Thursday, August 21, 2014

How to Study for the GRE

I took the GRE a little over a month ago, and I was surprised at how few guides there were that offered simple tips for studying and taking the test. So I wrote my own. I hope this guide helps you if you're planning to take the GRE!

1. It's not the SAT or ACT.
While the content areas (verbal reasoning = reading and vocab, quantitative reasoning = math, analyze an issue/argument = writing) are the same for the GRE as they are for college entrance exams, the content itself is different. The GRE is difficult: it's meant for people who are finishing college, not for people who are finishing high school! If you know how to handle each type of question (and there aren't very many types) then you'll feel much more confident on test day. 

2. Get the Kaplan review book.
I got this book after I saw my co-worker reading it. She's super smart, and I know she researched the book options before getting one. I really like the book, and I love that it comes with online resources, too. I did all of the book review questions, online review questions, and practice tests. The questions in the book are very similar to those on the test, if not a little bit harder. And that's a good thing: confidence is key!

3. Make a study schedule... and stick to it!
I started studying with the Kaplan review book in May, but I didn't seriously start studying until I finished school at the beginning of June. I made a study calendar that outlined what I would do each day leading up to the test on July 14. I studied for about 45 minutes on days when I had work (3 days a week), and 2-3 hours on days when I didn't have work. I took one day off from studying each week. I mostly stuck to my studying plan, but I know that if I didn't make one, I would not have studied as productively as I did.

4. Use the ETS online resources.
When you register for the GRE through ETS, you get access to two timed, scored practice tests. These practice tests are SO accurate at predicting your score, so take them as close as possible to test day. I took one on the Thursday before my Monday test, and another on the Friday before. I took a study break on Saturday and Sunday.

5. Don't worry about the writing sections.
I read some guides online about how to structure the essays (this one by ETS is great), but I didn't practice writing any. The essay sections are much less intimidating than you think, especially because you get to type your essays on the computer, making it much easier to write quickly. For the "Analyze an Argument" essay, my biggest tip is to literally rip the argument apart. The essay readers want you to think critically, and the arguments will be flawed, usually in many ways. Address everything that is wrong with the argument (in a polite way, of course) and you'll be fine!

5. Bring snacks and drinks to the test.
You can't eat or drink anything in the test room, but you do get a 10 minute break in the middle of the test. I brought water, orange Powerade Zero, a KIND bar, and multi-grain tortilla chips. I wasn't sure what I would be in the mood for, so I brought a lot! Don't be afraid to overpack your snack bag: bring plenty of options!

Have you taken the GRE? I'd love to hear your study tips, too!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

ULTA Beauty Haul Review Part 2

Remember my Ulta Beauty Haul + Free Gift post? It was a L-O-N-G post, so I didn't write reviews of everything I picked up. But don't worry (I know you were worried ;) ) because the rest of the reviews are below! These are my opinions on the lip, nail, and face products. As a reminder, I bought the Minerals Nourishing Lip Gloss, but everything else was part of a Free Gift with Purchase promotion at Ulta.

For Lips

Minerals Nourishing Lip Color in Pink Topaz // I LOVE this lip gloss! It's a perfect "your lips but better" shade and it feels incredibly moisturizing on my lips. It also doesn't leave that gross "lip gloss residue" after hours of wear. It's fantastic!

Brilliant Color Lip Gloss in "Pixie" // I'm not a big fan of this lip gloss. I like the color (it's sheer and less bright than it looks in the bottle) but it dries out my lips quickly. I wouldn't buy the full-size version of this product.

Lipstick in "Mauve Memories" // I was expecting a vibrant pink lipstick, but I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer pink color. It feels moisturizing and buttery on my lips, and it's not sticky at all. I would buy this lipstick again!

For Face and Nails

Blush Brush // This brush is okay: I wish it were fluffier or had shorter bristles, because then it would offer more precise application. Though it's called a blush brush, I use this brush to apply powder foundation because precision isn't as important for foundation (since you put it on your entire face). I'm not very good at applying bronzer and blush, so I need all the help I can get, and this brush isn't helping much. I'd recommend using a kabuki brush instead.

Nail Polish in "Grin and Berry It" // I was a little underwhelmed by the color of this polish in the bottle, but I love how it looks on my nails! It's bright, shimmery, and looks gorgeous after just one coat. It dries quickly, and lasts beautifully with a top coat. This is a perfect nail polish for fall! 

Sunkissed Blush and Bronzer Duo // This is definitely more of a bronzer than a blush, but that's okay. It's a great basic bronzer, and unlike most bronzers, it doesn't look too orange-y on my skin.

Extreme Wear Eye shadow Primer // I was very pleased with this primer: it's inexpensive, you don't need to use a lot, and it's great for keeping eye shadow in its place. Shadow primer is a must-have, especially if you like to wear dark and/or shimmery eye shadow.

Have you tried any of these products? I want to hear your thoughts on them!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Favorites

Today I'm linking up with Andrea, Erika and Narci for Friday Favorites!

Here are some of my favorites this Friday!

Gap Legging Jeans // I love stretchy pants. Yoga pants? Leggings? Count me in! I like that these jeans from Gap are stretchy and comfy like leggings, but don't look like leggings. I have a pair in olive green, but they come in several rinses.

ULTA Nourishing Minerals Lip Gloss in Pink Topaz // I got this lip gloss in my recent ULTA haul, and I'm obsessed! The color is a gorgeous "your lips but better" shade. The gloss is very moisturizing and not too sticky. I love it!

Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee // I usually make my iced coffee at home, but I love splurging on some from Dunkin Donuts. One just opened a few months ago on campus, and it's been fantastic for getting through long days. I get a medium iced coffee with 2% milk and Splenda. I only wish they had stevia as a sweetener option!

Kate Spade Lacey Wallet // I love my Lilly Pulitzer sorority print wristlet, but since I'm a recruitment counselor this year, I need to stop wearing all of my sorority merch until January (to stay unbiased for the women I'm helping through recruitment). This wallet is so cute and professional... it will make giving up my sorority wristlet just a little bet easier.

Enamel Jewelry // I've been into enamel jewelry lately, especially when it's white and gold. It goes with everything! My favorite places to buy jewelry are Charming Charlie and Francesca's.

What are YOUR favorites this Friday?

I'm also linking up with the Bloglovin' Blog Hop today!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

ULTA Beauty Haul + FREE Gift

Who else loves ULTA? It has the selection of both drugstores and Sephora, plus friendly employees who don't try to sell you the most expensive products (which is one of my biggest shopping pet peeves!) If you spend $19.50 on ULTA brand products now, you'll get a free gift bag full of cosmetics! Not sure whether to get the gift bag? I have reviews of all of the products below!

The gift bag comes in three colors, and each color contains a different set of products. I got the black bag because it had the most neutral shades. I love neutrals!

Here is the free gift bag + all of its contents. It's an $88 value, and it includes several full-size products. This would make a great gift, especially for someone who is just starting to wear makeup. The lipstick and eye shadow shades are universally-flattering, and all of the products fit neatly into the cosmetic bag.

I purchased some eye makeup remover, lip gloss, and eye liner. 

Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover // $6.00
Minerals Nourishing Lip Color in Pink Topaz // $8.00 
Automatic Eyeliner in "Chocolate" // $8.00

My total came to $22.00, but I also had a coupon from the newspaper for $3.50 off a $10 purchase. so I paid $18.50 plus tax. $18.50 for $110 in merchandise? Fantastic!

Below are my reviews of all of these products, including the free gifts!

For Eyes

Super Stretch Mascara // This mascara is fine for everyday, but it doesn't add much in terms of length or volume. And it's not waterproof, so it comes off of my always-watery eyes in a matter of hours. I would not buy this mascara again.

Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover // I compare all eye makeup removers to my favorite, Estee Lauder Makeup Remover Lotion. This remover is great because it takes makeup off and doesn't leave an oily residue on your face. It's not my favorite, but it's a pretty good product at a reasonable price.
Super Stretch Mascara

Automatic Eyeliner in "Chocolate" // I have very sparse, short lower eyelashes, so I apply eye liner to my waterline to make it look like I'm wearing mascara there. I usually go for black liner because most brown liners are too orange-y, but this one was a perfect color! It's a crayon, so it goes on smoothly and stays put for hours. A great product!

Dual Ended Eye Liner in "Dark Brown" and "Black" // I've never been a fan of pencil eye liners (I prefer liquid or crayon liners), but I was pleasantly surprised with this liner! It's easy and smooth to apply, and it stays on all day.

Sponge-Tip Brush // I like using sponge-tip applicators for applying eye shadow to the creases above my eyelids, but I'm not a huge fan of this brush. Some of the precision afforded by the sponge tip is lost when it's attached to a long brush. Plus, sponge-tip applicators are especially difficult to clean.

Eye Shadow Brush // This is a pretty basic brush. I like that it's small, allowing for precise eye shadow application. Use it to blend shadow into the creases above your eyelids.

Shadow Swatches

Left Four Shadows (the one on the far left is difficult to see!) // Upper Left Eye Shadow Palette (contains "Trendsetter," "Bone," "Molten," and "Lustre") // I was most excited to try this palette... I love pewter and rose gold eye shadows! The lightest color, "Bone" was difficult to gather onto the brush, so I ended up using a sponge tip brush to apply it. Maybe it was baked for too long? I loved the "Lustre" and "Trendsetter" shadows: they are perfect for blending to create a daytime smokey eye. I'm always weary of dark shadows (hello, raccoon eyes) but "Molten" was lightly-pigmented and perfect for the creases above my eyelids.

Middle Four Shadows // Lower Left Eye Shadow Palette (contains "Social Climber," "Calla Lilly," "Galaxy," and "Hopeless Romantic") // I love the colors in this palette... even the darkest shade "Galaxy!" It's more of a grey than a black, so it's perfect for a smokey eye look.

Right Four Shadows // Lower Right Eye Shadow Palette (contains "Iceland," "Peacock," "Sapphire," and "Blackout") // I'm not a big fan of the colors in this palette: aside from "Iceland," they're too dark and bold to wear every day. I'll probably wear the shadows from this palette for a night out, but I haven't tried them yet!

Last Shadow // Glitter Eye Shadow Top Coat in "Put A Ring On It" // WOW this stuff is glittery! It's fun and unique, but too much for everyday (for me at least!) It's great to highlight your brow bone or apply on top of eye shadow for a night out. It is difficult to remove, though. I had to use regular eye makeup remover, then scrub with gel cleanser to remove all of the glitter.

There's more to this review, but this post is getting L-O-N-G! I'll post Part 2 (the nail polish, skin, and lip products) soon!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Planner Picks: Get It Together!

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It's no secret that I love all things stationery, and of course that includes planners. I love planning out my days, and my planner really helps me stay organized and on-track with work and assignments. 

I hope this post helps you decide which planner is right for you!

Maybooks // These planners are very customizable: you choose the pattern, colors, monogram, and inside pages. They are small, at 5"x8", and have soft paper covers, so they may not hold up as well as hardcover planners.

Erin Condren Life Planner // These are seen as the "holy grail" of planners, but their high price and large size means they are not always the best planner for everyone. I love the fun covers, customization options, and bright, clean page layout.

Whitney English Day Designer // These planners are also extremely expensive, and they lack the customization options of Maybooks and Erin Condren planners. The pages in this agenda have so many sections for planning out a day, from an hourly schedule to a to-do list.

Kate Spade Agenda // These agendas feature beautiful, classic covers, and they come in both medium and large versions. There is plenty of space for writing down notes for each day, but not a lot of extra space on the week-at-a-glance pages for to-do lists and other general notes.

Plum Paper // These planners are very customizable and affordable, but thinner than some of the other planners on this list. If you're looking for an Erin Condren-esque planner but don't want to spend so much money, Plum Paper is a great choice.

Lilly Pulitzer Agenda // I'll admit that I'm a bit biased because I use a Lilly Pulitzer agenda myself. I love the bright patterned covers, pretty artwork interspersed throughout the planner, and fun stickers that come with each planner. Again, I wish there was more space for writing to-do lists and notes on the weekly pages, and I wish the wire binding was a bit thicker, as it tends to bend and warp easily.

There are so many planners available, so I'm sure you'll find one you like!

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