Monday, September 17, 2018

Grad School Reflections, Summer Semester

It's crazy that I'm already 1/3 of the way through my masters degree at the University of Georgia. Just typing that gave me chills!
grad school lessons

If you haven't read my "what's next" post that I published before I graduated, I am currently working towards earning a Master of Market Research degree at UGA. My program is a year long and is focused on preparing us to jump into the industry as soon as we graduate. I started in June, 3 weeks after graduating with my Bachelors (!!!!), and finished the first semester in July. My cohort took 10.5 credit hours in what ended up being about 6 weeks. I have never experienced a more hectic summer! I'm now a month into my fall semester and things are flying so I wanted to take the time to document my first semester.

// Change is HARD //

I experienced more changes in the course of a month than I had probably since moving to college four years ago, if not more. I moved, graduated (yes I moved before graduating), went home, came back, got settled, dealt with a whole host of apartment issues, and started school. While most people don't experience this much this quickly while transitioning to grad school, it's still a big change. I felt the most adult I ever had, but also like a scared freshman all over again. I'm "off the payroll" for the first time in my life and having to pay bills and manage finances, but I was (read as: still am) getting lost and turned around on campus. 

// Self care is ESSENTIAL // 

It's easy to get burned out in undergrad, but I experienced burn out so much faster during my first semester. Now this is in a large part due to the fact that I did not have much time to recover from the burnout of my last semester of undergrad, but no matter how long you have before starting, grad school is crazy demanding. There is always something you should be doing - reading, getting ahead, etc. I had to work really hard to prioritize taking care of myself, instead of trying to have it all together.

// It's OKAY to Ask for Help //

Asking for help has never, ever been something I have been good at. I'm fiercely independent and stubborn and hate looking weak or incompetent. What a combination right? 9 times out of 10 I will choose to suffer in silence just to prove to myself that I can. But that's not healthy or sustainable. This summer I hit a breaking point and finally asked for help. Whether it's in school or personal life, it's never easy. But it is so, so necessary. And I am very thankful that I got over myself in order to ask.

// Comparison Kills //

We've all heard that comparison is the thief of joy, but it's also a huge cause of unnecessary worry and stress. I have a very small cohort and everyone is brilliant and amazing. I very quickly fell down the rabbit hole of comparing myself to everyone else. So and so spent hours on this assignment and I didn't. I probably screwed it up and am going to get a bad grade. They present so well, I'm a terrible public speaker, this is going to be awful. They're also so qualified, I have no experience, what the heck am I doing here? These are a tiny sampling of the negative self talk I experienced this summer. In such a small group, comparison is a very easy trap to get into. I am still struggling with it, but have gotten a little better at realizing that I have my own strengths that others don't and they have strengths that I don't, and that's okay.

// Offer Assistance Whenever Possible //

This sort of builds on my last two points. Everyone needs help sometimes and we all have different strengths, so it's important to offer to help. I am very thankful for classmates who helped me before I realized I needed it and I have tried to return the favor for others. I am going into a very small industry, so the connections I form this year are going to be important for the rest of my career. Just as I want to be able to take help from others, I want to be able to offer it as well.

// Slow Mornings are Everything //

I got into a great morning routine over the summer, though I have fallen out of it some this fall. I would wake up and immediately open my Bible and devotional. It was such a great way to build my day on what is important. From there I would make my bed, make coffee and breakfast, and take my time getting ready. Starting off relaxed in the morning was so much better for me than when I was frantically running around like a crazy person during my last semester of undergrad.

These are a few things that I learned during my first semester of grad school, I hope you enjoyed reading them. I'm going to try to do a better job of keeping updates of grad school on here. Do you have any advice for surviving grad school or post grad? I'd love to hear it!

Friday, May 18, 2018

3 Years

Three years ago, I took a leap and did something I had been wanting to do for a long time. I launched this blog. I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew that I loved writing, found blogs fascinating, and there weren't many blogs that were realistic to the place I was at in life. All of that is still true. 

I've learned a lot along the way. Blogging is a lot more complicated than it looks. From graphic design, photography, website design, social media promotion, even just coming up with post ideas, there is a lot that goes into it. Honestly, all of that other stuff gets in my head and keeps me from doing what I originally set out to do - use my words to help other girls who didn't see someone that represented them online. 

A lot has changed in 3 years, I've been through the rest of my college career, figured out what I want to do, had some of the most trying times of my life, gotten into graduate school, graduated college, and so much more. My little corner of the internet has grown with me. It got a new look and has gotten close to 20,000 page views, which may be daily views for some people, but I find it really impressive. I have had the opportunity to work with some great brands and connected with other bloggers, like sweet Katie, who not only came to Clemson, but also became my sorority sister! 

I have been really conflicted on whether I want to keep my blog going in this next season of life. Seeing all these big time bloggers who started their blogs after I started mine or even other college bloggers with large followings can be disheartening. However, that's all part of this comparison game we play. Other people's success is not my failure. Their social media perfection is a highlight reel, just like mine is. So I'm really excited to keep this website going and figure out the direction I want to take it as I transition into grad school then adult life.

Friday, April 13, 2018

What's Next?

I graduate college in less than one month.
I'm sorry WHAT?!?!?!! I have no idea where the time has gone. I was hoping this semester would slow down, but it has turned out to be the fastest one yet. 

Over the past few months (years really), I have gotten the same question more times than I can count, the question that every graduating senior dreads: so, what's next?
It seems like from the time that we start thinking about college, we're meant to have a plan. Well meaning friends and family want to know where you want to go to college, then what you want to do after that - grad school, job. People so easily forget that they were once 21 without a plan. Even still, that question is wrapped up with so much shame and fear. At least it is for me and a lot of people I know. I think to explain this well, I have to give a little background about myself.

I went to an amazing private high school were I received a fantastic education. Due to the high standard of excellence of the school, most graduates are interested in Ivy Leagues or prestigious liberal arts colleges. When I chose to go to Clemson, most people had not heard of it and had no idea how great of a school it is. I also chose to major in psychology, because I've always been fascinated by how people think and behave. From the second I said that people assumed one of two things about me: 1) I am not that smart and wanted to major in something "easy" in college, or 2) even if I did well at my degree, it is a useless degree and I would have to pursue higher education in order to make a halfway decent living. 

It is a terrifying thing to be told at 18 that your degree is not going to be worth much. I have always placed a high value on my intelligence and education. Being told that my degree was useless made me feel useless. In order to change people's minds about the first part, I made up my mind that I was going to go to med school to become a psychiatrist. But that wasn't me, never was. I realized that, but still had no idea what was the right path for me. 

Fall of my junior year, I started to find it. I chose a business minor because of its practicality the year before, but last fall I took my first marketing class. My eyes opened to a whole new field, an intersection of psychology and business. I was hooked. In the spring, I took consumer behavior and my fascination continued to grow. My professor introduced me to the idea of pursuing a graduate degree in marketing research. 

I was hesitant to go down a completely different path than I set out on at 18. I didn't want to confirm the uselessness of my degree, but I could not deny how much I love this field. I drug my feet while applying because I doubted my capability, a product of the doubt I received from others in the past. Eventually, I got it together and nervously pressed submit on my application.

With shock, amazement, and glory to God, I will be pursuing a Master's of Market Research at the University of Georgia starting in June! This is my dream program and I am so excited for the next year. 

But guess what? After I get my master's, I don't know what's next.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Staying Organized for Midterms

Hi friends!!
We are in that CRAZY time of the semester where there is so much going on and spring break seems to still be forever away. As midterms come, I feel myself going a little bit crazy. Tests in every class, papers, assignments, social life, whatever else, it all seems to be SO much!

Today, I'm going to share with you how I've been managing to keep myself sane with help from Kahootie Co. If you've never heard of Kahootie, they make the absolute cutest planners and stationary products to help keep life on track. They were nice enough to send me their Two Category To Do List and y'all, it is a game changer!

I've talked about it a ton before, but I swear by the Simplified Planner because it has a daily to do list. I love that I can write down a million things every day and never run out of room. The only problem I run into is that I don't have a big weekly overview of all of the things I need to get accomplished this week. Enter Kahootie's Double To Do list.


For the past couple weeks, I take some time at the start of the week to just brain dump every single thing I need to accomplish or turn in during the week. I use the first column of the Double To Do list to write down all of my assignments, chores, and other random tasks to do this week. I use the second column to detail out bigger projects. For example, this week, I am going to an academic conference to present research. So I used the second to do list last week to list all of the things I needed to do before the conference. This week, I used the second to do list as a packing list for the conference.

Being able to see two lists at once really helps me stay organized for the week. I'm able to reference my longer list in order to plan each day and see what I still need to do. Having this big to do list would also be helpful to write out what's coming up next week, separating work and school, work and chores/errands, or so many other combinations. It can be really be whatever you need it to be and you can change it from page to page, which I think is awesome.


Kahootie has helped me better manage the chaos of all I’ve got going on. What do you do to stay on top of everything during midterms?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Formal Dresses Under $70

We are officially starting one of my favorite times of year - formal season! 
In college, all spring is filled with a variety of formals - sorority, fraternity, ROTC, other student organizations. Throughout college, I have averaged 2-3 formals each spring (my sorority, my boyfriend's fraternity, and his military ball). That's 12 formal dresses in 4 years! Now I have re-worn dresses a few times, which I highly recommend, but no one wants to wear the same dresses every year, especially if you're posting tons of pics - which you definitely should if you're getting all dressed up!

I am pretty good at finding awesome dresses at better prices, if I do say so myself. I have never spent more than $70 on a formal dress and have loved my dresses every year. Today, I'm rounding up some of my favorite affordable formal dresses and giving suggestions on other ways to save on a dress for your next fancy occasion - including the dress I bought (can you guess which one it is?).

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 10 // 11 // 12

Tips for Finding Cheap, Great Formal Dresses

 // Check online boutiques and flash sale websites //

Big online retailers or department stores tend to be more expensive. Online boutiques can have some really great prices, and they'll be more unique than the dresses that everyone else found at Nordstrom. Flash sale websites like Hautelook or Rue La La usually have amazing dresses for a fraction of their original price.

// ALWAYS check the sale section //

If you are looking at big online retailers, check the sale section! Some stores separate their sale and clearance items from their in season items. Search everywhere on the website - women's, juniors, sale, etc. You never know what you'll find.

// Consider the reviews //

I know some people who have had great luck with buying dresses on Amazon for formals. While this is great because free shipping and returns, Amazon quality can be risky. Also cheaper sites like Tobi, Romwe, and Shein can have iffy quality sometimes. Read through customer reviews to get an idea of quality, sizing, etc. This way you're more likely to get a dress that fits and looks great.

// Take your measurements before buying online //

This is something my mom taught me! Before I buy anything online, I always take my measurements - bust, waist, and hips. Then, I compare that to the size chart on the website. If you do this, it's a lot more likely that your dress will fit when it comes in, so you won't have to worry about returning it and rush shipping another dress.

// Consider renting a dress //

Rent the Runway has really pretty designer dresses, if that's what you're looking for. (Personally, that makes me a little nervous, because I wouldn't want something to happen to that dress and be on the hook for something expensive.) The Curtsy app allows you to rent from other girls on your college campus! The girls' also tend to rent their dresses for very cheap.

// Buy secondhand //

Poshmark, resale Facebook groups, or even from your friends. There are tons of options out there for buying previously worn formal dresses.

// Borrow dresses //

I borrowed a couple of my cousin's old bridesmaid dresses for formals. My sister has borrowed some of my dresses for her formal events. Ask around your sorority house or text your older sister and cousins to see if they have that gorgeous bridesmaid dress that they're never going to ~shorten and wear again (lol)~. Best part of borrowing dresses? They're free!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

My Favorite Influencers

Hi friends!
I still can't believe we're over two weeks into the new year! It already feels like it's flying and I am so not ready for that! But back to the point, like most people, I see the new year as a time to be refreshed and get inspired. I also think it's really easy to fall into the trap of comparison and beat yourself up because your new year isn't as perfect or polished as everyone else's. That's why this year, I'm making a point to follow accounts and people that inspire and motivate me. 

These are some of my favorite accounts to follow. Some I've followed for years, others I've recently discovered, some are big time bloggers, others are boss ladies, all are great. 

Dani Austin || Dani is awesome! I've followed her on Instagram for a while, but only recently really started paying attention. Do you ever mindlessly scroll through insta and just double tap the pretty pictures without really reading the captions? I do! Well Dani is someone whose captions you'll want to pay attention to. She is so inspiring and down-to-earth. She's made it her mission to be authentic online, which I think these days is so rare! Dani is goofy and silly, but also has awesome style and so many great words of wisdom to share. She also fearlessly shares her faith, which I really admire.

Stephanie May Wilson || Stephanie is someone I've recently started to follow, and let me just say, I'm obsessed with her, like I want her to be my best friend or mentor. I first found out about Stephanie by seeing her book The Lipstick Gospel recommended on Instagram. The e-book is available for free on her website, so I highly recommend checking it out! After reading her book, I followed her on Instagram, listened to episodes of her podcast, and ordered her devotional and prayer journal. Totally normal. Stephanie is just so relatable! She comes from a place of understanding and encouragement, not judgement which I think isn't totally common when it comes to Christian books. Half the time, I think her words were written just for me. 

Krista Robertson || I don't think there is anyone who blogs who doesn't know who Krista of Covering the Bases is, or at least I hope not. What I really appreciate about Krista is that she's real. No offense to other bloggers, but so many of them are toothpick thin and always look absolutely perfect with their flawless makeup, eyelash extensions, and fabulous outfits. Krista isn't an XS, she posts her comfy outfits and gets on insta stories without a stitch of makeup, and I think she rocks! The other day, she shared on insta stories during her workout how posing can completely transform the look of someone's body. We seem to think that blogs are more real than magazines and aren't photoshopped, but posing can do just as much as photoshop. I love that Krista wasn't afraid to show the reality of this. I think there need to be more bloggers who are transparent online (noticing a trend?).

Emily Ley || I could sing the praises of Emily Ley all day long. I'm obsessed with her Simplified Planner and loved her book, Grace Not Perfection. I am so inspired by how she has built her business and the message she shares through her work. She's not selling the idea of a perfectly organized life equals happiness, rather that a little organization can help make room in your life for what matters most. Pretty powerful stuff. 

Kristen Shane || I've followed Kristen on Instagram for a while and recently started keeping up with her blog. My goodness does this girl have a lot of wisdom to share, she's also still in college. Her blog is more on the lifestyle side, but she mixes in a fair bit of fashion and faith as well. I loved her post on who God is calling her to be, it really resonated with me. She also shared a great post on improving blog photography. Kristen is also rocking her insta game. Definitely check her out!

These are some of my favorite people to follow online. I love discovering inspiring women online, who are some of your favorite people to follow?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Colorful 2018!

Hi friends! Welcome to a new year. 
I can't even wrap my head around the fact that this is the year I graduate from college and enter a new, undetermined chapter of my life. 2017 was a wild ride and if I'm being entirely honest, it just wasn't my year. I have some great memories from the year, but I didn't grow or change or do anything really big this past year.
But that will NOT be the case for 2018. I am so determined to make this a great year, because there is so much I want to do before I finish college and begin my next chapter. Lots of people have a "word" for each year and I have never done that before but I want to give it a try. I didn't really have any idea what I wanted my word to be - there are SO many different directions I could have taken my word considering how big this year is going to be. As I processed a few different ideas, one word kept coming to the forefront of my brain, and it didn't really make sense.


What? You're probably thinking, Ashley you're silly, colorful is not a word to live by for an entire year. That's what I kept thinking too. But it just kept coming back up. The more I thought about it though, the more it made sense. I want a colorful year, a colorful life!

Now colorful doesn't mean perfect, or pretty, or perfectly curated in order to share on Instagram. To me, colorful is messy and real, and just plain happy, joyful even. To say I want my life to be filled with color means I want it to be filled with new experiences and new, interesting people. I want to say yes to the things that make me smile and spend a lot of time laughing and enjoying this last bit of college. I want to make new friends, because you can never have too many. I want to pursue whatever it is that sets my soul on fire. I plan to really dive into areas of my life that I've been holding back on and figure out what's next. I plan to cherish and appreciate this last semester in my perfect college town and love the people that have been a part of my college journey. I could probably keep going about everything colorful means for me in 2018, but I think some things are better kept to oneself when it comes to dreams, goals, and resolutions.

Have you ever picked out a word for your year? I would love to hear it!

Happy New Year, may your 2018 be beautiful and COLORFUL!!!