Author Archive | Helen Picard

Image by VFS Digital Design, Flickr

Image by VFS Digital Design, Flickr

Becoming involved with university publications can seem intimidating and complex to high school students, even with publishing experience. This is to help students with the drive and potential to become senior editor:

Do your own research and put yourself out there. Student-run publications don’t have a big presence, and since the executive changes every year, their advertising methods change constantly. Email the publication: “How can I get involved?”

Get involved in your first year, even in a minor way. Your dreams of becoming editor of The New Yorker may not match the job description for junior copy editor at a small university publication, but you have to start somewhere. It helps if you held a position on a high school publication, such as yearbook. Senior editorial positions usually require at least several months of copy editing or related experience.

Put in the time. Go to the group meetings, launches, and events. Continual meetings can become monotonous, but those who are around the most get the most opportunities and cultivate a reputation essential to a senior position with the publication.

Many university publications have a porous creative process, meaning that students can become involved in all aspects of the publications process – writing, editing, designing, promotion, etc. Commitment is one of the biggest problems university publications deal with. One-time contributors are easy to come by, but not many students want to dedicate themselves to an ongoing role in a publication. Therefore highly involved students will usually have a hand in each aspect of the publication. A design editor might contribute a few articles, or a writer might make illustrations, for instance.

Keep your goals in sight. Student publications are meant to be platforms for opinions and originality, but can sometimes stopper with unoriginality. Continue to offer up new ideas, challenge platitudes, and keep a record of your work.

Need some writing experience? Email with your resume.

Image by Tim, Flickr

Image by Tim, Flickr

The hipster glasses need to be confronted in the workplace – stylish or unprofessional? Boxy black or turtle-shell frames certainly do not help young professionals blend into the traditional workplace, yet they continue to wear them.

The number of post-grad professionals wearing massive hipster glasses are few. Conforming to the dress quo will show that you take your job seriously; just like wearing a suit does. If the frames are bigger than your pinky up and down, vertically and horizontally, they are too big – unprofessional (by the way, none of this applies if you are working at a fashionable startup company with bean bags for chairs, or an organic design firm constituted only of 20-somethings; you get my drift). This is the “pinky” rule. Also, fake glasses are absolutely unprofessional. Save your fake frames for after work, or your Urkel Halloween costume.

This speculation on spectacles concludes that real glasses in the workplace are stylish, as long as they are not huge or fake (they should be on your face for a reason, for correcting sight, not as lens-less fashion statements). For students working in a stiff summer office job, hoping for a permanent position at the end of the summer, find some stylish glasses that don’t look like magnifying glasses without the handles. When considering whether to offer you a position at the end of your internship, your boss will take your entire profile into account, including your dress and attitude. Follow the pinky rule, make sure there are lenses in your frames, and keep professionalism in sight.

Image by Corey Seeman, Flickr

Image by Corey Seeman, Flickr

Academia doesn’t grind to a halt during summer vacation. A work-study is named for its status as both a job and opportunity for students to continue studying. The “working” aspect of a work-study means the student will be paid for their efforts. The “studying” aspects means the student will be paid for their involvement in some aspect of academia; this could be anything out of a range of duties; such as research, writing, editing, and compiling and organizing bibliographies.

I was lucky enough to be employed in a work-study this year at the University of Toronto. During my annual summer job hunt I checked the U of T work-study database. There weren’t any work-studies with the history department (I am a history specialist), but a work-study with the Statistical Sciences Department required graphic design and writing experience, which I had. After an interview on campus, I got the job. This particular work-study was part-time, so I was able to work and still attend summer school.

I worked with a professor in the Department of Statistical Sciences for a little over a month, and learned a great deal about statistical sciences by doing research for her. I also slogged through bibliographies and made graphs, but got the opportunity to learn about a field I otherwise would never have breached.

A summer work-study is convenient for students looking for a job who live near campus, or for those who live far away to find student housing on campus. In addition, if your employment works out, having a professor as your boss makes for an excellent reference for either graduate school or future employment.

Drawing from my experience, do not be afraid to apply for work-studies outside your specialization. Work-studies also exist during the school year, and are a good opportunity to financially benefit from your extra-curriculars. Ask your registrar about work-study opportunities. If you are passionate about a particular subject, ask a professor in that field if they know of any work-study opportunities. Having studied all year, it’s nice to make money doing so.

Image by Calgary Reviews, Flickr

Image by Calgary Reviews, Flickr

Tim Horton’s was recently acquired by Burger King. Although Tim Horton’s is already perfect, in its low cost and high calorie glory, the new owner may contribute some good things. To honour the Tim Horton’s menu that any Canadian student knows as their study snack go-to, and their dinner at the end of semester when their bank account is running dry, here are some how-to-hacks.

Healthy crispy chicken alternative:

Ask for a whole wheat bagel instead of a Kaiser bun, and hold the mayonnaise. Now the only unhealthy part of your sandwich is the “crispy” part of the chicken.

Bagel sandwiches:

Ask for additional vegetables in your bagel – tomato, cucumbers, lettuce, etc. You can also season your bagel sandwich with salt or pepper.

Buttery croissant:

Ask for your croissant to be heated with a pat of butter or slice of Swiss cheese on top.

Warm confection:

Pretty simple, just ask for your doughnut, Swiss roll, cookie, or muffin to be warmed up. This is especially effective with a glazed confection, such as the sour cream doughnut.

Chocolate Iced Capp:

Ask for chocolate milk instead of white milk to be used in your iced cappuccino for a chocolate-coffee swirl.

Cheap Mochaccino:

Ask for a half of your coffee to be hot chocolate to make your own mochaccino. This is cheaper than ordering the mochaccino straight off the menu.

Mixed tea flavours:

For ten cents, you can buy an extra tea bag and create a delicious new tea flavour. Green tea and peppermint, Earl Grey and apple cinnamon, chai tea and blueberry white, etc.


Ask for a cup of plain hot water, and supply your own instant noodles. The hot water may not always be free.

Chocolate whipped cream:

Apply to anything. You’re welcome.

Image by Jeff Croft, Flickr

Image by Jeff Croft, Flickr

Everyone has their “first apartment” story, usually embellished with cockroaches, mice, nasty landlords, or other foul creatures. Avoid the typical mistakes students make with their first apartment by observing these tips:

1. Scout out multiple places

Even though the first apartment you see seems wonderful, and it seems like nothing could be better, give yourself options. View at least three places. While you’re hunting, be wary of irritable landlords. If the landlord shows you the apartment and is aggressive, irritable, or unpleasant while doing so, you would have to deal with the same attitude throughout your entire stay.

2. Don’t sign on the spot

Even after looking at multiple locations and narrowing it down to one, do not sign anything on the spot. Ask for the paperwork and read it over on your own time. Envision yourself living in the apartment and compose a list of questions to ask your landlord based on what you might need, or be concerned about. Even if it wounds your independence, show the contract to your parents along with pictures of the apartment. They could know something about old, leaky radiators that you don’t, or could catch something in the contract that could have ripped you off.

3. Protect yourself with paperwork

Congrats! You were meticulous about the apartment, the landlord, and the paperwork. Now you have to protect yourself by keeping copies of everything you sign, and making sure the copies are signed and dated by the landlord as well. This way, if the landlord claims you owe them money, or some other recompense, you can back up your protests with documentation and the exact date on which it was made legitimate by your signature.

4. Avoid infestation

Apartments, especially when it comes to student housing, are notorious for insect and rodent infestations. Protect yourself by buying a can of Raid and spraying the apartment before you move in. By spraying before you move in, you can get into all those tricky corners, and none of your stuff comes into contact with the poison. Spraying for bugs is especially crucial during or directly after the summer months.

5. Remember to pay rent

Forgetting to pay rent is a lot easier to do than it seems. The next month can sneak up on you. Set an alarm on your phone for the last day of each month to remind yourself. You can also give your landlord post-dated cheques to save yourself multiple trips to their office.

6. Know your rights

Sometimes you do all the right things, and sign on to what seems like a good, clean apartment with a reasonable landlord, and it still goes wrong. If you’re stuck with a year’s lease and a bad situation – your landlord could be refusing to help you deal with an infestation, which you don’t have enough money to take care of yourself – don’t be afraid to wield the appropriate paperwork and force them to help.

There are laws that require a landlord to provide a safe, clean space for their tenants. A lot of the laws that ensure tenant rights are available online, as are the processes and accompanying documents to enforce observation of these laws. Google “rental tenant’s laws,” and your area, to find out what laws apply to rentals in your region. You can even try asking a student housing advisor at your school for help if you’re having real trouble.

7. Move out properly

Some year-long leases turn over automatically unless you give your landlord proper notification that you are moving out. Go to your landlord and ask for the proper documentation for notification of termination of lease. In Ontario, this form is called an N9 form, and can be found on the Landlord and Tenant Board’s site.

Usually the tenant is supposed to give two months (60 days) notice before they move out, even if their lease is only for a year (remember, automatic turnover). If you do not give proper notice that you are moving out, the landlord might hold you responsible for rent until you do. This means you might have to pay three full months of extra rent! Again, be sure to date your documents when you sign them.

Image by Adelle & Justin, Flickr

Image by Adelle & Justin, Flickr

Being a hungry student during exam period is hard – from personal experience I know the struggle: do I study, sleep, or eat? It’s also difficult to find the motivation to cook.

To maximize your mealtimes, include as much protein and complex carbohydrates as possible in your meal. While refined carbs (white bread) and sugars can be cheaper, they will not keep you satisfied for long, and you’ll either have to interrupt study time to eat again, or go to sleep hungry. Invest in your exam period meals. If you’re already paying a whopping tuition, instead of ordering in fast food, underwrite your existing investment by spending a couple bucks more on healthy alternatives, which will enhance your brain power and GPA. A protein-packed meal could give you the burst of energy needed to finish your final paper, or pull a final all-nighter.

Meat is the most obvious, easiest way to ingest protein. Note that protein can also be found in other foods such as nuts, seeds, legumes, etc. I’ve thrown in some vegetarian options for inclusivity, but all recipes below, including the vegetarian ones, contain at least one serving of protein.

Here are several healthy, protein-packed recipes you can cook that are designed to deliver a protein punch for a study time crunch. In case you’d like to make substitutions, the main protein component of each recipe is italicized:

Cook with Protein:

Nutty fruit parfait

A variety of fruit
2 tablespoons walnuts and almonds, chopped
1 cup of yogurt (Greek yogurt is preferable)
1/3rd box of bran cereal

Put the nuts in a plastic Ziplock bag. Lay the bag of nuts flat, and using a blunt object (such as a mug or textbook) carefully crush the nuts without ripping the bag. Cut fruit into bite-sized pieces. Scoop one layer of yogurt into bowl. Layer fruit on top. Pour cereal and nuts on top. Repeat: yogurt, fruit, yogurt, cereal, nuts. End with fruit.


1 banana
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 slice whole wheat bread

Toast bread if desired, spread peanut butter on top. Slice banana onto bread.

Pita Pizza

1 whole wheat pita
2/3rd cup marinara sauce
1 ounce cheddar cheese
2 ounces mozzarella
2 slices salami (or equivalent amount of pepperoni, chicken, any meat)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread marinara on pita, lay or grate cheese on top. Lay slices of salami on top. Bake until cheese is melted.

Tomato Spaghetti Carbonara

1 ½ cups spaghetti
½ cup marinara sauce
¼ cup parmesan, or any cheese
2 eggs

Boil water in a medium pot, follow instructions on pasta box. Drain pasta and return it back to the pot. Crack both eggs into the hot pasta and toss until the egg is worked into the pasta, and cooked by the residual heat. Stir in marinara sauce and parmesan.

Homemade Mac & Cheese

1 ½ cup pasta (whole wheat preferable)
1 can of tuna
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup skim milk
3 ounces cheddar, grated
Pinch of salt and pepper

Boil water in a medium pot, follow instructions on pasta box. Drain pasta when it is fully cooked, and return to the hot pot. Add butter, flour, milk, cheese. Stir until cheese is melted.

Chicken Nuggets

*1 uncooked chicken breast
1 egg
2 slices white bread
Salt and pepper

*Always handle raw meat with great caution. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water before and after handling, and any surface/tools the raw meat comes into contact with. Do not touch your face or any other objects between washings.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toast the bread slices until they can be easily crumbled into breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs with salt and pepper. Whisk the egg in a bowl. Cut the chicken into pieces. Dip the pieces of chicken in the whisked egg. Roll the pieces of chicken in breadcrumbs. The egg and breadcrumbs should stick to all sides of the chicken pieces. Grease a baking tray with non-stick cooking spray, margarine, or butter. Place the pieces on the baking tray. Bake the chicken at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. After baked, cut the chicken to the centre, checking for pink parts. If the middle is white, it is cooked through.

Image by Brandy, Flickr

Image by Brandy, Flickr

The GRE is used to gage a student’s ability outside of their institution’s grading methods. Since each university is different, the GRE is meant to give students a chance to showcase their intellectual talents on a level playing field.

The GRE stands for Graduate Record Examinations, and is administered by the same company that administers the SAT and the TOEFL – the Educational Testing Services (ETS). Check out their site for further information.

Difference between the GRE and the GMAT

The GRE is accepted by a variety of graduate programs. Not all Canadian universities require the GRE, but many American universities do. Whether a graduate program requires or accepts a GRE score will be mentioned in their application guidelines/requirements. Many general graduate school programs will accept the GMAT as well as the GRE. In the past, the GMAT has been specifically directed towards business schools, but a growing number of business schools are now accepting the GRE as well.

The GMAT is more expensive to take, and can take longer to write than the GRE. The GRE is composed of three sections (analytic, verbal, and quantitative), while the GMAT is composed of four sections (analytic, integrated reasoning, quantitative, and verbal). If you take both the GRE and GMAT, your scores cannot be compared or judged in relation to each other, as they are completely different tests with different formats and scoring methods.


The GRE is composed of three sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. Overall, there will be six divisions of the GRE composed of any kind of these sections. The GRE takes approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes. One half hour should be devoted to each of the six sections, as there is a ten minute break dividing the first three from the last three sections; but you should use your time however you see fit, according to your strengths and weaknesses.

The Verbal Reasoning section contains multiple choice questions that test your vocabulary and deductive abilities pertaining to words and written concepts. Most students run into trouble in this section because they have not brushed up on their vocabulary. Research the “top 100 words used in the GRE” to practice. Make sure you understand the meaning of the words in isolation, instead of relying on context.

The Quantitative Reasoning section is, in a word: math. Typically, the difficulty level will not go beyond grade 12 functions, calculus, or data management. If you took some of these math courses in high school, return to your notes to brush up. Students who did not take math in grade 11 or 12 should do some serious studying if they want to do moderately well in this section. Memorize the “special triangles,” how to find the area of basic shapes (circle, triangle, etc), and the Pythagorean Theorem.

The Analytical Writing section requires you to write responses instead of choosing from multiple choice. You will be asked to write a response that tests your analytical abilities, critical thinking, ability to articulate complex ideas, and of course, your writing skills. This section is essentially an in-class essay written in undergraduate final exams, but one that could be on any topic. To succeed in this section, outline the argument(s) and/or structure of your essay before you start writing.

Extra Sections

The GRE may include two extra sections – do not panic. Neither of these potential sections will count towards your score. One is an “Unscored” section that will not be identified within the test. The other is a voluntary “Research” section administered after the main test. Both these sections can contain any kind of question, verbal or math. Neither of these sections will count towards your grade. If you have more than the standard two math sections, it can be assumed that one of them is an experimental section; but do not try to skip the third math section on this basis, since the “Research” section will be anonymously mixed in with the others.


You can write the GRE on a computer or on paper. There is no difference other than the medium through which the test is administered. The computer-delivered test is designed to allow the flexibility of the paper-based test. You can move freely back and forth through the test questions, can tag questions to return to them later, use an on-screen calculator, and can edit answers within a section. The paper-delivered test will provide you with a standardized calculator – you are not allowed to bring your own.


You can choose which scores you would like the universities to see. If your score is better the second time you write the GRE, you can send that score to your desired university without them ever knowing the inferior original score.

The paper-delivered test is not offered very often, so research the future times months in advance to register if you want to write in this format. There is no maximum to how many times you write the paper-delivered test. You can write the computer-delivered GRE a maximum of once every 21 days, up to five times within a year.

Here’s a GRE Prep Guide if you want some more in-depth information on it.

Want to learn about other tests?

Image by Saint Louis University Madrid Campus, Flickr

Image by Saint Louis University Madrid Campus, Flickr

Many universities have breadth requirements stipulating students must take classes outside of their specialized programs. A science student must take at least one arts, humanities, or social science course, and vice versa. This article is a life raft for those fish-out-of-water science students who have trouble writing essays or understanding Shakespeare – to help their transition from successfully studying cell structure to symbols.

Keep a flexible perspective

Do not approach your first humanities class like you have all previous science classes. Allow the class itself to adjust your perspective by what you read and learn. Science classes have a very distinct method of teaching and testing – almost always structured with multiple choice questions and lab sections. Be prepared to study differently than you have for previous exams. While the same level of rigour is used in arts classes, the approach can be different. At the rudimentary level, the humanities hold more grey areas. The answer to an essay question can go beyond “yes” or “no.” The rules of grammar don’t change, but Shakespeare’s sonnets can be interpreted in a variety of ways. This difference is reflected in the disparate testing methods for arts vs. sciences: argumentative essays vs. multiple choice, respectively.

Contextualize using a general authority in the field.

Apart from your assigned readings, find out if there is an established authority in the field you are studying, and read their major works (your readings may already contain these sources). American studies, anthropology, Celtic studies, classics, history, philosophy, public policy, religion, women and gender studies – all of these fields contain a handful of works considered essential to understanding the basic principles of that field. For example, most political science students have read Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. By reading a couple chapters or a good summary (SparkNotes is a quick and dirty resource), you can glean the jargon used and apply it to your essay. Sometimes you can find these major sources through a simple Google search, but you can also ask your TA or professor. Your drive to learn more about their field of study will impress them – bonus!

Make your situation known to the TA or professor.

Simply tell your TA that this is your first course in their field of study, and that you want to exceed expectations despite your inexperience. They will likely appreciate your initiative and honesty. Ask specifically for tips on how to write the essay, such as general points to touch on, and how you should contextualize the topic. To avoid outright asking “What should I put in my essay?” Say, “This is what I think I should include in my essay,” or “From my impressions in class, this is what I think you are looking for,” and then tell them! Hopefully your professor/TA will confirm your hypotheses or correct you – either way, you get invaluable information you would not have gained by keeping to yourself.

Look at past tests and assignments.

Humanities final exams usually include a major essay question that you must write in class. Writing an in-class essay can be a challenge for science students, as it is vastly different from the multiple choice testing format. To prepare, go over your class notes and establish major themes in the class, using multiple assigned readings. Some schools collect past tests and exams from their classes and make them available to students. Studying past tests will also give you an idea of how to approach the final essay and exam – do the past tests ask essay questions, or short answers? What themes are present? Has the same question been asked five years running? Use these past tests in conjunction with your class notes to identify patterns in the class content and prepare some points to use for your final essay in advance.

Any science student can succeed in the humanities using their pre-existing skills. The key is to apply them in a new way outside of the “multiple choice mindset,” using research to capitalize on your critical thinking and memorization skills. Evidence and sound logic is needed for an argumentative essay, just as it is for a lab report. The bottom line: in studying for the arts, be scientific.

Image by Alex France, Flickr

Image by Alex France, Flickr

Find out everything you need to ensure your interview goes smoothly. It’s hard enough interviewing for a job as one person amongst a large pool of applicants, possibly with better qualifications than you. Ensure you look and sound presentable, so as to let both your professionalism and qualifications do the talking. Use this article as a checklist before going to your next interview.

Pen and paper

The pen and paper are the golden job interview supplies. If you take one thing away from this article, let it be that you should always have a pen and paper when interviewing for a new job, and on your first day on the job, if you are lucky enough to get hired. If appropriate, take notes during the interview without noticeably dividing your attention or neglecting eye contact. This will show you are serious about the job, and know how to organize. Do not try to substitute your phone for a pen and paper – no matter what you are typing it always looks like you are texting instead of fully focusing on the interview.


For the unpredictable runny nose or sniffles, monster sneeze, nosebleed, shiny face, or spills. Kleenex can be substituted with coffee shop napkins.


You never know when you could get caught in the rain, your hair band could break, or the wind could sweep your hairstyle away. Combs are cheap at the dollar store or drug store. Pack one to avoid messing up your hair and your professional first impression.

Breath mints

Sometimes breath mints may seem extraneous, but I make it a rule to always eat one before I need make an important first impression. Even if you think your breath is fine, pop a mint or swig some Listerine – just in case.

Prepare a question to ask the interviewer

Inevitably, towards the end of your meeting the interviewer will ask you, “So, do you have any questions for me?” Unless you feel you can pass up this opportunity to impress your potential employer, have at least one question prepared. Here are several questions that exhibit thought, professionalism, and insight:

“As an employee here, what could I do to exceed your expectations?”
“If I were to start tomorrow, what should the top three things be on my priority list?”
“Are there any questions you think I should be asking?”

Extra resume(s)

Even if you sent a resume in with your application, bring at least one hard copy to the interview. If there are multiple applicants, the interviewer may not have all their resumes present, or may not have had time to fully go over your application. Having your resume in front of them will give them a more tangible and better understanding of your qualifications. If you know you will be interviewed by more than one person, bring a suitable number of copies.

With these items in your interview preparedness pack, you can make your best professional impression. Use this article as a checklist before going to your next interview.

Tip: If you’re worried about timing, or if you’re travelling a long way to get to the interview and are inviting time delays, leave extra early. Scout out a nearby coffee shop on Google Maps, and plan to go there half an hour early for a refresher before the interview. On a really hot day you can get sweaty from travelling. Plan to stop at a coffee shop beforehand to clean up. Looking presentable is half the battle – the rest is up to you.

Image by  Thaís Santos, Flickr

Image by Thaís Santos, Flickr

Summer is here, and your polar vortex pumps just won’t do. Your tolerance for winter is worn out, and so are your winter shoes. They are probably tired, and crusted with salt, and crying out to be retired – time for a change. Consider humouring pop star and cultural fashion icon Taylor Swift, and buying a pair of oxford heels. Swift recently told People magazine,

I really like an oxford high heel for kind of looking more like either a student or like you’re going to work. I don’t know, there’s something (that gives me some normality). That’s what I kind of like to channel when I’m wearing them.

Swift is right, oxford heels are the perfect shoe for female students. Oxford heels are stylish, closed leather heels that snugly strap onto the foot either with a delicate buckle or ladylike laces. Oxford heels are appropriate for the classroom, stylish studying with friends, or an upscale restaurant.

However, contrary to Swift’s studious image of oxford heels, I have not witnessed many female university students wearing them. The most popular shoewear for students seems to be ballet flats, or through the colder months, leather boots.

The top front of the oxford heel, the part of a woman’s shoe usually left open, extends up to the ankle or has a strap across it, allowing the oxford heel to lace or buckle firmly onto your foot. This makes it easier to run to your 8:00 A.M. class when you sleep late. Oxford heels are easier to run in than even flats, as flats are prone to slip off or slap onto the pavement with each step, because of their open tops. The faux leather variety oxford heel also proves to be fairly weather-proof than other suede, or genuine leather dress shoes. If you are like me and have trouble balancing on heels, try oxford flats: a cute, shorter alternative to their heeled counterpart. Oxford flats are similar to men’s dress shoes, but are sleeker and more feminine.

Oxford heels are this summer’s fashion-forward footwear. Like Taylor, grab a pair to match your studious style with an academic ambition.

Image by  vintspiration, Flickr

Image by vintspiration, Flickr