Tag Archives: stress

Tips and Tricks for Your Grad School Application

Written by Ruaidhri Crofton, History & Museum Studies M.A. 2020

Anyone who as ever worked on an application, whether for a job, school, or scholarship, knows the mixed feelings that come along with it. On the one hand, you are excited to put your best foot forward and show the people who are reviewing your application the awesome person you are. On the other hand, there is the nervousness that comes with putting yourself in what may seem like a vulnerable position. Will they like me? Am I what they are looking for? How will I ever manage to get everything I need to do done for this application? For those who are considering applying to a graduate program at Tufts, or anywhere else for that matter, here are a few tips and tricks I found useful when completing my applications.

1. Map out the application requirements

Unlike applying for undergraduate programs where useful tools like the Common Application serve to guide you through a seemingly endless number of questions, requirements, and deadlines, applications for graduate programs mostly stand on their own. As a result, you will likely find yourself having to make separate application accounts for each of the schools to which you are applying and contending with a variety of different requirements that can quickly become difficult to keep track of. To stay on top of applications and deadlines, I found it helpful to make a list of each program I was applying to, the application deadline, and the various steps I needed to complete before I could submit it (completing writing samples, letters of recommendation, transcripts, etc.). As I completed steps in the process, it felt rewarding to be able to cross items off before moving on to the next one. Other systems might work better for different people. However, as long as you have some sort of system to organize what you need to do on time, that’s what’s important!

2. Identify recommenders early

Requesting letters of recommendation from professors or supervisors you have worked with is perhaps one of the most stressful parts of the application process because it is the one you have the least amount of control over completing. However, you can make things a lot easier on yourself and the person writing a recommendation for you by identifying recommenders who can best speak to your skills and requesting their assistance as soon as possible. Typically, a month or so should be the minimum amount of notice you give when requesting a letter of recommendation. In addition to simply being considerate of your recommender’s time, it also ensures that you have time to find another person to ask should a prospective recommender reject your request for whatever reason. Being clear in providing your recommenders with deadlines for each of your applications and any additional information that might help them write their letter (such as your resume or CV) can also make the process easier for you both.

3. Get thinking about the path you want to take

If you are considering applying to a graduate program, you are probably already pretty passionate about the field you want to spend your time studying in depth. However, you will likely find it useful to start thinking about what your specific area of focus within that field might be. Of course, there is no expectation that you will concretely decide exactly what you will be studying and how you will be studying it before you have even been accepted into a program. However, many programs request that you provide a bit of information about a potential area of focus in your application. Some may also ask you to identify a professor or two in the department who you think would best serve as an advisor to you based on similar research interests. Having at least begun to think about your focus can also help you to narrow down specific programs that might be best for you to spend your time applying to and will only serve to benefit you once you are accepted to a program and begin your studies.

4. Be yourself and don’t stress!

This is something I always make sure to emphasize. Many people seem to think that admissions committees are only looking for very specific things when making an admissions decision and that they need to somehow embellish their application in order to appeal to exactly what the committee is looking for. Of course, sell yourself as the awesome applicant you are, but at the same make sure to be yourself! Though the people reading applications are certainly looking for good students who will positively contribute to their community, this is all relative to the individual applicant and program. There isn’t a specific personal statement topic or GRE score that will automatically guarantee that you will be admitted, so why add extra stress to what is already a stressful process? That being said, make sure to put your best foot forward! Double and triple check your personal statement and maybe ask a friend to read it over too. Set aside some time to study and take some practice GRE tests. But remember, each item is just one part of your overall application.

5. Questions? Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!

There are so many aspects of applying to grad school that simply cannot be covered in a few quick “tips and tricks”, especially in regard to the specifics of each graduate program’s individual requirements. As a result, if you ever find yourself confused about application requirements or have other questions about applying to programs at Tufts, you should not hesitate to reach out to one of the wonderful staff members in the Office of Graduate Admissions via email at gradadmissions@tufts.edu or telephone at (617) 627-3395. You can also reach out to the department you are applying to directly using the contact information on their website.

Stress Relieving Yoga Practice for Grad Students

Written by Ece Gulsan, Chemical Engineering Ph.D. student

Every year I start the semester with full motivation and control over my tasks. I have the perfect agenda in hand, dozens of pens with different colors for each activity, a bunch of folders which I categorize for each assignment, and post-its all over my desk. However, as we approach  the middle of the semester, things get overwhelming, I stress out, and lose my interest in my to-do list.

I’ve been studying for almost 20 years, so I’m pretty familiar with this pattern. We need to be productive to succeed, but our brains need a break, and those breaks should be planned strategically.

Practicing yoga is a perfect way to reset your mind and get back on track when you’re feeling stressed or unmotivated. The main idea of a yoga practice is to challenge the body with asanas (poses) that force us to concentrate on what is going on with our body, and keep our minds from wandering. At the end of the sequence, we feel more relaxed, balanced, and motivated for the rest of the day.

Here is a 30-minute all-levels yoga sequence which I specifically designed for improving concentration and decreasing the effects of stress on our bodies. Feel free to repeat between study sessions, before starting the day, or whenever you feel like you can use a break. You can make it more challenging by staying longer in the poses or repeating the sequence more than one time. Yoga mats can be purchased online or at large stores, and you can also use them at the Tufts gym.

Start with Child’s Pose – Balasana. On your hands and knees, focus on your breath, and turn your awareness inward. Your chest will rest on top of your thighs. Support your torso with your knees, and your forehead on your mat, or on a pillow. That helps you feel grounded. Stay in the pose until your inhaling and exhaling are synchronized, and roll back up on your knees. Avoid the pose if you have knee injuries. This pose calms the brain and because of the feeling of grounding, acts as a therapeutic posture to relieve stress.

Continue with a standing forward fold, UttanasanaStand up and bend your knees generously until your upper body lies on your thighs. Let your arms and head hang and press the heels firmly into the floor. Hands can be either on the floor or catch the opposite elbow. Forward falls increase the blood flow through brain, release the tension on neck and shoulders, and the feeling of “letting it go” has a restorative effect on body.

Move into a low lunge, AnjaneyasanaStep your right foot to the back of your mat and lower your knee on the floor. Bend your left knee and align it over the heel. Draw your tailbone down, lift your chest up to the ceiling, take your head back to look up, and raise your hands. Keep your shoulders away from your ears. As you inhale reach up, and as you exhale lower your hips to stretch hip flexors. Stay for a few long breath cycles and repeat with the other foot in front. The psoas muscle, the deepest muscle in our core, is one of the most vital muscles in our body. It is located in the lower lumbar area of the spine, extends through pelvis and connects upper and lower body with each other. Anjaneyasana specifically targets hip flexors and psoas, stretches them and helps you relieve stress, as well as opens your chest to boost confidence and enhance your mood.

Now approach your wide-legged standing forward bend, Prasarita PadottanasanaGo back to standing, face towards the long edge of your mat and step one leg to the other side of the mat with your legs wide apart. Make sure your outer feet are parallel to the short edge of your mat (a slight internal rotation of feet is recommended). Inhale and lengthen your spine, lift your chest, and bend forward on your exhale. Engage thigh muscles and make sure your weight is on the balls of your feet. You can interlace your fingers behind you and if it does not feel intense enough, bring your hands over your head. This pose relieves tension on your shoulders and targets the piriformis muscle, a tiny muscle located in the deep buttock, near the sciatica nerve. Contracted piriformis can create tension on shoulders and  is very difficult to target.

Find your tree pose, Vrksasana. Find your way back to standing. Face towards to the short edge of your mat. Lift your left leg and hug your left knee. Bring the sole of your left foot to either the inside of your right thigh or calf, making sure it does not rest on your kneecap. Stay here for a few breaths. Keeping the eyes will closed makes thing even more challenging. If you are comfortable with your balance, send your left leg back and bring it parallel to the floor by pushing your heels to the back of the room. Hinge forward, level your hips, stretch your arms palms facing each other in warrior III, VirabhadraStay here for 30 seconds to one minute. Repeat with the other leg. Balance poses makes you focus on one point and prevents your mind from wondering.

Find a comfortable seated position for eagle arms pose, Garudasana. Bend your elbows and bring forearms together in front of your chest. If possible, cross your left arm underneath the right. Draw your shoulder blades away from each other and broaden your chest. Level your elbows with your eyes and keep your hands away from your face. Bend forward if you can. Repeat with the other arm on top. This pose is a great way to release tension on shoulders and relax the neck.

Before finishing your practice, take a moment at supported fish pose, Matsyasana. Use two yoga blocks or a pillow to support your shoulder blades and back of your head as you lie down. Slowly lower back on your props and relax your face, throat, and jaw. Matsyasanais a very effective chest opener to boost confidence. If it is supported, feeling of grounding has a therapeutic effect on body.

Seal your practice by laying on your mat and embracing the effects of your poses. Observe where your mind goes and try to bring your awareness inwards. Focus on your breath, and appreciate the fact that you were able to practice today.