Category Archives: Academics

classes, degree planning, academic workshops, CPA exam planning and preparation

Bullet Journaling – Staying Organized Beautifully!

Anyone who knows me knows I love organization. I get excited about buying planners and stationary (I am indeed a nerd).  I know that other people do not find the same joy in planning. Warning: if you are that person, this article will be painfully boring for you.

Currently, I’m using four planners/calendars: Google calendar, a planner for recruiting, a planner for schoolwork, and a planner for my extracurricular activities.

Recently, I was introduced to something called bullet journaling.  It is “a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above.” I found this concept intriguing because I already keep a journal and a planner but not a combination of the two. I decided to try it out. Here are some examples of bullet journaling:

Image result for bullet journal


  1. Bullet journaling is extremely time consuming. It is a sketchbook, planner, and journal all rolled into one…. which means it takes 3 x as much time as a regular planner if you want to make it pretty like the ones I found above. However, if you already do all of these three things separately, it may actually be a time saver because everything is in the same place.
  2. It is extremely helpful for habit tracking and goal-setting. I now have small and large goals set for myself in a week, month, and year that are carefully organized (they existed before, but  were kind of taped on sticky notes in various locations).
  3. Bullet Journaling is good for the individual that…
    • Has a prolific amount of to-do lists floating around
    • Like goal-setting and habit tracking
    • Enjoys handwriting things

I know that as the semester gets busier, I may not be able to keep up a bullet journal and may revert back to my prior planner/Google Calendar system. For now, it is a welcome form of goal setting and planning.  If you’re interested, here’s a helpful article from Buzzfeed to get you started.


The MPA program at the University of Texas is number one for a reason. The faculty is amazing. The research being done is innovative. And, the students are brilliant. But, sometimes being around such greatness can be a lot of pressure. The environment  is very competitive even with the comradeship fostered by both Longhorn and McCombs school spirit. Everyone around you worked hard to get to where they are and they continue to work hard to get to where they want to go. On top of all that, there’s an expectation of excellence within the MPA program. It didn’t reach #1 for nothing! While accepting the challenge will be great for any students future career, it can be stressful. I’m going to share some strategies I use to manage the stress.


Every night I try and get the recommended 8 hours of sleep. I take this especially serious before I take exams. Some students will try to tell you they only need 4-6 hours of sleep and they feel alright. But, getting the doctor recommended amount of sleep not only keeps you sharp and focused, but also decreases your stress levels. Being tired can make you irritable and less ready to take on challenges during the day.  If you’re tired before all of your classes it’s going to be difficult to pay attention. This will eventually catch up to you when its time for exams.

Working Out
Working out has two benefits. If you do it regularly, it gives you more energy throughout the day. It can also serve as a great stress reliever on your most frustrating days. If there’s a big event coming up that I’m worried about, I’m more adamant about exercising. Working out burns some of the energy I would’ve put towards thinking about my anxieties.

Happiness Jar
This last tip is a bit corny, but it really works. I’m always looking for ways to optimize my performance. But, it can also lead to a lot of stress because of all of the pressure you are putting on yourself. In my apartment I have a mason jar that I call my “happiness jar.” At the end of everyday, I force myself to write down three to five positive things that happen to me. It reminds me to not only focus on the long term goals, but to enjoy the present.

Stress isn’t always negative. It’s a great motivator and is very helpful when solving difficult problems. But, it shouldn’t be a constant thing. So, next time you’re feeling stressed try one of my tips.


Your Professors Are Your Greatest Asset

I must confess that by the end of my freshman year I had neglected to attend any of my professors’ office hours.

Fast forward to my Junior year, and I am wise enough to now frequent office hours. On the other hand, many of my friends mention they have yet to see their professor outside the classroom and the majority of students do not attend their professors’ office hours, even by their third or fourth year at the university. As classes become more challenging, there is a newfound appeal to finding a way to get that “A” through some sort of shortcut. Although there are no shortcuts to doing well in school, there are effective methods all successful students share. I would say that attending office hours is by far the most important step to take if you are wanting to make an “A” in any course.

office hours

The Top Four Reasons Why You Should Go To Office Hours:

  1. Your professor will no longer need your nameplate to know your name.  Unless you can name every person you have ever had a class with at UT, you probably should not expect your professor to remember your name. Once you start attending office hours, your professor will learn your name and this will help you establish a relationship.
  2. Just because they work at a university does not mean they are not business professionals! Your professors most likely got their positions because they excelled in their respective fields. If you feel stuck in your internship search, or even in determining what MPA track is best for you, your professors will likely have some unique insight. They can use your academic performance to identify your skill-set strengths and weaknesses and illuminate some prospective fields you may not have even considered.
  3. You will be more motivated to excel inside and outside the classroom. For most of us, having an attractive GPA is what pushes us to study for that “A”. We care about the information we learn and we want our grades to reflect that. The pressure to get an “A” can be very stressful and it is easy to lose faith if you bomb your first exam. At this point, it is crucial to talk to your professor. Your professors will identify ways for you to improve your performance and will not judge a low exam grade. Once you make this a pattern, you will be more motivated to do well in your class because you will feel not only a responsibility to yourself, but to your professor, too.
  4. Your professors are your greatest cheerleaders. No one wants to see you succeed more than your professor. It does not matter whether you would define “succeeding” as finishing the class with a high “A” or passing with a “C”. There is a reason why professors choose their current positions: they actually enjoy helping students learn! Let them help you and do not be afraid to ask questions.Your professors want to help you get to where you want to be.

Going to office hours may seem intimidating at first, but taking the time to attend them is a decision you will not regret. Even if you feel completely lost and embarrassed to ask questions, your professor will be happy you are reaching out and will help you get back on your feet. As you continue to attend office hours, you will be more inspired to succeed and, as a result, you will be a stronger, more confident student. At McCombs, we are lucky to have the faculty we have, so be sure to take advantage while you can!

I’m Busy

“I’m sorry, I can’t go to _______ with you. I’m busy.” 

I’ve been guilty of saying this a lot lately. My friends in the iMPA program are more or less the same. This past week, Kanye West came to town, but I couldn’t go see Yeezus in the flesh on his Pablo tour. I was too busy doing my large laundry list of responsibilities:

  1. I am taking 17 hours of challenging coursework.
    • I am trying to do the iMPA program in 4 years instead of 5.
    • This has resulted in 4 exams and a project over the span of 10 days.
  2. I work customer service at the Perry Castaneda Library (PCL).
  3. I run a nonprofit that promotes healthy lifestyle choices (shameless plug: come check us out at
  4. I run the club Food Equality Movement Financial Group on campus to raise funds for my nonprofit.
  5. I write for this blog (yay!)
  6. I have interviews and decisions about internships to make.

I know that our advisers and older students in the iMPA program warned about how much work the classes will be, but I didn’t really believe it until recently. The classes have an insane workload, and with my other responsibilities, I’ve been…. well, busy.

My friends not in the program or that aren’t as involved as me often ask me:

“Why are you taking on so many things? Do you like pain?”

My honest answer is yes.

I like having so many things to do. Although I might be stressed sometimes because of all my responsibilities (or all the exams that seem to happen at the same time), I love the feeling of being busy. I love the feeling of waking up and knowing that all of my time will be spent on things that I am passionate about.

My accounting classes may be challenging, but I like them. Educating people about healthy lifestyle choices to prevent early Diabetes through my nonprofit may be an uphill battle, but it is one of my passions and extremely gratifying (I was overweight as a child). Writing/blogging is one of my favorite things to do. My interviews/internship decisions will help me further my career. Helping people at my job at the PCL helps me develop my ability to interact with multiple personalities, and I LOVE books. There isn’t a single thing on my list of responsibilities that I regret.

Even though I can’t see a lot of really cool artists perform, it’s okay. I don’t really mind that much. I would actually much rather commit myself to my commitments. It’s not that I don’t love concerts and fun, it’s just that I love my responsibilities more.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m  busy.

There is more than one library on the UT campus

It was right before one of my finals last semester. Usually, exam classrooms are arranged throughout the UT campus. I overheard one MPA talking to another, “I walked to more places on the UT campus today than I did in past 4 months.” It is not surprising that PCL and the productivity center are top picks for most business students, particularly traditional MPA (tMPA) students, because these are close to classes and tMPAs have limited time to explore campus. Although I am now a tMPA, I happened to obtain my undergraduate degree here as a science major. Thus, I am more familiar with campus than most of my peers. Here are a few libraries I would recommend if you are looking for a different place to study.

Law library:

This is probably the second largest library on campus, but it is a bit of walk from McCombs, approximately 15 minutes. It opens at 10 am on Sundays, which is two hours earlier than the PCL. I like the spacious cubicles that each have plugs and light, so I am isolated from distractions but still have plenty of space. One interesting thing is that once you see the amount of reading of others, who are generally law students, suddenly you will feel the amount of reading and writing you do is rather light.

Architecture library:
architecture lib

In my opinion, this is the most classical library on campus. It was built over 100 years ago, with antique furniture and modern equipment. If you can get a big table next to the window, it is an ideal place to study. The only downside is that you cannot bring food and drinks into library (you can leave them at the entrance desk). Another one is plugs are not as accessible in here as they are in PCL and the productivity center.

Life science library:
library_life science

It is located on the second floor of the tower. Similar to the architecture library, it has a main hall full of character and historical atmosphere. Some people say this hall reminds them of Harry Potter. You can bring drinks and food into the library, but the plugs are not very accessible at the long wood tables. They also have another area behind the check-out desk that has individual tables, separated by screens, and plugs are very accessible there, but the internet connection is not as good (To me this is actually a good thing, avoiding unnecessary web surfing). This place provides options for those who like to study in an open space, as well as those who like to study in more isolated spaces.