Archive for the ‘graduate school’ Tag

Learn to just say no

Tonight I opened Google Reader for the first time in over a month. I hoped that the feed reader had not exploded with the over 100 feeds I subscribe to. The sight of the 1000+ articles sitting there awaiting my perusal inspired me to do something that I don’t do often enough: say no. I have now dumped half of these feeds. It simply was too overwhelming and frankly ridiculous of me to think that I could consume that much information on a daily basis. It is an ongoing negative habit of mine: take on more and more responsibility until I drive myself crazy.

I miss reading and talking about public health now that my brain is constantly occupied with nonprofit management and education due to AmeriCorps. I love what I do everyday but I know that the issues that I really want to explore are in public health and not education. I did not realize how difficult it would be to devote myself to both disciplines this year.

After reading on change.org about the amazing strides that Frontline: SMS has made in advancing mobile health in Malawi, I knew that I wanted to jump back in. Reading and writing about public health will bring back some of the excitement I felt about going to grad school. I have gotten in to Emory and Johns Hopkins so I definitely need to step up my game so that I will be ready next fall.

Patience is not my middle name

My grad school applications were completed weeks ago and the schools that I have applied to have logged the information into their respective system. I am relieved; well, I should be relieved. Unfortunately, I can’t help panicking a little about what the results will be. I went through the same stress while I waiting for college acceptance letters. Was my essay boring? Do I have the experience they are looking for? Will they all reject me?

The worst part is that I have a couple months of waiting ahead of me. Luckily my job promises to fill my schedule, blocking out future worrying time. How do you pass the time while waiting for results of major decisions?

How not to express disagreement with an issue

I have not come across many causes that stir up so many fervent emotions as some of the issues in public health: reproductive rights, vaccines, and HIV/AIDS among those. When I tell people that I plan to study public health, they speak about the need to help sick people in the world in an abstract manner with little consideration for the nuts and bolts of public health. Speaking about health can be just as controversial as the typically taboo topics of politics, religion and sex because you find all three have a role to play in communication and interventions.

Alanna Shaikh highlighted five of the more contentious issues in public health. I have had a couple incidents involving opposing viewpoints regarding vaccine safety and efficacy and the cause of AIDS. My previous post about my change.org idea prompted an anonymous  comment that attacked me personally and included no scientific evidence to support claims that vaccines do more harm than good. I will repeat again that controversy over vaccine safety is largely a product of faulty communication, NOT faulty science. The development of vaccines represents one of the greatest successes of 20th-century medicine, making immunization of its own success.

My encounter with AIDS denialists that participated in the change.org Ideas competition echoed some of the vehement reactions seen on change.org’s Global Health blog regarding the recent tragic death of Christine Maggiore. As a person living with HIV who publicly questioned the link between HIV and AIDS, Maggiore was a controversial figure who helped to perpetuate misconceptions about HIV and ARV therapy. I had an exchange with the author of the idea aiming to question the link between HIV and AIDS after he left a comment on my idea that questioned my intentions and motivation. I left a response on my wall and have copied it below just in case you are curious to read it.

I would like to let any future commenters know that disagreement is appreciated and encouraged. Just don’t resort to attacking me personally and then to proceed to not back up your argument with some valid, factual pointers.

Recommendations make me nervous

Recommendations are the one part of the application process where you are truly at the mercy of individual schedules. The control freak part of me panics at having to rely on others until the application process is complete. The best thing that you can do for your peace of mind is to 1) ask early and 2) remind often. Even though I requested mine a month ago, I am still waiting on a few letters because schedules fill up quickly and tend to change at a moment’s notice. Luckily, my earliest deadline is still a month away.

To avoid a midnight dash to the post office, allow at least a month for your references to complete your letters. Also, make sure to have at least one backup reference in mind in case one does not have enough time in their schedules. If your reference says that they are too busy to write a letter, if it is someone you know really well, you might want to think about offering to write the letter and asking them to review and sign it. Terrified about writing your own letter? Not everyone is a self-promotion guru. Check out your recommendations on LinkedIn to get a better feel for the tone of a recommendation.

Do your references a favor and provide them with your personal press kit. Send a draft of your admissions essay, most current resume, and other documents that might me pertinent. If your degree has a research focus, it might be good to send an abstract of a published paper.

I’m trying to take my own advice and remember that most people want to help other people. The logistics of getting recommendations might be troublesome, but people like supporting other’s endeavors.

This only a test: Tackling the GRE

Standardized tests may be your forte or your weakest link but they will be part of any application for graduate school. I know after taking the SAT for admission to college that I had hoped to never see another standardized test again. Unfortunately, that simply was not possible.

The GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, is basically a grown up version of the SAT. The test includes the same sections: Verbal, Analytical and Writing. As before, expanding your vocabulary can only help you with the verbal section. I know that many people often use flashcards to learn hundreds of the most frequently used words. For me, it was more useful to learn to recognize word roots because I have a hard time with rote memorization. This test will require you to brush off those rusty math skills that you likely have not used for years. I didn’t find anything too complicated, but preparing for the test will allow you to be comfortable on test day.

I found the biggest adjustment was becoming accustomed to a computer-administered test. You can’t make notes beside the reading passages. Knowing the computer actually increases the difficulty of each test item following every correct answer until you miss an answer. I personally think this is ETS’ way of playing mind games with test takers. The key to avoiding a whirlwind of worry about the correctness of your answers is learning how to pace yourself before taking the real test. While practice tests will not exactly capture the testing experience, you can follow the same rules as the real exam.

Keep in mind that your test scores are valid for five years. Even if you are not sure that you want to go to grad school soon, you can save yourself some trouble by taking the GRE sooner rather than later. Because you can schedule the test on your own schedule, you can choose how much time you will need to prepare even if you are working fulltime. For those still in college, the summer months are perfect for preparing and then taking the GRE since there is more free time. While it’s no picnic, The GRE may be as close as you can get to having a stress-free testing experience.

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