university

Transitioning to Grad School: Podcast Episode Live!
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We interview, Dane Mauer-Vakil, and Aravind Rajendran, Masters students enrolled in the Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation at the University of Toronto, about how to transition to graduate school.

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

Advice for incoming Masters students and students hoping to apply to grad school

How does a graduate degree differ from an undergraduate degree

Recommendation of resources to help prepare for grad school

Tips for applying for grants and scholarships

 

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To get more help with academic writing, application coaching, or professional development, book a 20 minute discovery call with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


All the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

The Art of Writing: Podcast Episode Live!
Pfau pfau Essay Writing Workshop photo 245x300 The Art of Writing: Podcast Episode Live!

We interview, Laifong Leung, Chinese Language and Literature scholar, about the art of writing, a process that can bring a lifetime of joy, frustration, and inevitably fulfillment.

HIGHLIGHTS

Career paths available with a degree in literature

The rewards and challenges of becoming a Professor

A glimpse into the process of writing books and academic articles

The benefits and transferable skills of a liberal arts degree

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To get more help with academic writing, application coaching, or professional development, book a 20 minute discovery call with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


All the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Making the Transition to University: Podcast Episode Live!
PFAU 30 Pfau pfau cartoon icon 01 300x297 Making the Transition to University: Podcast Episode Live!

We interview, David Zarnett, the Undergraduate Student Advisor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto, as well as an experienced lecturer on global security, human rights, international cooperation, and war and peace, about how to make the transition to University.

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

The difference between writing essays in high school vs. university

Getting over fears of talking to Professors

The role of an Undergrad Advisor and why it’s important to get to know your own

The most important thing a first-year undergrad needs to know

 

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To get more help with academic writing, application coaching, or professional development, book a 20 minute discovery call with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


All the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

An Inside Look into the Life of Professor: Podcast Episode Live!
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We interview, Danielle Law, PhD, and Associate Professor in Psychology and Youth and Children’s Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, about her journey in academia and her thoughts on finding a career as a recent graduate.

HIGHLIGHTS

An insider’s look into the life and work of a busy academic

Advice and things to consider for undergraduate students who want to pursue a PhD

How to find the right topic of research that match the interests of students

How to adjust from undergraduate studies to graduate studies

How can a graduate degree help with career advancement and flexibility

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To get more help with academic writing, application coaching, or professional development, book a 20 minute discovery call with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


All the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Resilience Boosting During COVID-19: Podcast Episode Live!
PFAU 31 panel 3 290x300 Resilience Boosting During COVID 19: Podcast Episode Live!

We interview, Sarah Lang, a certified coach, who supports people to dream big, launch new projects, and bring creative visions to life, about how to boost your academic resilience during COVID-19.

HIGHLIGHTS

The importance of resilience in finding your dream career

The link between resilience and academic performance

Advice on preparing for the Fall term in the midst of the pandemic

Tools and resources for students to boost their resilience

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To get more help with academic writing, application coaching, or professional development, book a 20 minute discovery call with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


All the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Scared that you are missing something?
The Student Experience: Podcast Episode Live!
PFAU 12 panel 4 1 300x300 The Student Experience: Podcast Episode Live!

We interview, Lisa Meng, a recent Bachelor of Psychology graduate, about the what she has learned after reflecting on her four years of undergraduate experience.

HIGHLIGHTS

Things to think about when transitioning from high school to university

The importance of accessing campus resources

What to avoid during your first-year

The pros and cons of roommates

The biggest challenge going from high school to university

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To get more help with academic writing, application coaching, or professional development, book a 20 minute discovery call with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


All the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Meet our CEO: Interview with Lisa Pfau

Lisa Pfau is the founder, CEO, and Sr. Coach at PFAU Academic Writing. We discussed how she came to be an entrepreneur, writer, coach, and teacher. We also talk about her own experiences writing papers and applying for Grad School, and how she uses those experiences inform the coaching she provides to clients. As the economy continues to be hit by COVID, investing in further education is a great use of your time and energy.

DSC05764 300x200 Meet our CEO: Interview with Lisa Pfau

Lisa currently assists high school, college, and university students to improve their research in writing skills through a combination of individual coaching sessions and writing courses. Lisa cares deeply about her students and PFAU team members, viewing success as a collaborative effort where everyone learns from and grows together. She feels grateful to wake up each morning, and use her creativity and passion for learning to build something meaningful.

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What inspired you to take this career path?

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I kind of stumbled into teaching. It was something that I was always doing – helping a friend or classmates with an essay – until eventually I became a Teaching Assistant in my Master’s degree and began to tutor high school and college students on the side. It was at this point that I realized there was a real deficit in solid writing skills, and educational supports to guide students in the art of writing. Still, since I enjoyed teaching and editing so much, I didn’t really consider it a career until I underwent a really difficult life transition and really had nothing to lose in starting my own academic coaching business – something that had been on my mind for quite some time, but that I never really took seriously.

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What are you favorite aspects of teaching students? 

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My favorite part of teaching is the relationships that I build with my students. I love seeing them succeed and gain confidence in their own special skill set. For example, one of my long-time students, who original came to me because he was failing his classes and had been put on academic probation, was just accepted into the Toronto Police Service and started training this month. I had the honor of being one of his references, and it was such a treat to reflect on how far he has come. It was been inspiring to watch him over the years improve not only his research and writing skills and graduate with an A- average, but also to see his overall growth in confidence and work ethic. He had a dream, and now he is making it happen. I couldn’t be prouder!

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What do you think is currently lacking in the current education system?

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When I took my first TAship at the University of Toronto, I failed a bunch of students because of their poor writing skills. The Professor told me that I had to raise everyone’s grades by one whole grade point average, and that I needed to lower my expectations given that Grade 13 in Ontario had recently been discontinued. The results were good for the students in the short-term, but that moment sticks in my memory as I wondering about the long-term impact of such leniency. I am still grateful for the predominantly red marked up thesis drafts that I would receive from my Undergraduate supervisor because of how much it taught me to be more mindful in my written communication. I know that we focus a lot on presentation skills and oral communication, but writing is such an important skill set that is often overlooked. I mean, most people are online for the majority of the day, and a huge percentage of content is written, even the videos that we love are often scripted ahead of time. So, to give a long-winded response – I think attention to fundamentals of written communication and critical thinking are overlooked, especially in high school.

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What kind of help can students expect at PFAU Academic Writing?

I think the best way to find out the true answer to this question would be to ask one of my past or current students, but I will try to answer this. I think I see each students an unique individual, and as such, I try to provide the resources and support necessary to help each student succeed in achieving their individual goals – whether it be passing a class, getting an A, graduating university, getting into a great school, or gaining and marketing their transferable skills in order to get a job. I still find this the hardest question to answer because honestly at work I am just myself – Lisa P. I just sit down, figure out what someone needs to succeed, and put a plan together to make that happen, and then, get on the ride with them and help them along the way when gaps show up. So, I suppose a student can expect compassionate, kind, inclusive, professional (I do know my stuff – or so I’ve been told), and individualized support with a focus on getting results.

Lisa’s Book Recommendations and Resources

The Adventues of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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Thank you, Lisa, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Learning how to sell yourself successfully: The art of a good scholarship application

by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

PFAU 27 01 1024x205 Learning how to sell yourself successfully: The art of a good scholarship application
Scholarships are a great way to help you to achieve your academic goals.

It is easy to sell yourself short and think you aren’t smart enough, hard working enough, or overall good enough to receive a scholarship, but that is 100% not true. If you have an academic goal in mind and work hard towards it, it is highly likely that there are plenty of scholarships, grants, and bursaries out there suited to you. You just need to know what you want, be creative and resourceful looking for funds, and learn how to sell yourself well.

Figuring out what you want:

One of the hardest things about applying for scholarships, and in life, is deciding who you are and what you want. It’s unlikely that you will find a scholarship/grant/bursary that is suitable for you, if you don’t know what you are looking for in the first place. So, how do you figure this out?

The best place to start is with what they call your “signature skills“. Your signature skills are the things that you are naturally good at, that you feel accomplished, happy, and respected whenever you apply these skills. For example, even since I’ve been a young kid, I was a decent writer. I liked to imagine things, making up crazy stories, and learn new words. It was difficult at times, and my dad put my assignments through several arduous edits. I was a terrible speller and I hated reading. But, somehow, I knew I was good at and I enjoyed it, especially when I did things like write articles for the local newspaper. People would compliment me on my humor and prose. It made me feel good. Of course, at the time, I didn’t really think I could make a career out of writing, but here I am. So, what kinds of skills do you have that you have always done pretty well, even when you were a young child? What do you people often compliment you about? Those are probably your signature skills.

Knowing your signature skills, can help you to think critically about what you want in life. What do you want to study at school? What do you think would be an interesting job? For example, being the genius that I am (*cough*), I received a scholarship for Engineering in Undergrad that was larger than any of my other scholarships, but I wasn’t interested in Engineering. I was interested in Politics, so I went into an Arts degree. In the beginning I didn’t get as larger a scholarship, as I would have if I’d enrolled in Engineering. But, in the end, I received several scholarships throughout my Undergrad, Graduate, and post-Grad years because I followed my interests and skills set, and developed those skills over time. It’s highly likely that had I enrolled in Engineering I wouldn’t have done that well, and I would’ve lost my scholarship after the first year, and just be miserable, penniless, and beating myself up. Knowing what you are good at and what you enjoy, can help you to choose a path that exemplifies those skills and passions. Then, you can start to look for scholarships related to your own specific gifts and goals, and be more likely to receive them as you continue to build up your qualifications and experiences.

Finding the right scholarship/grant for you:

As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, it is important to know what you are looking for in a scholarship. There are gazillions of scholarships out there, once you start looking, so don’t waste your time applying for all of them. Instead, focus on the ones that you think are best suited to your own unique skills set and long-term goals.

For example, I studied Chinese Politics in Undergrad long before it was cool to be interested in China. In fact, most people thought I was crazy…but now, who’s laughing?! Anyway, I knew that I wanted to go to China, and hopefully learn Chinese, so I asked my Chinese Professors for advice. She was and still is an excellent networker, and she let me know about several scholarship programs through the Chinese government, Taiwanese government, Canadian government, and even a special program with a grant for teaching English in China. This process would be a lot easier today with Google because I could do a quick search of “Chinese Language Scholarships for Canadians” and find a bunch of these links. However, it is also extremely useful to have a mentor to point you to opportunities because they can also give you advice on what the scholarship committees might be looking for. Since it was still a bit unusual for a Ukranian-Canadian from rural Alberta to want to go to China to study Chinese, and I had passionately pursued a degree in Chinese Politics and History, when I applied for all of these scholarships, I got EVERY one of them, and had to chose where I wanted to go. Knowing your own special niche and searching for specific opportunities in that area, no matter how crazy everyone else thinks you are, can really pay off because you are putting your energy into applications that are best suited for your long-term goals, and can really highlights your own unique skills set.

Fine-tuning your personal sales pitch:

Once you know what you want and you’ve found it, the last important step is knowing how to sell yourself so that the selection committee believes they are giving the scholarship to the best person. Instead of thinking about all the ways in which you are going to impress them with a long list of high grades and extra-curricular activities, try to think about the selection process from their perspective. They will be sifting through piles of applications and reading about all kinds of people with lots of accomplishments. So, how can you make yourself stand out?

Well, in my case, I used my strength in writing and added some creativity to my application. I wanted to tell a story about myself. Now, this doesn’t mean that I made up any information or embellished reality. But, it does mean that I thought about what parts of my own academic and professional life would help me to succeed in a Chinese Language program, and how I could present those qualities in a manner that was interesting and relatable to the audience. Thus, I started with a quote from a famous Chinese story, and used that story as a basis to explain why I wanted to study in China, in what ways I was prepared, and how I was going to use my new language skills to achieve my long-term goals. By using this quote and story, I was able to show indirectly that I had an in-depth knowledge of China, and a passion for its history and culture. It also helped me to stay on track and focus only on the skills that were related to the application criteria. In the end, it seemed to work. Therefore, I recommend taking a risk and being a little creative in your next scholarship application. After all, what do you have to lose? They’re the ones giving you free money!

Scholarships can be intimidating. You may feel that you aren’t smart enough or hard working enough to qualify. But, I guarantee that if you are passionate and dedicated to something, there is someone out there willing to give you money to pursue your dreams, so give it a shot! Start thinking about what you want, where you can find it, and how to tell the best story about yourself. If you need some help getting started on this journey, please reach out to us for a free 30 minute consultation and find out what PFAU can do to help you to reach your full potential on the page, and in life.

All content in this post is created by Lisa Pfau and Patricia Huang. Feel free to share it widely; however, please do not replicate any of the text or graphics without our prior permission. Doing so is violating copyright law. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property rights.

Healthy Relationships Start with Healthy Communication by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

Healthy and constructive communication skills are not innate. If we are fortunate, we grow up in an environment with confident parents and clear non-judgmental communication. Unfortunately, that is not the case for most of us. We usually end up learning we need to work on our communication and relationship skills later in life. So, what can you do to help yourself now?

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Healthy relationships start with healthy communication.

Think before you react: It is common to want to spit back a reply or act out when we are feeling hurt, upset, or uncomfortable. However, it is in these moments of intense emotion that I find it is most useful for me to step back, take a breath, and think about what I need from the situation. Once I know what I need, it is easier for me to articulate what I want to say without blame and judgement. Count to 10! It’s not an emergency. The person will still be there to hear your response in most cases.

Learn to listen: We all love to talk, but listening takes work. It means that we need to quiet the thoughts in our mind for long enough to let someone else’s in. It also means that we need to step out of ourselves and focus on someone else. It takes time, effort, and patience to try to understand another person’s perspective, especially when it is in direct contrast to our own. But, you can’t really craft a constructive response to a situation, if you don’t understand it first. So, listen before you speak next time and see what happens.

Lead with “I” statements: The biggest issue in communication is blame, shame, and defensiveness. It is impossible to get anywhere in a conversation once you or the other person becomes defensive. Defensiveness is destructive, whilst openness is constructive. So, instead of focusing on being right and assigning blame, you could try focusing on what you are feeling, what do you need, what do you hope to get out of the conversation. Then, lead with “I” statements, instead of “you” statements. That is as simple as saying: “I really felt hurt and betrayed when you suddenly dropped out of the group assignments and didn’t do the work you’d previous agreed upon. I don’t feel comfortable letting you back into the group unless we can do things differently in the future.” That is much better than: “OMG! How dare you ask to rejoin our group! You’re so lazy and totally let us down last time. Forget it!!” Hmmm…which one do you think is going to escalate a situation?!

Be open to feedback? Personal growth is a process. There is no finish line in that process until you cross over to the other side (ie. death). Communication is a part of personal growth, so don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake or could do better. Instead, stay open to how your communication style impacts others. Can you do something different in the future? Maybe? Maybe not? But, at least you opened your ears and took the feedback as constructive, instead of closing yourself off from some potentially valuable information.

Remember that communication is a skill, not a in-born trait. It takes practice and lots of blunders, so don’t get discouraged. And remember, if you need some advice on how to improve you communication skills at school or work, you can book a free 30 minute consultation with one of our coaches. You can also check out our upcoming talk with qualifying psychotherapist, Jill Gillbert, on Tuesday, February 26th at 6:00pm. Check out the blog post and EventBrite for more details.

All content in this post is created by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang. Please feel free to share widely, but also please do remember to give us credit. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property rights.

Should I stay or should I go? Tips on adding/dropping courses by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

It happens to even the most planned and studios of students. There comes a point in our academic career when we are faced with potentially having to adjust our course schedule by adding or dropping a course part way through the semester.

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I was usually pretty good with planning out my schedule in advance and choosing the right courses by reading course descriptions, familiarizing myself with course requirements, keeping up-to-date necessary credits for graduation, and asking friends for opinions about Profs and courses. However, in second year, I registered for a French course in order to meet my language requirement, and found that I had no idea what the Prof was saying. I was terrified that I would fail. After careful consideration and discussion with my friend and the Prof, I decided to stay in French 100, but transferred to another instructor where the where requirements were slightly lower and I had a friend in the course to help me with problem areas. I didn’t do wonderfully, but I passed and got the language credit out of the way. This decision allowed me to focus on more important courses in the final two years of my degree. Therefore, when trying to figure out the best way to amend your academic schedule consider both your long-term and short-term goals.

I would say the most important aspect of planning your course schedule throughout your degree is knowing which courses you need to take and grades you need to achieve in order to graduate. It is common for most Bachelor’s degrees to have the requirement that you take a course in all disciplines in order to create an overall well-rounded degree, even if have a specific major and minor. You also will be required to take a certain number of courses in your major and minor in order to receive accreditation for them on your diploma.

For example, as an Arts student, I was still required to take a certain number of credits in Math and Science in order to graduate. I also had to take courses in languages, English, and Fine Arts, even though those were not my major or nor minor in order to receive a Bachelor of Arts. This requirements can sometime wreck havoc on your GPA if are not interested in them, or wired to do well at them. For example, university level Math was a bit daunting for me. The good thing about these courses is that you have more flexibility in how and when you complete them. I tend to recommend doing them earlier on in your degree with your grades are less important to getting into Grad School or professional programs. Doing them early also allows you to drop one, if you feel it is a struggle and taking energy away from more important course; and then, making it up in the summer or taking a different course in order to receive the same credit.

When it comes to courses related to the major and minors, deciding to add or drop can be more complex as many of these courses require prerequisites and many not be offered every semester. Thus, you need to think long-term about how you will ensure you complete not only one course, but subsequent courses in time for graduation. In some cases, it may be better to bit the bullet and power through a prerequisite earlier on in your degree in order to create more freedom in your third and fourth year. However, you also need to keep in mind that the grades in courses related to your major and minor are more significant than optional courses. Therefore, if you truly think you may fail a key course, and have time to take it next year, dropping it and replacing it with another course you had originally intended to take next year might be a good option.

Of course, there are other elements to consider beyond career requirements, such as personal life, budget, academic skills, and social supports. However, knowing your degree requirements and being clear about your long-term and short-term goals is a great place to start. Once you know what you want to do, make sure you check add/drop deadlines and penalties so that you can make the most informed and best decision for you.

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What do you think? Should Pfau-pfau drop ECON 101? She is currently an Education major, with a focus on Psychology and Philosophy. What advice would you give her?

**All content in this blog post is created by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang. You are very welcome to share any of this content (written and images) as long as appropriate credit is given to the authors and creators. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property rights. 🙂