Three EMBA Program Survival Tips

Once you decide that you need to go through an EMBA program, you have to prepare yourself for the experience. The biggest mistake many executive students make is to assume that the program won’t be that difficult, since the hours tend to be part time. What they fail to realize is that juggling any MBA program with a full time career and possibly a family life and personal life can be stressful and exhausting. The following tips are designed to get you off on the right foot so you know how to survive the next year or two of study.

1. Choose your program according to hours and program structure, not just reputation.

When you went through degree programs in the past, you probably considered the reputation of the school before you thought about anything else. While that still remains important when getting your EMBA, you have to give more thought to the structure of the program you select this time around.

You probably have a lot more going on in your life this time, since you are now working full time and may have more serious personal relationships or even a family to take care of now. This means you need a program that will fit into your lifestyle in a reasonable manner. It may not be entirely comfortable or easy, but it should be possible to juggle other responsibilities while going through the program.

It doesn’t matter how reputable a program is if you cannot possibly meet all requirements of the program right now. Find something that fits your life right now.

2. Be realistic about what you will have to give up in order to make it through the program.

The EMBA is designed just for working professionals like yourself, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t have to sacrifice to get through the program. Once you know what the schedule will be for the program, figure out your schedule and take account of what you may have to give up to make it through the program.

For example, you may have to give up watching your child’s football games or being home on time for dinner every night. You may have to sacrifice weekends to be in the classroom while spending weekdays locked in the office at work.

If you are mentally prepared for these sacrifices going into the program, you will handle the stress much better. It is when these things come as a surprise that EMBA students struggle emotionally.

3. Keep your mind open to learn new things and expand your skill set.

Too many EMBA candidates come into the program thinking they have at least a few years of working experience in the business world and they already know it all. They feel like the degrees they have already achieved and their work experience has already prepared them for a successful career in management or even at the corporate level. They have closed minds and do not get the most out of their programs.

Whether you are going into your EMBA program on your own ambition or you have been required to undertake the degree by your employer, acknowledge that you still have a lot to learn. No matter how far you climb up the ladder at work, there is always something more to work. Keep your mind open and you will get more out of your time studying.

Fast Track Ivy League Admissions Tips

The Ivy League is an athletic union of American educational institutes based in the north-east of The States including Harvard, Yale and Columbia University. Many people mistakenly believe MIT and Stanford are members of this union. While we reference these institutes in this article, they are not.

There are a series of factors that will determine your acceptance to the Ivy League or other elite institutes. Here we’ll analyse the best approach. Let’s begin with your GPA.

GPA Requirements

Of course, your GPA is a pillar of your application. But is your application a house of cards without it? Not necessarily. Why is it that some students with 4.0 GPA’s are rejected, while others with sub-3 GPA’s are accepted? Because the value of the courses you took is often of equal value to your result. Because your application needs to demonstrate extra-curricular pedigree.

Your record at school needs to display academic rigor – don’t opt for the easiest courses. A prescribed high school path featuring 4 years of the cornerstone subjects, English, Math and Science, are best complimented with 4 years dedicated to History and learning a foreign language.

That brings us on to Extra-Curriculars.

Those Darn Extra-Curriculars

Meet John. John has a 2.7 grade point average and equally unremarkable SAT results. Although John was never the best student, he excelled in sports, holding the post as captain for his Baseball, Basketball and Football teams, winning awards for his sporting ability. It’s these strengths that secured his place at Harvard. Meanwhile many thousands of students are rejected every year with outstanding academics.

Stories of a sub-3 GPA turned Harvard graduate are the exception, but there’s a moral to this tale. If two students are equal academically, universities like employers, will opt for the candidate who has held leadership roles or displayed an extra-curricular spike. Without these traits, your application will be lost.

Financial Aid

Unfortunately, you’ll have to factor cost into attending your dream school. Fortunately, though, the world’s most prestigious schools are often in possession of the largest financial aid endowments. Consider Harvard which has a financial aid budget of $172,000,000. This aid is reserved for students whose parents are earning under $60,000 per year. The net result means the cost of attending actually matches or bests 90% of other universities. Before preparing your FAFSA application (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), you’ll need to know where you stand.

What About Reach Schools?

Universities with low admissions rates, including Harvard and Yale are considered ‘Reach Schools’. A ‘Match School’ is one that has a high probability of acceptance. Identifying reach schools and match schools is smart forward planning.

Perhaps your heart is set on attending Yale. You may dream of being published in Yale Law Review before one day running for Congress. Students negotiate a path towards their dreams every year. Equally there are who students fail to reach the school of their dreams without Plan B. Identify other institutes with a prestigious record of graduating the finest minds in your field.

Post-Graduate Success

When creating a shortlist of schools, it’s wise to assess the post-graduate success student’s are likely to experience. Let’s take MIT. While the US economy struggles and jobs are scare, MIT bucks the trend. Studies demonstrate just 20% of students find employment on graduation. MIT students however, fare better than the national average with on-campus hiring still prevalent.

The idea that your post-graduate success is purely dependent on your education, however, is mistaken. History is shaped by those who defy the rules and define their own route. Be they a Harvard reject Warren Buffet or Princeton reject Ted Turner. So, you don’t need to graduate the Ivy League to be a success… But it helps.

Tips on Applying to Graduate School

Graduate school provides a more specialized level of training and enhanced, expert instruction in a particular field. The most critical decision in applying to graduate school is not in selecting the institution but rather in identifying the most favorable area of study. Unfortunately, the decision-making process does not end there. Other considerations such as timing, location of study, financial aid, and the student population should all be given appropriate attention.

In this publication, we offer tips to jumpstart your search for a Master’s or Doctoral degree. We explore the common reasons for applying, the selection process, test taking, and the necessary preparations leading to attendance. These guidelines will provide you with insights into approaching the application process with confidence and will serve as a reference as you go through the application steps.

Good luck!

I. Top Reasons for Applying to Graduate School

Career Change/Advancement

People with several years of working experience often realize that their career path slowly becomes limited, or even spares no room for professional growth. Some also discover that their skill set is no longer applicable to their field of exposure and subsequently pursue specific training in their industry as a means to move forward.

On numerous occasions, a rank-and-file employee may have already acquired a knowledgeable understanding of how a company is managed, and may wish to pursue a supervisory position in the company or in another enterprise. Whether you are planning to switch careers or aiming for advancement, a graduate education can greatly offer more flexibility.

Increased Salary

Higher earnings directly correlate with higher education. Management and/or supervisory positions are often restricted to those with advanced degrees, thus limiting your earning potential if you do not have these advancements. According to studies, a graduate degree holder in the United States can earn an average of 33% more than someone with a bachelor’s degree alone.

Personal Improvement/Intellectual Stimulation

Discounting future career and income potential, other people opt to pursue graduate studies simply because they love to learn and are genuinely interested in acquiring more knowledge on their chosen field.

II. Determining if Graduate School is the Right Choice for You

Graduate school is perfect for people who enjoy research and learning. It is not ideal for people who merely want to take more courses, or for those who are in a rush to get a job.

Undergraduate study differs from graduate education in that it requires more of your time, motivation, and effort. It also entails forming professional and personal relationships with professors and other students. Generally, it challenges you in what you want to achieve in your life.

III. The Right Time for Graduate School

The right time to pursue an advanced degree is situational. You can embark on graduate school right after you receive your bachelor’s degree, a year after graduation, or even several years later. If you are approaching graduation, and you have decided that graduate school is the next step for you, it may be helpful if you ask yourself the following questions:

1) Are you ready for another three to eight years of studying?

2) Should you take time off before moving on to graduate school?

3) If you want to take time off, why?

If the main reason for taking time off is fatigue, then ask yourself if the two or three months of vacation before graduate school can help you revitalize yourself. If you are convinced that graduate school is the next step for you, then there is no reason why you should delay your application.

Right after Graduation

If the knowledge you acquired in your undergraduate education is specifically relevant to your graduate program, then this option may be the right one for you. Other reasons for going straight to graduate school include your excellence as a student; your current status of having few (or no) obligations, both personally and financially; and your interest in pursuing an area of expertise that requires a graduate degree.

Take time to ensure that graduate school is right for you. Advanced study requires a considerable amount of motivation and the ability to work independently. Sometimes, a vacation from studying may help intensify your motivation and enhance your skills. As such, you may want to consider the following option.

After a Sufficient Rest Period

Many graduates take a year off before they start their graduate program. You can use this time to work, both to help you fund your studies and to gain experience. Perhaps, you simply want to travel. If you are traveling, remember to apply for courses at the right time, keeping in mind that you might be asked to attend an interview or an admission test. You will need to plan well ahead, sometimes as long as 18 months prior to application. In the case of some overseas programs, it is common for students to put together a timeline before they begin focusing on their time off.

It is important to understand that pursuing a graduate degree a number of years after undergraduate study is not uncommon. Some time off can be valuable if it improves your qualifications and primes you for the pressures and rigors of graduate school.

After Working Full-time

The reasons for acquiring work experience before graduate school include acquiring a better understanding of your professional objectives, obtaining relevant work experience, and developing a more responsible attitude toward studying. If you know in advance that you intend to pursue a graduate education after several years of work, look for an employer with a tuition reimbursement program. Often, employers are willing to finance part, or all, of the expenses entailed in graduate study.

While Working

The biggest percentage of the graduate school student population consists of part-time students. The idea of supplemental education is a growing trend because rapid industry changes affect almost all fields of expertise. Continuing to work, whether on a part time or a full time basis, can also be a means of paying for expenses incurred during the course of your graduate study.

IV. Master’s vs. Doctoral Degrees

It is a common misconception that a prospective PhD student must possess a Master’s degree to enter a doctoral program. Although majority of graduate programs do require this, it is not always the case. It is better to conduct your own research and investigate the degree requirements for a program as opposed to making an assumption. In this booklet, we provide some of the more significant differences between being a Masteral and a Doctoral candidate.

The Masteral Candidate

You will spend, on the average, about two years in graduate school. The purpose of this program is to provide you with solid education in a specialized academic discipline

Your First Year The enrollment process is similar to that for undergraduate study. You are required to fulfill the coursework requirements of your degree. However, the work will be heavier, the course topics will be more specialized, and much more will be expected from you than when you were an undergraduate. With your adviser’s help (chosen by you or assigned by the program), you will start to solidify your academic focus.

Your Second Year You may take more advanced classes to complete your course requirements. Having determined your research direction, you will gradually spend more effort toward the completion of your thesis. Depending on your pace, you may need one semester or an entire academic year for you to finish your masteral thesis, the objective of which is to show your mastery in your area of study.

The Doctoral Candidate

You will spend, on the average, five to six years in graduate school. The purpose of the program is to provide you with comprehensive knowledge of your field, prepare you to conduct original and significant research, and make you ready to become a member of a teaching faculty.

Your First Three Years You will enroll in classes to fulfill your degree requirements and obtain comprehensive knowledge of your field of study. You will gradually establish your research direction, often consulting with an adviser (usually) appointed at the start of your graduate study. By the end of your second or third year, you would have completed a thesis or taken comprehensive exams, or both. The thesis and/or exams will allow your professors to evaluate your capabilities to continue with doctoral studies.

Your Last Three Years Coursework becomes a minor component of your academic workload, and may even disappear as you conceptualize your dissertation, a novel and significant contribution to the available knowledge in your specialization. You will teach more and more classes and gradually collaborate more with senior faculty members. You will form a close professional relationship with a faculty member who shares the same research interests as you do, and he/she will become your dissertation adviser. Your program will end with the completion of your dissertation, which may entail an oral defense of your research before a panel of faculty members and/or experts in the field you are in.

V. Selecting a Graduate Program

The following are some of the more important factors and questions that students need to consider and answer when deciding on what graduate program to apply to.

Specialty

This criterion will ultimately depend on your interests, but we always suggest job market consideration. Certain fields may undergo positive developments after a few years, while those that are currently experiencing rapid growth may become stagnant.

Ranking

A graduate program’s ranking is critical for some prospective graduate students. They believe that a program’s ranking signifies the quality of education they will receive and the level of resources that will be available to them. However, different sources of information – school Web sites, published rankings, and independent ranking organizations – all have specific criteria for evaluating a specific program. Students should therefore be aware of the factors that are considered in determining a program’s ranking, as well as the evaluation methods (if any) that are implemented.

Location

Location can play a large factor in your graduate school experience. You will establish many ties in graduate school and should therefore consider if the school of your choice is located in an area that you would consider living in. On the other hand, if you are looking for temporary residence in a place you have no intention of living in permanently but desire to live in for a few years, graduate school is an opportune time to gain that experience. Wherever you are, you should be comfortable with the location because you will be (usually) staying in that place for the next two to eight years of your life. Some questions you need to ask yourself are the following: Are you more partial to a small or large school? Urban or rural? Country or city?

Cost

Take into account all direct and indirect costs (tuition, miscellaneous fees, books, and especially cost of living) and the availability of financial assistance. The amount of financial assistance you receive often depends on whether you are pursuing a Master’s degree or a PhD. It is not unusual for a university or college to waive tuition requirements if you are applying for a doctoral program. Moreover, many PhD students are given some form of funding or stipend.

Admission Standards

It is better to select a graduate program with stringent admissions standards. Schools with lower admission requirements may provide a lower quality of graduate education. Majority of schools and universities make this type of information available to the public. Look for the base requirements for admission; these usually include the necessary undergraduate GPA and standardized test scores.

Teaching Personnel

Narrowing down your program choices will prove much easier if you are definite about your research interests. It is recommended that you apply to programs where the faculty members have research interests that coincide with yours.

It has often been stated that a graduate program is only as good as its faculty. It is important to learn from and train under professors who are respected and recognized in their chosen specialty. The easiest way to evaluate the quality of a program is to look at the proportion of classes taught by full-time faculty. At the same time, indicators such as the number of scholarly publications and the professional experience of the teaching staff could also provide insights into the reputation of the faculty.

Facilities

Check if the program you intend to apply to has the facilities/amenities that you need. Can they provide you the tools necessary for your research? It is important to investigate whether the “state-of-the-art” facilities promoted by the school or university are truly as claimed.

Time for Completion

Ask yourself how quickly you want to complete the program. Do you want to finish in two years? Three? Four? Do you have other plans after earning your graduate degree and thus have to finish it within a specific duration of time?

Career Planning

If your reason for going to graduate school is career related, then it will be wise to find out what types of professional development activities are available in the program/university you are pursuing. Are there opportunities for networking or training with actual practitioners in the field of specialization you have chosen?

Many students love the field of study they are in, but are confused with what specific positions they can apply for after graduation. The program or department will have information regarding the average salary earned by their graduates and the proportion of students who land jobs after graduation. You can also check if the department has connections with various organizations/companies to assist its students in finding employment after graduation.

VI. Finding Top Graduate Schools

Seek Out Fellow Graduate Students

Seeking out and talking to students enrolled in your program of interest is one of the best ways to conduct research on graduate schools. Getting the “inside scoop” on what you can expect upon admission into a program will certainly help you obtain “real-life information” about the program. Aside from obtaining information on courses, tuition, and faculty members, you may also be lucky enough to hear personal experiences with regard to the quality of instruction, the rigors of the program, and other factors that will aid you in making a decision where to apply.

Graduate School Rankings

Graduate school rankings provide a practical guide for finding the school that is suitable for you. Aside from general rankings, information such as average grades and test scores are included in these records. This will help you establish whether or not your qualifications are competitive.

In fields such as medicine, business, and law, rankings can be very useful. Rankings in these disciplines are frequently determined based on meticulous scientific evaluations, and if applied properly, these can direct students toward organizing their applications by enabling them to highlight the aspects they will be competitive in. Nonetheless, these rankings are not the end-all and be-all of selecting the right graduate school. Many students focus too much on international or national rankings. Combined with careful research, however, graduate school rankings can most certainly point you in the right direction.

VII. Applying for Admission

Materials

The following materials are generally required for applying to graduate school:

a. A completed and signed application form

b. The application fee

c. Certified true copies of transcripts from colleges and universities attended

d. Statement of Purpose or a Personal Statement

e. Recommendation Letters

f. Standardized test scores

VIII. Timetables for Applying to Graduate School

The earlier you complete your application, the better your prospects for admission. In this manual, we provide two options of a timetable you can utilize as you prepare for your application to graduate school. Carefully review each, and choose the one you believe will work best for you.

TIMETABLE (Option 1)

1. Conduct research

– Obtain information online – both institutional and external sites – and visit campuses (if possible).

– At graduate school fairs, speak with representatives from the schools. Collecting materials is often less effective than spending your time in verbal communication with people who are a reflection of the school. Generally, the material in brochures and distributed paperwork contains the same information as that of the online site. Talking to people may help you make better use of your time.

2. Prepare for the required standardized tests (i.e., GMAT and TOEFL)

– This is between one and six months ahead of taking the tests, depending on your initial level.

3. Start drafting your Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose

– Think about your accomplishments, relevant experiences, influences, and inspirations.

– Identify your goals and reasons for pursuing graduate study and/or the specific graduate program.

4. Obtain your Letters of Recommendation

– Decide on and speak to the people you wish to get recommendations from; make sure you give them plenty of advanced notice.

– Discuss your plans, and remind them of your academic/professional achievements and capabilities.

– Give them clear and realistic deadlines for writing the letter (six to eight weeks).

– Follow-up with a call three or four weeks after making your request to find out how the letters are progressing (and as some recommenders have busy schedules, to remind them to start writing the letter).

5. Request for your undergraduate transcripts

– Do this at least two months before you submit your application.

6. Take the standardized tests

– Request that the scores be sent to the schools.

7. Finish drafting your Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose

– Provide copies to friends and colleagues and ask them for their opinions regarding your work.

– Obtain the services of a professional English language review and editing company like KGSupport to enhance your essay’s content, improve English usage, and make your statement competitive.

– Type or write neatly. If your application is unreadable, it cannot be evaluated.

8. Mail all completed applications

– Do not wait for deadlines. Submit early!

– Keep photocopies for your records.

TIMETABLE (Option 2)

9-12 months before graduate school starts

– Select the programs you wish to enroll in.

– Obtain application forms and requirements from the university/school. Inquire from the admissions office if you have any questions.

– Decide who you will ask to write your letters of recommendation.

7-9 months before graduate school starts

– Start drafting your Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose.

– Collect your Letters of Recommendation.

– Complete the application in preparation for submission. Double-check that all necessary information has been provided. Read the instructions and follow them carefully.

– Keep photocopies of your application form, Personal Statement, undergraduate transcript, and Letters of Recommendation.

6-8 months before graduate school starts

– Submit your application documents. Check if there is a difference between deadlines for online submission and mailed applications.

– Begin looking for housing if required.

5-7 months before graduate school starts

– Request that your undergraduate transcripts be sent to your intended school/s.

– Acceptance letters are usually sent out around this time. If you have not heard from your school, contact them to make sure your application is complete.

3-6 months before graduate school starts

– Complete all your admission requirements: final transcripts, registration, medical checks, others

IX. Standard Tests/Exams Necessary for Application

GENERAL

1. GRE – Graduate Record Examination (General and Subject)

The GRE General Test measures a person’s verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills acquired over a period of time, and not related to any specific field of study. The standardized score serves as a yardstick for evaluating your qualifications as an applicant.

The GRE Subject Tests measure undergraduate proficiency in the following eight disciplines:

Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Literature in English, Biology, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Computer Science, and Psychology

2. IELTS – International English Language Testing System

The IELTS is an internationally recognized English language test. It enables students to show their ability to pursue courses in English. It is accepted by universities in the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. However, it is not accepted by most universities in the United States. The score that students must obtain to be eligible in a university that requires IELTS depends on the course and the university.

3. TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language

The TOEFL is the most widely accepted English language test in the world. It measures the spoken and written ability of non-native, English-speaking students. It is best to check the Web site of the university/school you wish to apply to before deciding on which English test to take.

4. TOEIC – Test of English for International Communication

The TOEIC assessment measures the capability of non-native English-speaking people to use English in everyday work activities.

5. TSE – Test of Spoken English

The TSE assessment measures the verbal communication ability of nonnative English speakers in an academic or professional environment.

SPECIFIC

1. LSAT (Law)

The LSAT is intended to measure skills regarded as indispensable for success in law school: accurate reading and comprehension of complex texts, organization of information and the capacity to obtain logical inferences from it, critical reasoning, and analysis and assessment of the reasoning and opinions of others.

2. GMAT (MBA)

The GMAT is a standardized test that aids business schools in evaluating the qualifications of applicants for advanced degrees in business and management. It is often used by business schools as a predictor of academic performance. The GMAT measures basic verbal, mathematical, and analytical writing skills that have been developed through education and employment.

GMAT requirements vary depending on the school. You should research on the average GMAT scores at the universities you wish to apply to. This information should be readily available. Remember that top business schools view a score of at least 600 as competitive.

3. MCAT (Medicine)

The MCAT is a standardized, multiple-choice test intended to evaluate an applicant’s problem-solving, critical-thinking, and writing skills as well as knowledge of scientific concepts and principles essential to medical study. These scores are considered by medical schools as an essential factor in their evaluation process. Majority of medical schools in the United States require applicants to submit MCAT scores.

4. DAT (Dental)

General academic competence, grasp of scientific concepts, and perceptual ability are among the factors measured by the Dental Admissions Test.

X. The Admissions Interview

Although not all graduate programs conduct admission interviews, it is better to be prepared for this possibility, especially if the university, program, or field you are applying to is particularly competitive.

What is the purpose of the admissions interview? Sometimes, graduate school applicants are not as ideal for a program as they appear on paper. Therefore, the interview helps the people involved in the selection process to identify if a candidate can be successful in their program. It often provides insights into a person’s motivation, fundamental knowledge, and interpersonal and communication skills.

The interview process is different for each university and program. It may even vary within the program itself, depending on the person or panel handling the interview. During your interview, do not expect the interviewers to remember anything about you. They may have read your application essay or have gone through your transcript or resume, but keep in mind that they have likewise reviewed hundreds if not thousands of applications. Therefore, be ready to repeat certain details that are already presented in your file.

Before the Interview

o Conduct research about the program and faculty. Identify the program’s strengths and the faculty’s research interests.

o Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. What is it about you that make you suitable for the program?

o Step into the faculty members’ shoes. Try to determine what it is they want from a graduate student. Will your qualifications enable you to positively contribute to their program and research? What skills do you possess that will prove valuable to a professor as he or she conducts his or her research?

o Think about obvious questions that will be asked, prepare potential answers, and rehearse them with a friend (or even by yourself in front of a mirror).

During the Interview

o Always keep your goals in mind during the admissions interview.

o Try to sincerely communicate your passion, enthusiasm, and proficiencies.

o Be natural. Do not attempt to second guess what the interviewers are looking for. Be yourself, and most importantly, do not invent stories or accomplishments to impress the interviewing panel. You may succeed one time, but it could cost you your opportunity to get into the program if you are found out.

o Listen carefully to what the interviewers are saying and/or asking. When answering, remember to speak slowly and clearly.

o Establish and maintain eye contact with the interviewer/s and remember to smile. Show them you are happy for this chance to talk to them.

o Some interviews involve social affairs like a small gathering. Keep in mind that although it is a party, it is still part of the interview. You might not see it or feel it, but you are being evaluated all the time.

University of Montana, Missoula – Five Tips to Travel to Missoula by Amtrak Train and Bus

Missoula, Montana is the state’s second largest city and one of the most scenic metropolitan areas in the country. The University of Montana provides an academic and cultural anchor to this western Montana city. Unfortunately, Missoula lost its Amtrak service in 1979 and the only low fare airline to the city flies directly to the Southwest.

For UM students and other residents of the Missoula area, utilizing a combination of Amtrak and buses is the cheapest way to travel to other parts of the country. Here are five tips/hints for effectively traveling to/from Missoula by land:

One: If you are going westbound to Missoula, ignore Amtrak’s recommendation to connect with the train at Whitefish. On Amtrak’s schedule for the Empire Builder that runs between Chicago and Seattle/Portland, there is an indication that connecting service is available between Whitefish, MT and Missoula. Rimrock Stages, which is part of the Trailways system, provides the service. Unfortunately, Rimrock’s schedule does not work well with Amtrak’s westbound timetable.

The only bus from Whitefish leaves at 11:35 am and arrives in Missoula approximately 3 ½ hours later. That works well if you are coming from Washington State or Idaho and the train arrives at Whitefish at 7:26 am. It is not convenient if you are coming from the east and the train arrives in Whitefish at 9:16 pm. You will have to get a hotel before taking the bus home the next day.

Two: If you are coming from Missoula, you should not connect to Amtrak at Whitefish in any case. The only Rimrock bus from Missoula leaves at 8:00 am and arrives at Whitefish around 11:25 am. You will have already missed the eastbound Empire Builder train for the day. The westbound train will leave Whitefish about 10 hours later – a long wait indeed!

Three: The best way to connect with Amtrak from Missoula is through Spokane, Washington. Greyhound Lines has a convenient schedule that works well with Amtrak’s. Part of the beauty of the connecting through Spokane is that the trains arrive and depart in the early morning from both directions. Thus, if you are going to Missoula, your train will arrive in Spokane no later than 2:00 am. You can take the 5:05 am Greyhound bus and arrive in Missoula at 10:30 am. From Missoula, there is a 9:10 pm bus that arrives in Spokane at 12:35 am. The earliest train leaves Spokane at 1:15 am.

Four: Connecting in Spokane is easy since Greyhound uses the Spokane train station as its depot. Since the connections take place in the middle of the night, this is very convenient.

Five: The Empire Builder is an all-reserved train. Whether you will be experiencing Amtrak’s enhanced coach service with at-seat meal service and large pillows or the Superliner sleeping accommodations, you must make advanced reservations. By buying your tickets in advance for both Amtrak and Greyhound services, you may be able to receive discounted advance purchase fares or special fares for students and seniors.

Don’t Just Survive it – Thrive! Tips For Your Freshman Year in College

You’ve chosen the school you want to attend and you’ve been accepted. Congratulations! You’re preparing to embark on an entirely new and exciting stage of your life. College is more than just continuing school. You are charting the course for your future. Beginning college life is the greatest year of transition you will have experienced so far. That may seem overwhelming, but every step you take prepares you for the next one. You’re excited, a little frightened and full of questions. Attending orientation is a good starting point, but you may still have some unanswered questions.

Experts are the best source of information, so I’ll share advice from college students who have “been there and done that” and survived to talk about it. Their best overall advice to incoming freshmen is: Try and balance your time between schoolwork, making friends, and relaxing. College isn’t studying 24/7 or partying 24/7; Hang in there in there; once you get past that first stage, it gets easier; and Stay true to your beliefs, but be open to new challenges and experiences that college life offers.

HOMESICKNESS, SEPARATION ANXIETY AND OTHER FUN THINGS

Whether school is two hours from home or halfway across the country, you’ll probably experience some degree of homesickness. It’s perfectly normal, so don’t be surprised by it. Those first few weeks are an adjustment period. However, you’re more likely to feel lonely and homesick if you spend too much time alone. So get involved. Join clubs and groups that interest you. Talk to everyone. This may be difficult for you shy types, but college is an opportunity to grow. You can present yourself differently than you ever have before. If your friends think of you as shy and quiet, why not see what it is like to be outgoing and friendly? Your new friends will accept you as you are. Your RA (Resident Assistant) can also help you make the transition smoothly.

Stay in touch with family and friends back home by phone, email and IM. Being able to vent your feelings with people you know and trust will go a long way in helping you adjust. As you meet more people and settle into the routine, you’ll feel more comfortable.

SO WHAT’S THE BIG DIFFERENCE?

College is different from high school.

No one checks to see if you go to class or complete assignments. Classes meet less frequently, sometimes only once a week. If you miss classes and don’t hand in assignments, no one checks up on you. You go from highly structured classes, parents and teachers hovering over you to almost total freedom. You’ll quickly find you need to be very careful how you exercise this freedom. So go to class, take notes and pay attention! College is your new full-time job.

If you have difficulty with a course, it’s your responsibility to get help. And the sooner the better! Take advantage of every resource available to you – teaching assistants, tutoring programs, speech and writing centers, mentors, peer advisors and academic advisors you can speak to. Don’t forget about your professors. You can meet directly with them during their office hours or get in touch via email. Meet with your academic advisor regularly to ensure you are taking the courses you need. Working together with other students in a study group can be very helpful.

TICK TOCK

Time management skills are absolutely critical. If you haven’t already mastered this, get a handle on it now. One of the most daunting tasks for many students is the large amount of reading that is assigned. Reading boring material can be difficult. Discipline yourself to set aside time just for school reading. Plan ahead and keep track of when assignments are due. You need to realistically estimate the amount of time to allocate for academics (studying, reading, doing papers, completing assignments), your work study job, if you have one, adequate sleep, social activities, as well as maintenance tasks like laundry.

A good (loud) alarm clock, watch, post it notes on your computer, planner or palm pilot will help you get to class on time and keep track of assignments, quizzes and tests. The more organized you are, the less overwhelmed you will feel. Here’s more advice from the experts:

DORM LIFE

Keep your room as clean as you can. You spend most of your time there so it will affect your mood one way or the other. Make friends with those on your floor. They may turn out to be your best friends.

FAITH/SPIRITUAL LIFE

It’s so important to believe in a higher power because there are so many situations that are out of your control. Remain true to your faith and continue to practice what you believe in.

GETTING ALONG WITH ROOMMATES

Be friendly, be courteous, be honest and be yourself. Never be afraid to confront your roommate if you have a problem. Be polite and respect each other’s space. Be willing to compromise with each other and avoid selfish thinking.

CHOOSING CLASSES

Try to balance required, core classes that benefit you in your career path with ones that interest you.

PROFESSORS

Using ratemyprofessor.com can be misleading. Some of the best professors have poor ratings on that site. Ask around and see what other students say about professors. If your choice is creating problems, switch the class as soon as possible.

OK, you’re armed with some practical advice from those who have gone before you. Here’s a last thought to keep in mind as you step into your future:

Change is a necessary part of life. Some changes are harder than others. Hang in there. No matter how hard things seem at first, have faith that it will get better – and it will.

5 Tips to Form a Successful Study Group

Forming a study group is an excellent way to challenge yourself to learn new material. Have you ever heard that in order to teach about a subject, that you have to know it really well yourself? The same premise applies with study groups. Study groups are all about students teaching what they know to their peers.

1) Choose Carefully: Decide who would be a good fit for your study group before approaching them to join. You want a dedicated student who will pull their own weight within the group; don’t choose someone who is popular, but is a slacker about their work habits. Small groups work best, usually no more than six to eight members total.

2) Divide to Conquer: Decide on what material the group will cover in the next study session, and assign individual members to cover a section of the material. In this way, you just need to study an overview of the material, rather than study it all in depth, as it each section will be covered more in depth within the group. Have the person assigned to each section make notes for the other members of the group.

3) Challenge Each Other: Start each study session with a short review of the material covered in the last session. Have the student who covered the material in depth in the previous session make up a number of questions about the material for the others to answer. Use these questions to help you prepare for exams.

4) Stay on Topic: Try to stay on topic, and not let the study session deteriorate into critiquing your instructor’s gravy-stained tie, or the too-short skirt the most overweight female in the class was wearing yesterday. It might even help to designate a group member to keep everyone on task.

5) Meet Regularly: For the best results, meet with your group two or three times a week. Keep the sessions to 60 to 90 minutes time. Too long study sessions result in exhaustion for everyone involved, and reduces retention of material.

Good luck in forming your own study group. You’ll enjoy studying more when you can share the trials and tribulations of learning new material with others.

USMLE Step 1 Exam Prep – 4 High-Yield Brachial Plexus Tips For The Step 1 Exam

While many people preparing for their USMLE Step 1 exams tend to focus on the tougher subjects like Pathology and Pharmacology, it is imperative that you do a good review of your Anatomy material because you are guaranteed to get a few really easy questions. If you take just a little bit of time to go through the high-yield anatomy notes from your review books or course, you are going to get an easy 5-7 points on your exam, which as you may know can be the difference between a sub-200 score and an above-200 score.

In order to make this process as easy for you as possible, I am going to outline five common injuries that are related to the brachial plexus, which is a very high-yield USMLE topic.

Here we go:

Median Nerve Injury – this commonly results from an injury to the supracondyle of the humerus, and results in a loss of the following:

– forearm pronation

– wrist flexion

– finger flexion

– thumb movement

And it also results in a loss of sensation to the thumb, lateral aspect of the palm, and the first 2.5 fingers.

Radial Nerve Injury – this occurs commonly when there is an injury to the shaft of the humerus, and results in the following:

– loss of triceps reflex

– loss of brachioradialis reflex

– loss of carpi radialis longus

These symptoms lead to the commonly known “wrist drop”, as well as a loss of sensation to the posterior antebrachial cutaneous and the posterior brachial cutaneous nerves.

Ulnar Nerve Injury – this occurs with injury to the medial epicondyle of the humerus, and causes the following problems:

– impaired flexion and adduction of the wrist

– impaired adduction of the ulnar two fingers and the thumb

There is also a loss of sensation to the medial aspect of the palm, as well as loss of sensation to the medial half of the ring finger and the pinky.

Axillary Nerve Injury – occurs as a result of injury to the surgical neck of the humerus and/or an anterior dislocation of the shoulder, resulting in the following:

– complete loss of deltoid movement

– loss of sensation over the deltoid muscle as well as the skin covering the inferior aspect of the deltoid

These are four common brachial plexus related injuries, and are very likely to present themselves on your USMLE Step 1 and/or Step 2 CK exams. Be aware that they will be disguised as clinical vignettes, but also refer back to your basic knowledge in order to choose the most accurate answer.

LSAT – 5 Great Tips For LSAT Success

1. It’s All In the Timing

As you flip through a practice LSAT test book, you read the questions and think to yourself, “Yeah, I could answer that question”. But can you answer 20+ of them within 20 minutes? And can you count on yourself not to panic when you hear the proctor shout, “5 minutes left!” Reviewing test-taking strategies and doing practice problems are undoubtedly helpful, but be sure to take full, timed LSAT tests for practice as well. Not only will timing yourself reveal which sections need the most and least work, but it’ll also help you inoculate yourself against the pressures of taking a timed test. The more like the real deal your practice sessions are, the better prepared you will be on your actual test day.

2. Learn From Your Mistakes

Taking practice tests and doing practice problems is a great way to prepare for the LSAT. But in order to get the most out of your practice, it’s important to know not only which questions you missed, but also why you missed them. After all, if you don’t know what mistakes you made, how can you learn from them?

3. One and Done

The LSAT sends a complete record of your LSAT scores to law schools to which you apply. If you’ve taken the test more than once, these law schools will average your scores together and use that score in considering your admission. Don’t try to take the edge off by telling yourself that you can always retake the test — do your best the first time around! Even if you take the test again and get an amazing score, any past, lower scores are going to dull its luster. No pressure or anything.

4. Always Be Prepared

You may have left the Boy Scouts of America behind long ago, but you will most likely never outgrow their universally applicable mantra. Don’t forget to bring everything that you need to bring with you to the testing center. Print out your admissions ticket the night before the exam, and make sure that all the information on the ticket matches what you think — sometimes testing rooms will change with little or no notice. Research and know the route to the testing center so you don’t let test-day jitters throw you off track. Mechanical pencils are not allowed on the LSAT, so bring several fresh No. 2 pencils and a pencil sharpener, as well as several good erasers. It may be helpful to bring a highlighter for close reading and an analog (non-digital) watch for keeping track of time. You can bring a ziplock bag (up to one gallon in size) with you, so cram all that stuff in there and be prepared for anything and everything!

5. Leave No Bubble Behind

There is no penalty for guessing on the LSAT. Obviously, you want to get the answer right, and an educated guess is always better than a shot in the dark, but if you find yourself out of time and with empty bubbles, just fill them in. Your LSAT score is calculated based on the number of correct answers you have, and there are no point deductions for incorrect answers, so leave no bubble behind!

Five Tips for Improving Your Reading Comprehension

I spent the better part of 17 years in and out of higher education. Eleven of those years were invested in taking classes and pursuing degrees. In the process of having to read a lot of books and articles that I didn’t really have time to read, I began asking myself, “Isn’t there a more effective way to do this?” Like many of you, I had a life outside of the academic world. I had a family, jobs, responsibilities, and the desire to enjoy some portion of each week. Reading was necessary, but it wasn’t something I always enjoyed.

That’s the way it is with academic reading… most of the things we have to read are not things we would normally select. We find ourselves falling asleep believing that the words from the book or article will ooze into our brains while our eyes are closed. There has to be a better way to stay alert and actually remember what we read! Try the following ideas:

1. Have a reading place. Create a place that is designated for reading. Don’t select a spot too comfortable or you will fall asleep. Don’t select a spot that is too uncomfortable or you will spend more time thinking about your discomfort than the reading.

2. Pick your time. If you are a morning person, your best time for reading is early morning; night people do better mid-morning to early afternoon. You have pockets of time when you are more alert, so use those times for reading. If you find yourself at work during those times, use your break times or weekends to maximize your effectiveness.

3. Focus on new information. We learn things best when we can connect new information to something we already know. Rather than simply highlighting information, write down questions such as, “How does this concept related to what I read in other publications?” For many people, highlighting sentences is counter-productive because they spend more time trying to make sure the lines are straight than they do paying attention to what the text actually says.

4. Speed up. Many people read at the speed they talk, yet research tells us that our brains process information much faster than we realize. Get in the habit of moving your eyes faster and see if you catch things you didn’t actually verbalize in your mind. You’ll be surprised at how much you actually comprehend when you speed up your reading.

5. Take good notes. In business and academics some texts are permanent fixtures. If you take good notes the first time you read a text, you will be better prepared to locate and use that information later. It is a poor use of your time to reread books and articles you have read before. File your notes so that you can locate them later. You might even stick a note inside the book telling you the location of your note.

Reading is an unpleasant part of our academic endeavors, so do all you can to maximize your efficiency. Time is too valuable to waste! Think about it!

17 Self Defense Tips for Dorm and Campus Safety

These 17 safety tips are on target to protect yourself and your property away at school…while still having college fun.

Not to mention, just think how at ease your parents will feel when you tell them about your safety plan.

1. Find out the best route between your residence hall, classes and activities. Take the safest route, not the fastest.

2. Don’t become distracted when walking alone. Keep the cell, i-pod, or other devices in your bag until you reach your destination. Contrary to popular believe, talking on the cell does not prevent an attacker from picking you. You become a prime target because you’re being distracted and your guard is down.

3. Travel in groups of two or more at night and always walk in well-lit, heavily traveled areas. Walk facing traffic so you’re never pulled-up upon unexpectedly.

4. Stay on sidewalks and away from shrubs, dark alleys, and doorways.

5. Make sure to share your class and activity schedule with friends and family.

6. When you go out, let someone know where you are going and when you plan to come back.

7. Know where the emergency telephones are located. Program your cell phone’s speed dial with emergency numbers that include family and friends and keep it with you.

8. Use shuttle buses after dark. If buses have stopped running, call the Escort Service or a taxi for a ride. Your life is worth the cab fare.

9. Wherever you are, stay alert to your surroundings and the actions of people around you…even at a party. Do not wander off alone with anyone. Keep around groups of friends. Remember, alcohol and/or drugs are involved in 90 percent of campus crimes.

10. Don’t flash large amounts of cash or other items like jewelry or expensive clothing. This makes you a prime target for those willing to mug or rob you at a later time.

11. Room doors should be equipped with peep holes and deadbolts. Always lock them when you are absent. Do not loan out your key. Have locks changed immediately when a key is lost or stolen. It’s bothersome, but very worth the time.

12. Always lock your doors on the 1st AND 2nd floor windows at night. Never leave a door unlocked for your roommate. Value yourself. Your life and safety are more important than their convenience.

13. Do not open your door to anyone unless you’re positive who is on the other side.

14. Do not enter elevators with someone who looks suspicious. If you get a bad feeling about them, TRUST IT. Don’t get on or get off at the next floor and take the next elevator. Report the person to security or the police right away.

15. Make it a rule. Do not use stairways alone.

16. Mark your property; personal computers, laptops, audio and video equipment with property tags and locks. Most are available online.

17. Visit your college or university’s security office. Ask questions. Laws require colleges and universities to automatically provide current students and staff with basic campus crime statistics and security policies. Prospective students and staff are to be notified of the availability of this information and to be given it upon request.

Statistics for certain off-campus areas have to be disclosed and schools with a security department must maintain a daily crime log.

Also, colleges and universities must provide the collection and disclosure of information about convicted, registered sex offenders either enrolled in or employed at the institution of higher education.