Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Create The Ultimate Personal Statement: Modern Family Style

Written by Thaimi Fina

So if you’re like me, you couldn’t help but let out an overly enthusiastic girlish squeal last Wednesday during the Season 3 premiere of everyone’s favorite dysfunctional bunch: Modern Family. Whether you’re tuning in just to check out what hilarious fight Cam and Mitchell are a-brewing, or what Colombian miscommunications Gloria’s gotten herself into again, you always manage to pick up some witty life lessons along the way. Now what if I told you that your favorite Modern Family characters could also offer you some valuable advice about writing the most effective personal statement for graduate school? Skeptical? Understandably so. But, have the Toppel Peers ever steered you wrong before??? (Quick: The answer is no.) Follow along as we reminisce about our favorite Modern Family quotes, while learning how they could help you successfully stand out in a pool of graduate school applicants.

PHIL DUNPHY: I'm the cool dad. That's my thang. I'm hip. I surf the Web. I text. LOL: laughing out loud. OMG: Oh my God. WTF: Why the face? Um you know, I know all the dances to High School Musical so…

Now there’s no denying that Phil is easily the most unintentionally hilarious dad on the block… but the cool dad? Let’s not get crazy. Phil is constantly trying to prove to his wife, children, and us viewers that he’s hip and “in the know.” But even all the High School Musical dance moves in the world couldn’t convince Alex and Haley that their dad is indeed “the cool dad.” How does this fit in with the dreaded essay that determines the next 2-5 years of your life, you say? Excellent question! Avoid writing what you think admissions committees want to hear, and instead write what comes natural to you. Admissions committee members have heard it all before and can spot a cliché a million miles away. For instance, if you’re applying to med school avoid stating that you want to become a doctor in order to “help people and save lives.” A basic rule of thumb I always communicate to students is: if you think it’ll be in someone else’s personal statement too, get rid of it. Be genuine and original. Let the admissions committee members get to know the real you, not the “OMG, LOL, Why The Face” you.

And on that note…

CAMERON TUCKER: We’re a very traditional family.
MITCHELL PRITCHETT: That’s what the disabled lesbian shaman who blessed Lily’s room said, too.

Were you born into an adopted family of loving gay parents and instantly blessed by a “disabled lesbian shaman?” Awesome. Don’t be afraid to stress what makes you unique! Admissions committees get tired of hearing the same old stories over and over again. Capture their interest by letting them see who you are, what your story is, where you’re coming from, and what makes you unique. (Keep in mind that what makes you unique doesn’t have to be tied to culture or upbringing, it could be a unique volunteer experience, work experience, or educational background that sets you apart). Have there been any particularly meaningful experiences in your life that have significantly shaped who you are or the career you want to pursue? Have you or someone close to you gone through an experience that few others have the chance to share? Write about it! Don’t let your personal statement read like a resume. Instead, color it with descriptive narratives that enable admissions committees to understand your story and discover the unique perspective you bring to the table.

PHIL DUNPHY: You can insult a lot of things about me - my hair, my voice, my balance-board exercises - but don't insult my selling. That crosses a line. What line? Oh, you don't see it? That's because I just sold it!

Follow Phil’s example and don’t be afraid to highlight your accomplishments. This is your time to focus on you: what you’ve learned, the skills you’ve acquired, and the characteristics you possess that make you an excellent candidate for a particular graduate program. Don’t just describe how your interest in a specific career or field was piqued. Emphasize significant experiences and accomplishments that have cemented your interest in the field and prepared you to be successful in graduate school and in your profession of choice. For medical school, these accomplishments might include acquiring unique research experiences, learning to build rapport with diverse patients through community service, and developing foreign language proficiency. For law school, these accomplishments might include earning public speaking awards, honing critical thinking abilities through research, and publications demonstrating strong written communication skills. No matter what the program, think of the skills that are necessary to be successful in that field and demonstrate these abilities by incorporating specific and compelling examples in your essay. In other words, bring out your inner Phil Dunphy and don’t be afraid to sell yourself as a competitive candidate to admissions committees.

GLORIA: He scared the baby cheeses out of me!

Baby Cheeses Clip

HALEY: If you do this you'll be a social piranha.
ALEX: Yes, I'll be an Amazonian carnivorous fish.

Gloria and Haley are notorious for their hilarious communication blunders. While these make for great television, there is no room for them in your personal statement. And that’s where Toppel and The Writing Center come in handy. Stop by during walk-in hours anytime Monday-Thursday 10:00 am-4:30 pm for an individualized critique of your personal statement to ensure that there are no typos or grammatical errors in your document. The Writing Center can also help you to organize your thoughts and improve your transitions between ideas in your personal statement. Take advantage of these resources so that admissions committees can focus on the amazing content you’ve laid out for them, rather than fall out of their chair laughing at your baby cheeses reference.


PHIL DUNPHY: Cheerleading in my college was cool. The football players were so jealous, they wouldn’t even let me and my buddies, Trevor, Scotty, and Ling, go to their parties.

Turn everything into a positive! Football players didn’t invite you to their parties? It’s obviously because male cheerleaders have reached an intimidating level of cool! Even the most negative of experiences can result in growth, wisdom, and insight. If you choose to discuss difficult life circumstances in your personal statement, avoid harping on the negative. Always demonstrate what you learned from these experiences and how they made you stronger, more passionate, or how they taught you specific skills that will help you succeed in your profession. Also, avoid blaming others for past mistakes or challenges. For instance, don’t attribute your C in biology to your “terrible professor.” Take ownership of your mistakes; demonstrate what you learned from those experiences and how you are putting that knowledge into practice to avoid repeating the same mistakes again. Admissions committees are looking for maturity, ability to overcome obstacles, and strength of character. Follow Phil’s glass-half-full attitude and you will be sure to market yourself in the best possible light.

Not sure if you’re on the right track? Check out our Personal Statement Guide. Once you’ve created a rough draft, stop by The Toppel Career Center during walk-in hours (M-TH 10-4:30) to review your personal statement with a Graduate Assistant.

A Deadly Case of SENIORITIS

Curing and Preventing Senioritis

By Priyanka Surio

Everyone gets it at one point in their lives and it can be very very contagious! All of us can admit to being exposed in high school when we got our acceptance letters to college and felt that we needn’t jump over mountains and under hoops to study for exams or work on projects. But according to CollegeBoard and USA Today, what is becoming more common as a result of this attitude is the alarming fact that “every year colleges rescind offers of admission, put students on academic probation, or alter financial aid packages as a result of "senioritis." Now the vicious cycle threatens to continue for us seniors or those graduating from Undergraduate or Graduate school.

• Laziness
• Procrastination
• Excuses
• Lack of interest in all things school related
• Desire to just have fun
• Lack of seriousness
• Frustration and stress

• Can lead to plummeting grades
• Can lead to getting fired from jobs
• Can be chronic and deadly to your career goals


There is indeed a very effective cure and prevention steps to make sure you don’t fall susceptible to this disease.

• Don’t allow yourself to get in the mindset that you are done and your responsibilities don’t matter, because even in the real world after you graduate, your responsibilities only increase.
• Do not get peer pressured into going out every night. Demonstrate self-control. You can do work Sunday - Thursday and have the last two days to yourself as a reward for working hard throughout the week.
• Do not let things slide and pile up. Time management is not for nerds only! Keep a calendar of activities and a list of things to do, and cross off the list each time you complete something. Even schedule some “me” time in there. You’ll feel more organized, stay on track, more accomplished, and more deserving of your breaks.
• Don’t just coast by with easy classes. By no means do we recommend you enroll in the hardest finance or science class, but enrolling in courses that keep your interest or that will be beneficial to you in the future, whether in graduate school or the workforce, will help to keep your attention. For example, if you are planning on working for ESPN after college as a news writer it might not hurt to take a few communication classes to learn the graphics and technical side of new television. Or let’s say you are aspiring to become a lawyer or a doctor, business classes may not hurt especially if you plan on owning your own practice at some point. These classes will pique your interest especially since they are not something you are familiar with and can just rely on prior knowledge for.
• Don’t burn bridges and don’t get frustrated. Gloria Varley an assistant director of health at the University of Georgia Health Center says, “[Senioritis] is several things – perhaps frustration, you’re done with [school] and want to move on”. A common onset to senioritis is this feeling that we can’t improve our situation or outcome, so we act apathetic or uncaring towards our academics, yearning to move on. One bad grade or an unfortunate experience with a teacher shouldn’t make or break your academic career. The choice is up to you on whether you improve your situation and can make something better out of it.
• School is your JOB! Remember, being a student is an occupation so treat it as such. Make an effort to prepare ahead for classes and be on time. In the real world, unprepared and late workers get fired, so get used to building good habits early on and don’t allow yourself to slack off even in that last semester because it is so hard to climb back up the hill once you’ve rolled down!
• Don’t STRESS! You will manage to get more done if you relax and take it one step, one day at a time. Don’t eat with your eyes and overload your plate full of things you won’t be able to complete. If you feel as if you can’t handle everything or are dealing with more than you can chew, the Counseling Center can help you manage your stress. They are your trustworthy resource in stressful times. The ACAR and Ombudsperson is also here as a resource to listen to your troubles while providing useful tips for future action.

Well what if I’m not going to school afterwards?

The worst thing about this deadly disease is its transmissibility. Senioritis can spread to the job search, securing an internship or applying for that entry level position and following through with employers. Ways to prevent this from occurring are to start EARLY!

Maybe you are confused about where to begin. The Toppel Career Center should always be your go to place to begin your first steps into a successful career. What we recommend for a successful job search:

Pinpoint – What do you want to do? Take a Career/Personality test to determine your specific field
Learn – how to write a stellar resume, how to win employers over with a cover letter, and how to knock your interview out of the park, by coming to our workshops or stopping by Walk in Advising hours Monday- Thursday 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Network – with Networking and Career Events, Information Sessions, Career Fairs, On Campus Recruiting
Search – for jobs in specific industries and Schedule to meet with our advisors to determine which job is a good fit for you. Also search for employers and recruiters who are part of that company so you can speak with them about their experiences. It’s your turn to conduct the interview in order to find out if this is the potential career you wish to build for yourself.
Follow up – Don’t just apply and wait twiddling your thumbs. Follow up with a cover letter and/or email to the HR department. If you can, call and let them know you applied, and if you still haven’t heard back after a week or two, check the status of your application.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Opening Doors to Success

by Pallavi Pal

“It’s not about you; it’s about those who go before you and those who come after.”

This was our daily mantra for the twelve week internship program that I took part in this past summer. Being a part of SEO, a well-respected and highly esteemed internship program, was an experience that I wasn’t sure if I would be ready for.

Let’s back track to Fall 2010. At that time Toppel hosted an SEO recruiter for the first time. One of the advisors kept encouraging me to attend the information session; however, I felt that I was under qualified. After a few weeks, I changed my mind and thought it wouldn’t hurt to apply. So apply I did.

Three interviews and many stressful weeks later, I received a congratulatory letter from SEO. I was thrilled and, honestly, quite shocked. Reading about their low acceptance rate (3% this past summer) and hearing about the prestige these three letters, SEO, is associated with made me feel uncertain as to whether or not I really was qualified for the position.

Amongst their many partners, I was given the opportunity to intern at Moody’s Corporation, the credit-rating agency. After getting my acceptance into Moody’s, I had to complete eight more interviews for placement within Moody’s. Not only were the eight interviews mandatory, but also the several online training sessions that in total equaled around fifty hours prior to the start of the internship were necessary to complete.

After jumping through so many hoops, I was nervous and scared to start my internship program. By no means was the in-person training a walk in the park, but I came to realize how much SEO has invested in me and how much I was receiving from the program. The internship not only improved my professional persona but also helped me mature and grow as a person. There was a renewed sense of self-motivation and confidence that I garnered through the internship experience.

Without SEO I would not have received all the tools needed to succeed in the Moody’s internship that I was placed in and I would not have been able to secure a job offer in this uncertain economy. I have much to be grateful for and the quote still rings in my ears: “It’s not about you; it’s about those who go before you and those who come after.”

It really isn’t about me but rather all those who have come before me to ensure that the program grows and all those that I help to come after me. This was a once in a life-time opportunity and I have SEO to thank for believing in me enough to give me a chance.

For those of you interested, there are two upcoming information sessions to meet the SEO recruiter and learn more about the internship process: Tuesday, September 20 at 6:30 pm in the UC Flamingo Ballroom as well as Wednesday, September 21 at 3:00 pm in the Toppel Library. We hope to see you there!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Good Things Come to Those Who Apply

Written By Marlo Wyant

Everyone has been discouraged by an application at some point in their lives. Often times it is far too easy to fall into the mindset of “I’ll never get it anyway, so why should I bother taking the time to apply?” It is true that many applications may seem daunting and that the prospect of being selected seems almost far-fetched. However, the odds of the application coming to fruition may not be as unlikely as you think. This past year, I have learned, first-hand, the value of taking the time to apply for unlikely awards and contests.

It started when one of the career advisers at the University of Miami Toppel Career Center sent me an encouraging e-mail to apply to be the next “Mechanical Engineering Student of the Year,” sponsored by Vestas, and Universum. I thought that, while flattering to be considered to apply, I would never win an award like that on a national scale. I was not yet convinced that I should apply. However, after quite a bit of nagging from my adviser, I gave in and submitted the requisite 600-word cover letter accompanied by my resume. Upon application, I got an automatically-generated confirmation e-mail and assumed I would never hear back.

Before I get into what happened in the months following the student of the year application, I will now segue into what turned into unlikely application number two.

Approximately three weeks after I submitted the Student of the Year application, I received another e-mail from a Universum employee encouraging me to enter a new contest called Go Green in the City. Upon further reading, I learned that Go Green in the City is an international business case competition for engineering and business university students to present energy efficient implementation plans for their respective cities. The participating countries were Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Russia, Turkey, and the United States. The prize: an all-expenses paid trip to Paris, France.

The application seemed simple enough: the team members’ resumes paired with either a 300-word summary or a 60-second video of what the green idea is. The top 100 teams would be selected to work in greater detail on the project and write a longer paper. Finally, if the team made it to the top 25 in the final round of the competition, they would be sent to Paris, France to present the ideas to upper management of Schneider Electric. The only catch with the application was that the deadline was just one week away from notification e-mail. Despite, the short time frame, I managed to secure a teammate and the two of us filmed our 60-second video on Key Biscayne and edited it in a single day.

One month later, my teammate and I learned that we had been selected as one of the top 100 teams internationally. I was ecstatic. This meant that my teammate and I were one step closer to making it to Paris! As part of the second round of the competition, we were assigned a Schneider Electric mentor in the United Arab Emirates to assist us in the preparation of the report. Our mentor met with us via teleconferencing and sometimes stayed up as late as midnight in her time zone to give us guidance on improving our application.

After several weeks of continuous improvement, my teammate and I had our polished version of the report and submitted it to the online application.

The spring semester progressed into its end with the advent of finals week. I had just walked out of my last final exam for the semester and saw that I had missed a call from an unknown New York number and had a voicemail. When I listened to what the mysterious caller had to say, I found out that I had been selected to be the Mechanical Engineering Student of the Year. Universum wanted to fly me to New York in two days time to personally accept the award at the Universum Awards hosted at the New York Times building in Manhattan. The news left me in absolute shock. I had never won any sort of award before, unless you count the certificate they give you for making Dean’s list every year. I then thought about it and realized that I had not exactly applied for too much before, either. The award taught me, first-hand, the benefits of applying for contests and awards.

As if the day could not get any better, I received another e-mail later that afternoon informing my Go Green in the City teammate and I that we had been chosen to present our green idea to the Schneider Electric executives in Paris, France as one of the top 25 teams in the world! It was a surreal day for me. I could not believe that I (and my teammate) had won two contests in a single day.

The award for the student of the year resulted in additional traveling opportunities. Not only did I get to receive the award in front of dozens of human resources professionals from companies from around the country, but there was an additional perk to be awarded. The prize was a trip to Denmark to visit the Research and Development Technology Center for Vestas Wind. This center is the largest wind turbine test facility in the world. I traveled in August 2011 and was able to meet with wind turbine engineers and tour the facility. In addition to the visit to the technology center, I was able to have a great time touring the cities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark and Oslo, Norway.

Marlo Wyant with her parents after accepting the Vestas Mechanical Engineering Student of the Year Award
The trip to Paris, France also went very well. The Go Green in the City event allowed my teammate and I to network with students and professionals from 12 different countries, present our ideas to a formal executive panel, interview on an international level for an internship at Schneider Electric, and attend informative workshops on innovation, diversity, and globalization. Additionally, my teammate and I were also able to sightsee in Paris and visit several iconic attractions, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Seine River. The trip did not cost us a cent.

Daniel Castillo and Marlo Wyant after presenting at Go Green in the City to Schneider Electric in Paris, France
What can you learn from my experiences? If you see an award or competition that you may qualify for, you should always take the time to apply for it. You never know—it may result in two free trips to Europe or, at least, something worthwhile.

Marlo Wyant enjoying the scenery of Paris, France

For more information on go Green in the City Click Here.

For more information on the Student of the Year Click Here

Friday, September 9, 2011



By Pallavi Pal

“Is it a bird? Is it a plane? NO! It’s Toppel!” Are you a senior and you’re looking for a job? Worried about how to get a job in this economy?

Fear not, Toppel is here to save the day! With the start of the school year, Toppel has been in full-gear to help students find jobs in this struggling economy.

We have a variety of Information Sessions held by the employers themselves so you can get a chance to hear firsthand about the opportunities they have in store for you. These sessions are more than just a way for you to learn about the company of your dreams but also for you to speak to the recruiter one-on-one and have them learn more about you as a candidate in a less formal setting.

Some of the employers that we have coming out for information sessions are listed below. Make sure to RSVP on HireACane.com to save a spot for yourself! We hope to see you at these events!

Information Session Schedule
Organization Name, Start Date/Time, Location

CITIGROUP, Sep 13, 3:00 pm, Toppel Library

MICROSOFT CORPORATION, Sep 14, 5:00 pm, College of Engineering, MEA 202

NIELSEN, Sep 14, 6:30 pm, Toppel Library

APPLE, INC., Sep 15, 6:30 pm, Toppel Library



For a complete list, please click here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kick Off the Year Right!

Written By Pallavi Pal

Are you a senior looking for post-grad opportunities? Or a student interested in graduate school? Look no further! The Toppel Career Center has the answers you are looking for.

In the upcoming weeks we have several events for students to network with employers and help students decide the next major steps to take for their future. Now is the time to explore your options through Toppel’s Career Kick Off.

Start the Career Kick Off with EPIC on Wednesday, Sept 7 where you can sit down with the recruiter of your choice prior to the career fair to have them critique your resume or interview style. You can get advice directly from the employer so you know what you are doing well and what you can improve on.

On Thursday, Sept 8 and Friday, Sept 9 the Pre- Medical Mock Interview Program will be held to help students navigate the medical school interview process. Students should prepare for a specific medical school and will be given advice on their interview strengths and areas for improvement.

For all those who need help with their resume or would like a quick read through before the Career Expo, Resumania on Monday, Sept 12 will be the best way. Come to Toppel and bring a hard copy of your resume to the event!

The Opening Doors Networking Event on Tuesday, Sept 13 is a great way for students to connect with recruiters in a relaxed setting before the Career Expo. It is a chance to meet with them before the hundreds of other UM students speak to them at the Career Expo!

Finally our Career Kick Off ends with our long awaited Fall Career Expo where many recruiters and employers will be coming out to meet specifically with UMiami students. On Wednesday, Sept 14 at the Bank United Center, the Fall Career Expo will be a chance for students to learn about the job opportunities at the company of their dreams and learn about the expectations of the position.

Start the year off right not only with your books and pencils, but also with the skills you need to land your dream job! Come out to these events to help you prepare to network, interview, and meet employers.