Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Fiscal Responsibility feat. Sweet Graphs

Back in April, I took a big step towards being a Real Adult and started my own budget spreadsheet. After just the first month, I was completely shocked at how much I was actually spending (read: THAT much on dining out?!) Now that I’m heading back into the tight grip of grad schooldom, I know that I need to prepare myself for the grad school lifestyle. Which, of course, means living within my means. My first step in this preparation process was to create a budget spreadsheet for myself. I’m a big believer in ‘knowledge is power,’ and had to embrace that mantra to keep my head up while working on this project.

I started in Excel with two of the provided templates: College Cash Flow and Monthly Home Budget. Both templates provides you with a file already outfitted with calculations to auto-fill the green boxes based on data in the yellow boxes. In the College Cash Flow file, you input your starting money on hand and monthly expenses by convenient categories likely to be used by college students (e.g. books, tuition, etc). Your total income, expenditures, cash flow, and ending balance are automatically calculated for each month. The Monthly Home Budget sheet performs a similar task, but on a shorter time scale. You also have an opportunity to compare your actual income/expenses to budgeted ones. Together they are both useful, but I found that with a little extra work I could create a more interconnected, useful budgeting tool, complete with visuals.

I wanted to know more about my individual purchases in addition to total monthly charges, so I added a section to the Monthly Home Budget sheet at the bottom where I could input each individual purchase with Date, Cost, Type, and Notes. I found that having to record each transaction separately also helped me stay aware of my spending as the month progressed. I have Office 2008 for Mac on my computer, so everything I mention subsequently will be specific to that version of Excel.The major amendments to the spreadsheet templates are as follows:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Science Side of NYC

If you follow us on Tumblr, then you know I was away from my post at the beginning of August.  I traveled from the West Coast all the way over to New York City, New York to celebrate my engagement to that fella' to the left.  I won't take you through the blow by blow, but spending a lot of money on a ring just wasn't our cup-o-tea.  Instead, we saved up and went on an adventure together to celebrate!  First, this is a decision I highly recommend because, hello, vacation.  Second, I hope you know I couldn't go anywhere, even the maze of NYC, without scoring some science.  I know this city is just full of everything, so don't consider this even close to an exhaustive list.  I would love to know about any of your favorite NYC science scores.

View from the Staten Island Ferry  
Most of my city going experience has been out west and in Chicago.  So one really special thing, for me, about seeing such an old city was the architecture.  I love that you can see a completely modern building with modern building materials and techniques right next to a church built in 1846!  Just look at that skyline.  You can learn by observation about changing technology as you look from the short, stone buildings to those shiny skyscrapers.  I'll make my first tourist aside here to state that the Staten Island Ferry ride was both free and awesome.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cover Letters of Interest

Once you've gone through the process of finding potential grad school advisers, the next step is to contact them. It can be quite scary. That fear that you'll craft a seemingly marvelous letter, attach your well-written CV, send it off, and then…hear back nothing. Or worse, you'll hear back, but they aren't interested in your obvious brilliance. Try not to get in your own head too much. Think of it more as the start of an epic journey towards the next step in your blossoming academic career. The professors that show the most interest in you are going to be the ones that are the best fit for your unique interests and skills. Writing about yourself is hard, but now is the time to brag on yourself a bit. Say it with me, “I am a badass science baller and all the profs want me.” Keep in mind that this letter does not need to be perfect. I just looked back at the cover letter I sent to my MS advisor (keep anything you write about yourself!) and it’s nearly 2 full pages long with way too much information. Thankfully, she wasn't bored, and I had a wonderful, productive Master’s experience.
Say it again!

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