Stylish Academic’s Guide to Avoiding Drama in College

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Hello, World.

Remember when Gossip Girl sent a blast announcing the Upper East Side crew wasn’t done with her upon high school graduation and that she would be following them to college? I think we all inhaled and exhaled so sharply in that moment. Bummer for them, but that meant we had more seasons of Gossip Girl! When you think about one’s first year of college, it’s hard to remember that in August, after moving into your dorm room, you’re really only three or four months away from high school.

Some behavior that’s sometimes normal in high school isn’t always welcome in college. The first being drama. Everyone’s life becomes a lot easier when the drama is stuck in a TV show and doesn’t permeate a person’s real life. Note: though this post is focused on college, I will say that in all stages of life minimal drama is desirable. If I notice someone loves drama and does whatever possible to create it, I quickly side-step interactions with them and minimize my exposure to them. So, I think it’s relatively easy to avoid drama in college, but sometimes it can be difficult because everyone is living in close quarters and if you’re at a small school, most people know each other.

I remember when I moved to my college, I thought it was huge compared to my 300-person high school, but others who went to much bigger high schools thought it was too much like high school [pro tip: size of college is something to really consider when choosing where to attend]. College gossip is real and college drama happens, but I want to share my top tips for minimizing drama:

  1. Surround yourself with positive people. Negative people brew drama like it’s a house roast. Whether intentional or not, negative people tend to create drama because their negativity either rubs off on others OR people vent about the negative person, thus brewing drama.
  2. Keep venting to a minimum. People will annoy you most likely, at one point or another. However, if you’re having issues with someone, either vent to someone you really trust, like your closest friend or your friends from home, or keep it to yourself. The more you vent, the more drama will form.
  3. Acknowledge issues as they happen. If someone annoyed you or hurt you, tell them. Handle your problems with people with them directly. There is no worse thing to do than telling everyone but the person that you’re upset. The more you do this, the more you send two messages: (a) you create drama and (b) you aren’t mature enough to handle your issues responsibly, quickly, and effectively.
  4. Focus on individual friendships. Some people believe the best way to live is to be friends with everyone all the time. That may work for some, but it didn’t work for me or many residents I had in college. When you nurture and develop individual friendships, they tend to be longer lasting and more genuine. I’ve never been someone who could hang out with 5 people at once all the time. Sure, I had “friend groups,” but I always made a point to schedule one-on-one time with all my friends. Whether it was coffee dates, study sessions, shopping outings, etc., I wanted to get to know the person as an individual and not just as a component in a larger group. This way, you know what each person is offering and adding, and you can discern if someone fits well in the group, but isn’t someone you want to seek out one-on-one. This also clarifies who the trustworthy friends are!

Four easy steps to an as-much-as-possible drama free college experience. I think the biggest thing is remembering that people talk. You don’t want to build a reputation as someone who talks negatively about people or stirs drama. Additionally, if you realize someone isn’t a good fit for your life, you can slowly step away from them. This may be difficult, as sometimes they’re very present in your life, but I think minimizing interactions is a great start. That way, it’s not some huge dramatic blowup, but rather a mature departure from the relationship. Drama can come about in ways you weren’t expecting, but it’s always best to be the bigger person! Or, if that doesn’t work, you can do as one of my duty partners did in my RA days: ignore it away!

Truly,
Callie leigh

 

 

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Revisiting Law School Admissions: What You Should Know, How to Approach Applications, and How to Decide Where to Attend

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Hello, World.

Now that we’re into October, I thought this would a good time to discuss law school admissions again. I’ve discussed the various aspects of law school admissions before, but I always think it’s a good idea to revisit topics, rather than just refer you back to my old tips. Given that I’m currently in my second year of law school, I also feel I have a different perspective on law school admissions. There are questions that I didn’t ask that I now wish I would have. There are factors I didn’t consider that I wish I did. You get the idea. So, today I wanted to share with you my thoughts on law school admissions now that I’m two cycles removed from the process.

When I was applying to law school, I was so sure that law school was the logical next step for me. I went through the process thinking I was on top of it, asking all the right questions and doing all the right things. However, hindsight is 20/20 and I know now there were things I would have done differently given what I know now.

In terms of what you should know about applications, I say this: I’m becoming more and more convinced admissions at any level is random. While schools say they have an objective method of choosing students, some admissions officers may see something in an application that others wouldn’t. I was watching some YouTube videos the other day when I was bored and had been in the black hole that is YouTube browsing far too long. The videos were current high school seniors or college freshman talking about their experiences with admissions. After the fourth video of someone being denied from top universities — Yale, Harvard, etc. and then getting into Stanford and Columbia, or being rejected from Harvard but admitted at Yale and waitlisted at Princeton– I decided admissions is random. There’s no “hard science” as to why students do or don’t get into a school. I also watched a video from a former Stanford admissions officer, and the process of how they look at applicants is intense. While this is all for undergrad, I will say I believe the methods carry over to graduate level admissions as well, but I do recognize that the applicants may be more diverse (people who took a gap year, people who have legal experience or have none, etc.). So, apply where you want to apply, but know that if you don’t get into a school, it is nothing personal. You will get into a great school and you will be happy.

To continue on to how to approach applications, I say this: you have been creating your application by making the choices you made in college and beyond. Your application consists of the following: general information, personal statement, LSAT score, letters of recommendation. The general information is easiest, obviously, because it’s simple data: name, address, sex, family information, etc.

The personal statement is trickier. I read book after book of “successful” personal statements. I wanted to get an idea of what makes an application stand out in this realm. However, the most important thing is that the statement is well-written. The admissions committee wants to know you can write concisely, coherently, and effectively. You should pick a topic that explains who you are as a person and why choosing law is logical and a clear choice for you. You don’t necessarily have to explain why the law is the right fit, but I do recommend folding it in somehow – even if it’s subtle. I also recommend bringing out character traits you possess that will 1) contribute something unique to the class and 2) make you a successful lawyer. Law schools want people who will make strong alumni, so they want to be confident you will succeed in law school.

In terms of LSAT scores, they’re important. Depending on where you’re applying, they may be more or less important. I say choose your reach school and aim for their median score. It’s always better to aim higher than lower. However, know that you can get into a school with a lower-than-their-average score. You can also not get into a school that you have a higher-than-their-average score. So, just know that you want to get a competitive score, but know that the score will not make or break your score. I recommend taking a prep course that is in-person. I also recommend studying more than you think you need to. Take as many practice exams as possible, and take them in exam-like conditions (timed, quiet room, etc.).

Finally, the letters of recommendation are important. Honestly, what people who have had the chance to teach your or work with you have to say is informative and important for admissions officers. I had three letters of recommendation for each application and I know that the people I chose wrote strong letters. It’s important to think about who you want to write your letters and what they will say. I, like most, recommend asking professors, supervisors, etc. At the end of the day, letters of recommendation may sway admissions officers one way or the other. Sure, you have great numbers and credentials, but maybe the letter is generic and could easily be about any student. However, there is a student with similar numbers and credentials as you, but who has personalized, amazing recommendations form important figures on her campus. That student, if I had to guess, is more likely to stand out in a pile of applications.

So, once your applications are in and you get your decisions back, it’s time to consider where you want to attend. I decided fairly early where I wanted to go. There was one school that may have changed my mind, but as luck would have it, I was waitlisted there. When deciding where to attend, I recommend choosing a school that has great, welcoming faculty. This, on the surface, may seem to be offered everywhere. However, attend admitted students days, go to presentations, do research to see how many lawyers teach courses in the areas of law in which you’re interested. You should also consider the courses available – is there a lot in your area? Another important note: look at clinics available and see if there is one that you want to do. I didn’t look very in-depth at clinics, and now I kind of wish I would have. You should also consider how many externship opportunities are available. Externships are a great way to get experience on your resume during the school year while earning class credit.

Another important consideration is the student body. You’re going to be spending three hyper-intense, stressful years with people and you want to be sure that you’ll enjoy the company of your peers. Talk to current students, talk to students who plan to attend with you, and talk to alumni from your undergrad who now attend the school. If you’re out of state, ask people who moved from your state to that school how they like it and if they’d recommend it.

I think there are four questions I would have asked that I didn’t in terms of career services.

  1. How many people did you place in x state at a firm job?
  2. How many people spent their summers in x state at a firm?
  3. Of the student who summered at firms their second summer, how many were outside the top 20%?
  4. What resources do you have on-campus for people conducting an out-of-state job search?

There is a surprising amount of confusion when it comes to searching for jobs. While jobs may seem super far away during the application stage, it’s something important to consider because the point of going to law school is to get the job you want when you’re done… and a large percentage of people get their post-grad offers at the end of their second summer. So, jobs are important and you want to make sure that you’re applying and getting into schools that have the resources to make getting your dream job early easier!

While there is a lot more I could say, I recommend doing thorough research and figuring out where to attend based on your gut. I know it sounds cheesy, but sometimes the right decision comes down to a feeling. You feel it’s right and you go with it. I should say: if you get to school and feel you made a mistake, transfer after your first year. You should weight whether transferring is right or not… but if you decide to transfer, do so after your first year. If you transfer any later your degree is from your original school and you get a certificate from the second institution! A few transferred from my law school, and I think sometimes there is a stigma that transferring is bad. However, I think it’s worse to stay somewhere that isn’t the right fit.

What is the worst part of applying to law school?

Truly,
Callie leigh

Stylish Academic’s Guide to Contacting Professors

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Hello, World.

I’m completely unconvinced that October begins Sunday. For starters, it’s still 80 degrees, sometimes 90, on most days. I have yet to be able to wear a sweatshirt comfortably. Though my fall candles are working wonders for convincing me it’s fall, the weather and mother nature has different ideas. However, we are well into the school year, so I guess fall is here? Regardless, I thought now would be a good time to offer my top four tips for contacting professors. When I started college, I believed that I should go to office hours, connect with my professors, and get to know them. Professors are great people (most of the time), and they enjoy when students try to meet with them and show an interest in the course. However, some professors are difficult to locate. They have office hours, but each time you arrive at their office during the specified hours, they are nowhere to be found. How do you combat this issue? I’m so glad you asked. Talking to them after class is usually a starting point. However, shooting them an email is usually a good way to start if they’re also one of the professors who peace out right when class ends. If you have a professor who is really bad at email — this happens more than you think — try a carrier pigeon or handwritten letter… Just kidding. If that is the case, tracking them down right after class is usually most effective. If they leave quickly, catch up with them, and talk until they reach whatever their destination is.

If you have a professor who is really bad at email — this happens more than you think — try a carrier pigeon or handwritten letter… Just kidding. If that is the case, tracking them down right after class is usually most effective. If they leave quickly, catch up with them, and talk until they reach whatever their destination is. In this situation, cut the small talk and lead with the purpose for talking to them (i.e., “I’m thinking about writing about the intersection of passivity and the tension between freedom and confinement in Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but I’m having trouble reconciling…”). This way, they can answer the question quickly because you aren’t asking just as they have to say goodbye.

Now, let’s turn to email. Email is the most common way to contact professors. Whether you’re communicating solely over email or you’re attempting to schedule an in-person meeting, there are 4 tried and true steps to make sure the professor is available, for setting up a meeting and fostering a relationship with them. Cultivating strong relationships with professors is important because they will be your letters of recommendation for continuing education or for jobs upon graduation. Additionally, if you’re as lucky as I was, your professors are also awesome people who share a common love (i.e., your major/passion/hobby). So, how do you contact them?

Step One: Say hello, introduce yourself if necessary (if you’re in a really large class and your professor doesn’t know you and won’t recognize your name).

Step Two: Explain why you’re contacting them. Would you like to set up a meeting? Would you like him or her to offer feedback on your paper topic? Would you like them to review a draft (if they’ve offered this)?

Step Three: Reiterate that you enjoy the class and are hoping to learn more. 

Step four: Close with a suggestion of when you would like to meet or when you would need the answer to your questions. So, if your paper is due Friday and you email them Monday, say, “I hope to receive your feedback by Wednesday evening so I have time to incorporate your suggestions into my final draft.” While this may seem pushy, professors are busy people, so a little nudge or time limit is helpful for both you and them. If they know it’s pressing, they will prioritize it better. There’s nothing worse than them giving you feedback that you don’t have time to include. When they read your final they will likely point out the lack of whatever they suggested.

Here is a sample email to a professor. This is an email I would send to my college professors if I wanted to meet with them. Emailing professors is especially important if their office hours conflict with your schedule. This email assumes you are in a big class or it is very early in the semester. If you clearly know your professor, you can forgo specifying which class you are in, and instead jump into the body of the email. The email also assumes your professor is difficult to meet with, but if you know they’re willing to meet with students, you can give an abbreviated summary of your paper and issue. The summary of what you want to discuss is important for two reasons. First, the professor could (in theory) prepare for the meeting better if he knows what you wish to discuss. Second, if they are hard to reach, you cut out back and forth emails. If they respond that they cannot meet, the can at least answer your questions in the same email.

Hello, Professor James, I am Callie Coker and I am in your Tuesday%2FThursday Intro to Literary Criticism course. I am working on my paper that is due Friday, and I had a couple questions that I would like to discuss w.png

So, there you have my steps for contacting a professor. I think it’s important to show that you care, that you want to learn, and you aren’t asking them to help you because you’ve procrastinated and are now panicking.

How do you contact professors? Have you ever felt nervous or scared to reach out to a professor?

Truly,

Callie leigh

 

Stylish Academic’s Guide to Prepping for Finals Early

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Hello, World.

Even though it’s only September, the months in a given semester go quickly, so I wanted to offer my advice regarding how to prep for finals early. This is sort of an extension of my post about steps to better grades. In law school, your final grade is solely based on your final exam. So, it’s wise to begin prepping for final exams early. However, if you just start studying for finals, you’ll likely burn out and lose momentum when you should be kicking into high gear (aka mid-November). So, I’m sharing my top three tips that can accompany my three tips to better grades.

  1. Talk about the material with friends and family. Discussing material aloud with other people will allow you to gauge how well you know the material. I had a criminal law TA who said, “I taught the course to my wife. Teaching it to someone who had minimal understanding allowed me to understand the material, find the areas that I didn’t get as well, and solidified my ability to discuss it, which helped the essay portion of the exam.” This advice was some of the best that I received my first year of law school. My sweet mother talked to me for five hours on the phone as I walked through my torts outline. This process was long and tedious, but I knew which areas I needed help with before the exam. Discussing the material with others throughout the semester will kick-start finals review.
  2. Take “reading notes” and “class notes.” Some people do this, but some people only really take reading notes or rely primarily on class notes. Personally, I find having reading notes that I take based on what I think is important from the reading and separate class notes based on what the professor thinks is important allows me to see where I’m missing points or if I’m pulling out the right highlights of the reading. If I’m not, there’s a chance I will miss points on the exam because my professor and I aren’t considering the same facts important. Ninety percent of a law school exam is issue spotting (they make you think it’s analysis. Let me just say: if you don’t spot the issue, you cannot do the analysis). Recognizing how your professor reads or addresses legal issues is key to getting a high grade on the exam.
  3. Outline beginning at the end of October. You’ll hear a lot of different things in terms of outlining. You may even wonder, “what the hell is an outline?” An outline is just what it sounds like — an outline of the course. You go through major concepts, tests, etc. and outline the course as it is taught to you. I prefer outlining later rather than earlier. Some people disagree, which is fine, but I find that whatever I outline last is what I remember most. If you begin too early, it’s not as fresh because you probably won’t look at the beginning of your outline until a week or so before the exam. Outlining later forces you to review early concepts and understand how and where they fit in the whole course (spoiler alert: sometimes outlines are best ordered different than how you learn the material).

How do you prep for class or finals?

Truly,

Callie leigh

3 Steps to Improved Grades

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Hello, World.

As the school year is now in full swing, and our social media feeds become riddled with fall-inspired photos, I figured this is an appropriate time to talk about grades. For those of you just starting your academic program, you may be thinking, “but it’s still so early.” Well, it’s honestly never too early to think about grades. I’m sharing my top 3 steps that will lead to better grades, whether in college or law school or some other academic career. The steps worked for me and I believe they will work for you as well if you follow them! To give you my perspective, I did very well throughout college. I did not do as well as I wanted my first semester of law school. So, I implemented the three steps I’m about to share, and my grades improved drastically.

Step One: Do Not Study with People Who Make You Feel Dumb8d1f223a-7dd3-43c3-8556-2f25086c3fe6_text_hi.gif

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This may seem straight forward, but I think a lot of people encourage study groups and as a result, people feel pressured to study with people. Most people don’t really care who they’re studying with, they just want to be in a study group. While it is completely okay to study in groups, who are in your study group is actually what is most important.  My first semester, I studied with people who made me feel inferior or as if I was really dumb for not getting a certain concept. Let’s just say by the second semester, I’d said my goodbyes to them and no longer studied with them. My confidence increased immensely.

Step Two: Review at the End of Each Week 

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In college, you get a lot of review days as you learn and it’s a lot easier to cram. However, to truly perform well on a final, it’s good to take time to review throughout the semester. Additionally, some professors move very quickly and if you don’t understand a foundational concept, you’ll be lost later. Even if you feel like everything is cake, review!!! I spent my Friday afternoons my second semester of law 1L reviewing, typing up my handwritten notes, and re-reading areas that I thought I understood while reading but was confused by in class discussion. This small change greatly helped me understand how each concept fit together by the end of the semester.

Step Three: Find a Non-Academic Hobby and Take Time to Indulge Each Week

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This may seem like the last thing that will lead to better grades, I know. Here’s the thing, though: burn out is very very real. There’s a reason senioritis exists and there’s a reason people who do very well one semester fall by the second. It’s hard to sustain a state of constant work and learning without becoming overwhelmed. The spring semester of 1L I started working out regularly and it transformed my mental state. I had greater focus, more energy, and more motivation. While your hobby doesn’t have to be working out, find something that allows you to take mental breaks and focus on something other than academics.

Do you have your own tried and true tips for improving grades?

Truly,

Callie leigh

 

Read This When You Feel Like Quitting – A Guide to Overcoming Failure & the Fear of It

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Photo by Andrew Robles via Unsplash

Hello, World.

Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to quit things. If I signed up for a sport, I played the whole season, even when I realized I would rather do math problems for 10 hours a day than play (see: softball my freshman year of high school). I think the first thing I was allowed to quit was the school band because my band teacher wouldn’t teach me music, and being in the band with no knowledge on how to read music is pretty much a waste of a time. This mentality, of not being allowed to quit, had its advantages and disadvantages. Obviously, I stick things out for a long time… sometimes too long. However, the thought of quitting takes a long time to enter my mind. I try and try and try, and it’s not until I feel like any semblance of hope has disappeared that I think, “Maybe I’m in the wrong _____? Maybe I should just let this go.” The word quit doesn’t even come up necessarily, sometimes it’s just that I feel I need to shift focus. However, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that as we get older and things get harder with higher stakes, quitting seems worth it.

Why? Why does quitting seem like the best option? Why does it feel like there isn’t another way to make something work? Why does “stop while you’re ahead?” seem like a popular mantra? Well, I think people’s thoughts of quitting sometimes relate directly to our fear of failure. I think if when we’re doing okay at something (career, relationship, etc.), not spectacular but not on life-support either, we think, “maybe we should get out now so that we still have some control over what happens.” By this, I mean that quitting keeps the power in the quitter’s hands. Failing seems to place the power elsewhere, like whoever sees you fail has somehow had a hand in your failures and is laughing at you on your way down. It can be really frightening to take a leap of faith and go for what we want, fighting against anyone and anything that stands in our way. Sometimes we get so many “thanks, but no thanks,” or “you’re so qualified, but we still don’t have room for you here,” messages, that we think, “let’s just change it. Let’s get out while we’re relatively unscathed.”

But let’s think about this for a minute. Feeling like a failure is probably the sh*ttiest feeling we experience in most aspects of our lives. Failed relationship? Ugh. Failed career? Even worse. Failed before you even got to the career part? Double ugh. The thing is, most of our failures leave open the tiniest sliver where change and greatness creep into our lives. Every time I’ve “failed” in my life or something didn’t work out, it was a turning point that led to something much greater. Think about all the people who probably felt like epic failures at one point in their lifetimes, only to go on to become household names that so many people envy.

J.K. Rowling was living on welfare and suffering from depression when she penned Harry Potter. Numerous publishers rejected the manuscript before a publisher’s daughter at Bloomsbury recognized the potential contained in its pages. In 2004, Rowling became the first billionaire author in the world. Imagine if she’d stopped after writing a few lines on a napkin whilst on the train? What if she stopped after the first few pages? The first few rejection letters? But she didn’t. She kept pushing forward. She didn’t quit.

Marilyn Monroe, one of Hollywood’s most notorious sex symbols, was told to find secretarial work because she would never succeed as a model. She easily could have quit right then, looking for secretarial work in the classifieds but she didn’t.

As mentioned in National Treasure, it took Thomas Edison over 10,000 tries to create a lightbulb. If he stopped at try 9,999, who knows when we would have had electric light.

Stephen King threw a manuscript in the garbage, feeling so discouraged by the rejections of publishers. His wife dug the manuscript out of the trash and urged him to keep moving forward.

The point of telling you the above stories is not to imply that if we keep going we will reach astronomical success. Rather, the people above were regular people who probably never dreamed of living the lives they lived or having the legacies they have, but the fact that they stared failure down and kept pushing led them to where they are.

When we feel like quitting, it’s important to remind ourselves that the stories we hear of “overnight successes” probably required a lot of work on the person’s end that we will never hear about. Sometimes things take a long time to get going, but once they start picking up, suddenly there is an overnight success aspect. There’s a reason social media only highlights our best moments. Even before social media, the only times we heard about things was when something really good or really bad was happening. We report our extremes. So, we fear that intense failure because we know people will know we failed, and failure or success seem to be our only options. However, there is a spectrum there, dots along the line that mark important movements toward or away from a particular end. Those moments, the ones in which we keep chugging along, are the moments that decide our fate and which we have complete control over. How we react to a setback or a step forward is critical.

Sometimes quitting is completely called for – like if you’re living a life you hate or returning day after day to a job that leaves you feeling empty or trying to work out a relationship that you know died a long time ago. If you know that the only thing that’ll make you successful or happy is quitting, quitting may be the right choice. However, other people telling you you aren’t enough or won’t be successful is NOT a reason to quit. If anything, it’s a reason to prove them wrong and push even harder.

Because I’m in law school, the story of perseverance that comes to mind regularly is that of Elle Woods. For my fellow law students or lawyers reading this, I imagine we can all share a collective eye roll. Sure, there are wildly unrealistic aspects of Elle’s story, but I still find it commendable that a woman who was told, repeatedly and by many people might I add, that she wasn’t smart or good enough, went and showed everyone they were wrong. She easily could have said “okay,” and let Warner go to Harvard and never follow up on that. She probably could have said “bye, Harvard,” after wearing a playboy bunny costume to a party with a bunch snobby students in brown polyester who thought she was a bimbo purely because she was feminine and bubbly. However, she didn’t quit. If you take anything away from the somewhat silly movie, it’s that Elle doesn’t quit – she proves you wrong. So, the next time someone tells you that you aren’t good enough or can’t do something, let it sting for a moment, then get out there and make some magic (I mean, J.K. Rowling literally invented her own magic to deal with all the stuff in her life that was dragging her down).

Truly,

Callie leigh

 

See My Feature – Dorm Decorating Advice with Wayfair

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Hello, World!

I am so excited today because I get to share with you that I was featured in a blogger interview over on Wayfair’s blog. You know “Wayfair, you’ve got just what I need!” I was particularly excited about this feature because I love Wayfair, and a good portion of my apartment is furnished with Wayfair pieces! Anyway, Wayfair asked if I would like to be featured in a blogger interview where various college bloggers offered advice about making a dorm room a home. I decided to participate partially because of my love of Wayfair, but also because I felt I had expertise on the topic. I lived in the college dorms for four years, and decorated four rooms differently!

Here’s a sneak peek of my advice: “My No. 1 tip dorm room tip is to pick decorations that reflect your personality. Storage is important and I believe less is more in terms of packing, but having a room that really feels like yours is what will make you feel most at home in college. The easiest way to bring personality to a room is bringing your style out in the biggest items. This could mean bedding in a fun print or a classic hue, tons of throw pillows that each speaks to an aspect of the person’s life, photos on the desk, a great coffee set-up if caffeine is important, or a gallery wall above the bed. Home is a feeling much more than a place, so bringing out the feeling of home in a dorm room as best as you can is vital to being happy in the dorms!”

If you want to hear my full advice, be sure to check out the post!

Truly,
Callie leigh

Stylish Academic’s Guide to Studying in a Coffee Shop

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Hello, World.

When I was in college, I got into the habit of studying at coffee shops. I’m not a library person, really, because I think it’s too quiet and usually too cold. In coffee shops, there’s just the right amount of background noise and I am my most productive when studying at a coffee shop. I have a full routine – get a chai latte, a muffin, unpack my bag, set up my laptop, go over my planner, and work. However, studying at coffee shops can be an art form. There are a lot of things that can reduce productivity at a coffee shop. I’ve heard a few people say they cannot study in coffee shops for various reasons, most a result of failing to properly prepare for serious “coffee shop study” (note: this definitely reminds me of the meme below, just swap “bedroom” for “coffee shop”).

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I want to share my top five tips for studying a coffee shop effectively. Though I now have a very productive rhythm at coffee shops, I used to definitely be the person who was going to “study” with friends, and we ended up just having coffee and talking with books open in front of us. So, if you like the idea of studying in a coffee shop, but haven’t necessarily found a good rhythm yet, this post is just for you!

Bring All Chargers | I have forgotten my laptop charger more times than I can count, which limits the time I can stay somewhere. If you know you need your computer a lot when you’re studying, be sure to bring a charger with you. Tangentially, when you arrive at the coffee shop, try to get a table near an outlet so you don’t have to move if you need to plug in your computer.

Bring a few snacks of your own | Everywhere I’ve studied has never had a problem if I pull out my own snacks, as long as I’ve purchased something at the coffee shop. Usually, if I arrive at breakfast or lunch time, I’ll get a meal and a chai. However, depending on how long I stay, sometimes I need a snack, so I bring my own. My favorite study snacks are veggie chips/straws.

Pack a Sweater | Regardless of the outside temp, I recommend bringing a sweater to a coffee shop. In the spring and summer months, and even early fall, the AC in coffee shops can be intense, so I usually get cold in a coffee shop when studying. I always try to take a sweatshirt or cardigan with me to ensure I don’t get so cold I end up wanting to leave before I’ve made a dent in my workload.

Sit at the Biggest Table that is Reasonable | While I don’t suggest hogging a four person table if the place if packed and people are waiting for tables, I do think you should get a slightly larger table so you can spread out your materials and have a comfortable study area.

Headphones may be necessary | Some coffee shops are very loud and some just play crappy music. Regardless, it’s always a good idea to pack a set of headphones, whether just earbuds or Beats. Having headphones can help tune out some of the noise. While you may be thinking, “if it’s too loud, just go to the library or somewhere quieter.” I’m kind of weird, and I like a fair amount of background noise, but if someone if having a super intense conversation right next to me, it can be distracting. The headphones help me tune out that noise while still giving me enough background noise.

I could go on, as always, but I think I covered my biggest tips/steps for productive study in a coffee shop. I prefer studying at coffee shops because libraries are too quiet for me, and I like to be able to refuel (aka drink chai or coffee by the gallon) and have the option to easily grab a snack if I need one. While coffee shop study trips aren’t for everyone, I do recommend testing it out and seeing if it works for you!

Truly,

Callie leigh

A Letter to My College Self: What I Wish I Knew

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Hello, World.

For those of you who have been following along for some time, you probably know my college story. However, I wanted to recap it for those of you who are new to this little corner of the internet. I knew from a very early age that I wanted to attend college. Though college was emphasized in my life, it was not necessarily the norm. I am the youngest of fifteen grandchildren on both sides of my family. I’m the fifth to attend a four-year university and the first to finish my degree in four years. Some family members took five to six years, some took nine. So, again, while college wasn’t a totally foreign subject, I was by no means born into a family in which college was the expectation. However, I always loved school. I loved learning, had a slightly ridiculous obsession with school supplies, and thrived in the classroom.

Originally, I had dreams of attending an Ivy League college in New England and spent my high school career working to achieve that goal. I applied early and had my heart very broken in December of my senior year. I was devastated. I was convinced that nothing would work out well because I didn’t get the thing I wanted most. Then, the next morning, I received an acceptance package from Saint Mary’s College of California. This was one of the last schools I applied to, and truth be told, I only applied because they waived my application fee. I had toured another university that has a similar campus and student body and wasn’t a fan, so was hesitant to look into Saint Mary’s. However, I finally went and looked at Saint Mary’s in early February (I think…), and within fifteen minutes of walking around campus knew I had found my future home. Everyone was friendly, it was obvious it was a very community-based place, and I just had this feeling like I was exactly where I need to be at that point in my life. So, I enrolled.

My first year at Saint Mary’s was amazing. I fell absolutely in love with the school, grew incredibly as a person, and felt happier than I’d ever felt before. And then guess what happened? Each year got better, culminating in a remarkable senior year with lifelong friends who I love deeply. If you were to ask me the most important moment in my life thus far, I would immediately answer it was the day I decided to attend Saint Mary’s. While I did have unhappy moments and some personal troubles while in school, I cherish my four years on the campus in the Moraga hills and would not trade them for anything.

So, without further ado, here is a letter I wrote to my college self –

Dear Callie,

You are in the most important and fun years of your life and it is your duty to live it as fully as possible. I am writing to you as a much more confident, funnier, and mature version of yourself, so take my advice seriously. I want to share some of the wisdom that I learned in college. This letter will contain only the advice that I wish I knew at the time. You will love college, but I want to share with you the things that would have made it even better as I reflect on college with the nostalgia only an alumna can know.

First, you need to remember to live in the moment. I understand you are a planner and insistent on having a five-year plan at all times, but you really do need to slow down, unplug, and just enjoy being in college. While it may feel like you’re too busy, know that it’ll only get busier and now is the time to soak up all the college memories and be present in them.

Second, you should know that plans change and adaptability is an incredibly valuable trait. So, become comfortable with the unknown. You enter college with an idea of where your life is heading, but sometimes you go completely off course and end up at a far superior destination. While it’s completely acceptable to plan, know the plans you make are not written in stone. Your life is not the 10 commandments and is malleable.

Third, the most important question to ask yourself when things are hard is “will this matter in five years?” To 98% of the problems you face, the answer will be no. You may be tempted to say “yes, of course,” but just know the actual answer is no. Most of the things that happen in college that feel horrible and make us feel like we’ll never be the same do change us but it’s almost always for the better. We become stronger, better versions of ourselves. So, when you have what feels like a life-altering falling out with a friend your sophomore year, know that things will be okay and by senior year all will be right in the world. And a year after graduation? It’s a good story to tell.

Four, figure out financials early. College is expensive. This is not a secret. It is important to figure out how you’re going to pay for college. Apply for scholarships and financial aid, look into whether taking out a loan is the best decision for you and find resources that help make loans as painless as possible. San Francisco based company, Earnest is a low-interest lending company that offers custom repayment plans that fit student’s needs, which is huge!

Look into your options, and find lenders who want to give you the resources to reach your goals. Also, work on saving up money! While that new top is probably really cute, the money may be better used by saving it rather than spending it!

Five, say yes more. This tidbit of advice ties into my first piece of advice, but I want to stress the importance of making college live up to its fullest potential. When you think you should stay in instead of getting coffee with a friend or when you think you won’t have fun at karaoke, just say yes and see what happens. You will undoubtedly surprise yourself! Say yes now because in a few years, yes may no longer be an option. You only have a limited number of adventure filled outings with your friends, blasting the year’s top hit and laughing until your eyes water. Use them wisely.

Six, embrace the conversations you get to have with people. Professors will take an interest and invest in you, be sure to take advantage and ask them the hard questions about your career choices, publishing papers you wrote for class, and just getting to know professionals in your field. You will meet your forever friends and build friendships stronger than anything you’ve known. Enjoy the late-night conversations, discuss your fears with them, and relish the moments they offer advice.

Seven, involvement is the key to living a great college experience. Some people go through college never “formally” involved in clubs or organizations and have a great college experience. However, they’re likely heavily involved in a group of friends. They are not sitting at home (and I mean their home, not their apartment or college dorm), hanging with the family just as they did in high school. My best friend went home almost every weekend of our first year of college, and for the next three years, she said she regretted that and cautioned incoming students against making the same decision she did. Whether you join clubs, become a student leader (shout out to my future RAs), or just get really dedicated to the people you meet (movie nights on Friday, bar trips on Saturday, study sessions Sunday), you need to be involved. Feeling like you have a place in your college community is key to leaving college feeling incredible.

College flies, and I do mean flies, by. You probably feel like four years cannot possibly go quickly, but let me just tell you it does and the first year after graduation is rough because college is such a unique portion of life. College is a vibrant, loud, exciting time. Take it in, allow it to impact you, and revel in the unique community to which you belong.

Truly,
Callie leigh

Planner Envy: The Best Planners for Back to School

Hello, World.

I have a bit of a planner obsession. While many people have turned to electronic forms of planners or calendars, I am still “old school” and prefer paper planners to electronic versions. Planners help me keep my life in order and I often tell people, “If it’s not in my planner, it won’t happen.” As a busy law student, I have a lot to keep track of (class readings, job applications deadlines, Business Law Review responsibilities, social engagements, my personal events, my blogging schedule, etc.), so I need to make sure everything gets written down or else it may be overlooked.

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Over the years, I’ve tried a few different planners and brands, and I’ve definitely loved some while I loathed others. The key to a great planner for me is enough space to write everything and having a month/daily view combo. I like seeing my month “at a glance,” but I also want the room to plan my days. In high school, I used a planner akin to the Day Designer, which I loved for that time in my life. In college, I lived and died by the Passion Planner. Honestly, I had so much going on in a single day that the Passion Llanner kept everything clear and easy to track.

In law school, I went from the Simplified Planner to a Lilly Pulitzer Planner to a Rifle Paper Co. planner. I settled on the Rifle Paper Co. planner as the best for law school because I decided to-do lists worked better for me in law school. I also liked the freedom of how I planned my day. I didn’t have to plan by the hour but it had more structure than just a bunch of lines. Though the Simplified Planner works GREAT for a lot of people, I didn’t like it because I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I didn’t love that the hourly layout because I had a lot of classes that started at 11:15 then ended at 12:50 and I didn’t like that I couldn’t show that with precision in my planner. The Lilly Planners are great for many of my friends, but I just didn’t like the layout. I don’t totally know why, but it didn’t work for me. I liked the clean cream pages of the Rifle Paper Co. Planner and that I had little check boxes to check off items as I went through them.

However, depending on your needs and preferences, I think all four of the above planners are fantastic options for college or graduate school (and even your first job!).

Truly,
Callie leigh

P.S. This year, I will be using the Herb Garden Rifle Paper Co. planner!