programs have instructions for a word limit on essays, Asher says to write up to, but just under, the word limit. Writing over it shows arrogance, and writing too far under it looks like it’s been used for more than one program application. If you aren’t given a word limit, write 500-1000 words. Before you submit your essays, ask a faculty member review it for you.

One other thing you should think about including in your admissions essays is a note about your GPA if it’s low. This is where having connections to faculty teaching in the program you are applying to can help, as they can vouch for your desire to study the material. It also helps to have the faculty members that write your letters of recommendation attest to the work that you can do. But, you can take matters into your own hand. Look over your transcripts, and see if you can identify a pattern. Did you struggle in your math classes or have a semester that brought down your GPA? Try to isolate the problem, and use space on your admissions essays to explain it away. For example, “High school was too easy and didn’t adequately prepare me for the subjects I would face in college, but after my first semester, I was able to adjust to the level of attention my studies required and I received a 4.0 GPA in my second semester.”


Money, Money, Money
If you know how to do it, you can go to graduate school for free. Ask program administrators who they fund and how you can be that person. Find out if they offer assistantships and when and how you apply for those part-time jobs that often offer a full waiver and a stipend. Look for scholarships and grants. Asher’s book, Best Scholarships for the Best Students, has pages full of sites with multiple opportunities for you to explore. There are plenty of options out there. You just have to know where to look.

Put it into Practice
Tomorrow, October 26 is the Fall 2017 Graduate & Professional School Fair. You’ll have the opportunity to meet with admissions professionals, program administrators, and faculty from graduate and professional schools all around the country. Whether you’re planning to apply this year or three years from now, making those connections tomorrow can help you get started today!

If you’d like to take a look at the handouts from the event last night, they can be found in the attachments section of the Handshake event page at

Preparing for Graduate Exams

Your mind is set! You want to go to graduate school but, wait, you have to take an exam to apply? That’s right! Mentally and physically preparing yourself for graduate entrance exams can be a lengthy process. But, if you’re strategic in your study approach, you’ll get through your exam with ease! Here are are a few suggestions to help you get your head in the game.



Every graduate school is different, so program research should be on top of your to-do list. Which exam does the program you are applying to want to see as part of your application? Does it have specific required or recommended scores? Does the program administrator recommend taking an additional subject exam to explore your in-depth knowledge of a subject?

Once you know which exam you will need to take, begin researching the exam itself. How does the exam’s scoring system work? Does it contain a writing portion? How long should you expect to set aside to take the exam? How much is it going to cost?

Answering these questions before you begin preparing for an exam is important. Don’t stress yourself out for an exam you may not have to take, and make sure you spend time preparing for the sections that may be more difficult for you rather than focusing on the questions that you can answer easily.



With graduate entrance exams, practice is critical. Not only will you need to answer questions about a variety of subjects, but you will need to answer these within a certain amount of time.

Start by taking a diagnostic test to see where you stand and which areas you need to improve in order to achieve your ideal score. If you’re not a good test taker, or if you are really struggling with a certain area of the exam, consider purchasing a test preparation package. These can be expensive (like $800!), but you can get a deep discount on either the GMAT or GRE test prep packages by attending our Graduate Pathways events this month. If you’d rather spend only $50 on a test prep package, click here.

Once you feel like you’ve improved enough, begin practicing the exam in a simulated testing environment. Time yourself and limit distractions, like snacks or music, that you won’t have when you take the exam for real. Practicing the exam this way physically and mentally prepares you for the exam and helps you become comfortable with the testing structure.



It would be wonderful if we could put life on hold to study for entrance exams, but we all have places to be, things to do, and people to see. Creating a study schedule that accounts for your normal routine and class deadlines can help you stay on top of your preparation for each section of your exam. When making your schedule, keep your exam date and graduate program application deadlines in mind and build back from that, leaving plenty of room to retake the exam if you need to.

Be sure that your schedule is flexible. You may not think that you want to take part in an online or in-person test prep course, but once you start studying, you may find that the level of structure it provides could be helpful. You also want to make sure that your schedule isn’t so rigid that taking a break from it will put you behind. If you’re not feeling well or if you have to complete a class assignment you weren’t anticipating, don’t force yourself to study. Give yourself time to heal or finish other projects, and then refocus on your exam.



Graduate exams are important, so take them seriously. Taking time to prepare will give you the best chance to score well so that you have a compelling application to your future graduate school!


What’s next?


An Evening with Don Asher

Tuesday, October 24 / 6:00p.m.- 7:30p.m. / MSC 2709

Don Asher returns to USF to share current tips, tricks, and techniques for successfully applying to and pursuing graduate and professional school studies. Come out and enjoy free pizza! Oh, and by the way, Don Asher has a history of handing out money at this signature event! Don’t miss out!


Graduate & Professional School Fair

Thursday, October 26 / 11a.m. – 2p.m. / MSC Ballroom

Explore graduate and professional schools from all over the country and meet with admissions staff to discuss their program details and application requirements.


To be eligible for the test prep discount, you must attend four out of five of our Graduate Pathways events this month. If you weren’t able to attend one of the three workshops we’ve held over the last couple of weeks, visit our website to find out how you can still get your attendance counted by viewing them online.