Thursday, June 21, 2018

Top 5 LSAT Hacks for a 160+

Hello, beautiful! As you may have already heard, my most popular blog post of all-time here on Haley Marie Blog is still my classic "8 Tips Every Prelaw Student Needs to Know" - yet even though law school applications are becoming an even bigger, more pressing part of my life, I haven't written anything about going to law school since then.

That's why I figured a post on LSAT prep was way overdue, since the LSAT is literally all I can eat, sleep, breathe or think about from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed at night. (JK...except not really.) Granted, if you're not gunning to go to Harvard, there's no reason to kill yourself over the LSAT - but that doesn't mean a little bit of reasonable test anxiety isn't warranted, either!

Whether you're at the infancy stages of your LSAT progress or gearing up for the big test this summer, these tips will help you hack the LSAT. With so much conflicting advice out there, it's my goal that this post will help you filter out the unhelpful noise and get to the heart of the exam. And after that? Nothing but blue skies and 165s for the both of us!

...or, at least, let's cross our fingers for that ;)

Hack #1: Eyes on the Prize

You might remember from taking the SAT in high school that standardized tests tend to cause a big fuss among ambitious students. Well, if you happen to know other students vying for law school after graduation, I can assure you that the LSAT is no different!

With all that discussion of target scores and dream schools, it can be easy to lose sight of your personal goals and start comparing yourself to others. For example, if you just want a 160 and your best friend is gunning for a 175 to get into Harvard Law (what, like it's hard?), you could easily start to get down on yourself the more you hear her beat herself up over getting a 170 on her practice exam.

That's why I say "eyes on the prize": once you set your individual goal, stick to it, and try your darnedest not to fall prey to comparisons. As they say, comparison is the thief of joy - and once you start viewing your own goals as inferior, you're likely to find yourself stressed out, burned out and worn out long before test day.

Hack #2: Cut Out the Noise

Similarly, there's a lot of conflicting advice out there about which test prep books are the best, how you should be studying or solving questions and what scores you need to get into the law school of your dreams. But if you try to follow all of this advice at once, you're likely to get overwhelmed and just plain confused when answering practice questions.

My advice? Find what works for you and stick to it, regardless of what anyone else says! If something helps you study and you can see that it's helping you make progress on your practice questions and exams, then there's no use trying to adopt a method recommended by the "top LSAT tutors" (hint: they all say they're the "top tutors"). Instead, stick to your guns and follow a path that works well for you, and you alone!

That being said, a few tried and true resources come up time and time again among LSAT prep blogs and tutors - and when you hear something recommended to you that many times, you know there's gotta be something special there. For me, the PowerScore series, Manhattan Prep series, official LSAC practice test books and free Khan Academy LSAT tutoring were total game-changers (not to mention that they're all either LSAC-official or LSAT tutor-approved)...but if that's not what works for you, then don't listen! It really is as simple as that.

Hack #3: Request, Review, Renew

Between test center fees, the Credentials Assembly Service (CAS) and LSAT prep books, you can easily drop over $1,000 on applying to law school. So, how does one study for the LSATs without spending a fortune (or compromising their goal of a score above a 160)?

The number one most useful thing I've done so far in preparing for the LSAT was seeing if any of the books I wanted to buy were available at my local library. Requesting books from my local library has saved me both time and money in preparing efficiently and effectively for the LSAT on the cheap. 

Library resources tend to be underutilized among college students, and I highly recommend taking advantage of them whenever possible! However, if you're going to take advantage of these resources, make sure you get there early so you're first in line for your favorite LSAT books. (And in the meantime, check out the LSAC's free new prep course with Khan Academy! #notsponsored)

Hack #4: Be Your Own Drill Sargent 

Being able to answer questions correctly is all fine and well - until you start timing yourself, that is. If you crack under the pressure of being timed, find yourself running out of time or start getting exhausted by the end of a section, it's time to start drilling yourself to build up endurance for the real test.

There are a couple ways you can go about drilling yourself for the LSAT so you can build up as much endurance and stamina as possible. Namely...
  • PowerScore Workbooks. The PowerScore series of LSAT prep books is incredibly helpful - but PowerScore also makes a series of workbooks to help you drill yourself on the Reading Comprehension, Logical Reasoning and Analytical Reasoning series. 
  • Khan Academy Timed Mini Sections. When you sign up for the LSAC's LSAT prep course with Khan Academy, you start by taking a diagnostic test and creating a study plan. Then the course will automatically test you at various checkpoints by running timed mini sections to help whip your reasoning skills into shape! 
  • Full-Length Practice Exams from the LSAC. During your LSAT preparation, you should strive to take a full-length (timed!) practice exam at least once a week. The LSAC only offers one free practice exam online, and it's too old to have the comparative reading passages in its Reading Comprehension section. Instead, I would advise you to splurge for the LSAC's most recent books of ten full practice tests each, and the free LSAT Proctor app to time you along the way! 

Hack #5: Take a Breather

Last but not least, do not - I repeat: do NOT - try to study all day, every day, all week long. I put this bluntly because I want to emphasis how important it is! After all, the last thing you want to do when studying is burn out months before you even take your first exam.

So, take a break! Whether it's stepping outside for a breath of fresh air, watching an episode of Game of Thrones or calling a loved one to set up a much-needed coffee date, it's important to maintain healthy relationships with your self and others, even when cramming for this life-altering test.

Another strategy you might want to try is using a Pomodoro timer, which gives you set periods of work interspersed with short breaks every hour or so. The Focus Timer or Tide apps are great ways to time your study sessions Pomodoro-style. Simply set a timer on your favorite Pomodoro app and get down to business! Then, feel free to scroll through your favorite sites, take Buzzfeed quizzes or unwind with a YouTube video on your breaks...until it's time to rinse and repeat, that is ;)

What's your number one test-taking strategy? LMK @haleymarieblog or in the comments below!

Monday, June 11, 2018

SPONSORED: Non-Medication Tips for Anxiety + Printable Anxiety Tracker

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or mental health professional, and this post should not be taken as medical advice in any way, shape or form. 
If you have any serious questions about your mental health, please call your doctor or 911 if you are in crisis.

If you are in crisis, please exit this post and seek emergency medical attention right away. 
To speak to a trained volunteer from the National Suicide Hotline, dial 1-(800)-273-8255.

Hello, beautiful! I don't know about you, but #MentalHealthMay just flew right by me - so you can imagine my shock this morning when I woke up and realized that it was already June.

#MentalHealthMay might be over, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't still talk about the importance of mental health. As someone who suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Clinical Depression, mental health is pretty much always on my mind - as it is for many people who suffer from mental illness like myself.

One of the things that is most challenging about suffering from a mental illness, and something I think about often, is feeling dependent on medications to alter your mood. While medication is a fantastic option and has worked wonders for getting me on track, I hate the side effects, and often find myself wondering what it would be like to wake up happy without needing to take 310 mg worth of pills each morning.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not advocating that we all flush our SSRIs down the toilet and shun modern medicine! Lexapro and Wellbutrin XL (the two medications I'm on) have made it possible for me to live a life that almost resembles that of someone without an anxiety disorder. If you told me just one year ago that I'd be happy and healthy from just a couple of pills, I'd have laughed you off. But my medication has enabled me to make big changes in my life, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

On the other hand, I must acknowledge the drawbacks to depending on medication for my anxiety and depression - for example, side effects like lowered libido, anorgasmia, headaches and irregular periods. Plus, I worry that Lexapro's warning against third-trimester use will force me to quit my meds when I decide to someday get pregnant anyways.

Thus, my goal lately has been to lower - not eliminate - my dependence on medications for my anxiety and depression. I've been actively seeking out non-medication solutions for anxiety. From supplements to yoga classes (both of which I'll discuss in more detail below), here are some of the best discoveries I've made when it comes to managing anxiety and depression with less medication. No prescription required!

Subscribe to Happiness (AD)

If you're anything like me, you probably forget to schedule self-care into your week when you get bogged down by school and work. The busier you are, the more stressed you get - and the more stressed you get, the less likely you are to remember to schedule self-care into your week in the first place.

Subscription boxes like the iCare Crate pictured below are a great way to automate your self-care routine. With a built in package of self-care goodies delivered to your door every month, you'll never have to think twice about how or when to schedule time for yourself each month. You'll simply open your iCare Crate, and be so excited to use your new presents that you can hardly wait to take some me-time for yourself!

I'm SO grateful to iCare Crate for asking me to review their summer subscription box for self-care! This season's theme was all about that summer (self-) loving, so the box included a variety of goodies themed around sunshine, beaches and self-care, such as:

  • If You Like Pina Coladas tea
  • Pink Sands face mask
  • Coconut bath bomb
  • Artisan candle
  • Summery notebook
  • Self-care booklet with exercises for personal growth
All these goodies are pictured below if you're curious - and, of course, if you want to get an iCare Crate of your very own, just click here to visit the subscription site

DASH Your Diet

You may have heard that what you eat can affect your mood, since the gut and your brain are so deeply interconnected - but without a fancy nutrition degree, it can be tricky for the average girl to figure out what she should be eating to manage her anxiety naturally.

Enter the DASH Diet, a well-rounded approach to eating originally developed to combat hypertension and diabetes, among other chronic health conditions. This style of eating, based around whole grains, lean meats, colorful produce and low-fat dairy, tied with the Mediterranean diet for the healthiest diet plans, and is the closest thing to a non-diet a healthy girl could dream of.

And, as if the DASH Diet couldn't get any better, it's also been associated with decreased risk of depression in teen girls and the elderly. Compared with subjects who followed a traditional Western diet, those who followed the DASH Diet were less likely to develop depression over the six-year study than those who ate a Western diet.

Take Action

  • Read The DASH Diet Action Plan.
  • Use a magnetic meal planner to plan meals for the week.
  • Start meal prepping with handy containers like these.

Ebb and (Yoga) Flow

The number one thing that has made a difference in my anxiety levels, by far, is starting a regular yoga practice. During the school year, I take classes at my university rec center, while over the summer, I look for Groupons and other class packages so I can get my weekly fix of flow.

One of the reasons I think yoga has been so successful in helping me manage my anxiety is its focus on your breath and bringing you back into the present moment. So often when we suffer from anxiety, we spend too much time reliving the past or worrying about the future - so much that we forget to focus on all the wonderful things right in front of us. But that's exactly what I love about yoga: it challenges you to forget about all the other items on your to-do list commanding your attention and focus on living in the present moment, if only for an hour.

Take Action

  • Try ClassPass to find affordable yoga classes in your area.
  • Grab a matching mat and towel to tote to class in style.
  • Keep your favorite mantra close at hand with a Mantra Band. 

Say Hell-iola to Rhodiola 

Ridiculous puns aside, if you haven't heard of rhodiola yet, it's about time you got familiar with this anxiety-busting medicinal herb.

Rhodiola is a traditional Ayurvedic treatment that has been taken as a supplement for years to support a calm, clear mind and peaceful body. From writer's block to shot nerves, this supplement is the perfect addition to a healthy diet for supporting a healthy brain, mind and body.

Since I've started taking rhodiola, I've noticed I've become more creative and focused and less scatterbrained when working on projects for work, school and the blog. I like to take it once a day (around lunchtime) with food, to avoid the upset stomach that can sometimes be a side effect of this anxiety-busting adaptogenic herb.

Take Action

  • Supplement your diet with my favorite rhodiola capsules from HUM Nutrition (+ use my affiliate code 14B2CC for $10 off your first order!)
  • Or, try a rhodiola roseola tea for an alternative way to enjoy your new favorite superfood.
  • Use the Round app to track how often to take your vitamins and supplements.

Push Some Buttons

And I'm not talking about the mobile kind - because as much as calling your BFF or playing Candy Crush can help relieve stress and anxiety, there's an even better kind of button to press to relieve the physiological symptoms of anxiety: acupressure points!

Acupressure follows the same theory as acupuncture in that believers say certain areas of the body are linked to certain bodily functions or organ systems. For example, feeling a little nauseous? Next time you're on a boat or down with a stomach bug, try putting pressure on your forearm three finger widths from the bottom of your wrist crease for a quick fix that's literally built into your bod.

Don't worry if you're initially skeptical of natural remedies like acupressure - I totally get it! I was a skeptic, least, until I saw the science pointing to acupressure as a successful remedy for anxiety. I've been converted ever since!

Take Action

  • Stress headache? Press down in the middle of your foot to relieve that built-up tension ASAP.
  • Fatigue can be an irritating symptom of anxiety. Try rubbing the back of your hand for a quick energy boost on the go! 
  • Massaging your earlobes - yes, your earlobes - might sound weird, but is actually a great stress reliever according to acupressurists.

BONUS: Trace Your Triggers!

Want to catch your automatic anxious thoughts and stop them in their tracks? Check out my free trigger tracker, which is based on CBT principles used to treat anxiety and is 100% yours to print! 

Click here to print your free trigger tracker!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

How to Choose a Communications Field

Hello, beautiful! Fun fact, but with graduation just 12 months away, I decided to change my concentration from Advertising back to the field I originally started in: Communications Studies.

At Boston University (my soon-to-be alma mater!), the Communications degree allows for a general emphasis in Communications Studies, or a specialty in either Advertising or Public Relations. To me, choosing Advertising had to do with what courses I wanted to take, and the focus on creative development and copywriting that this field had over any other.

Since I want to work in nonprofit communications during my gap year before law school, Advertising seemed like the perfect combination of satisfaction with my undergraduate coursework and adequate career preparation for post-grad life. However, in the end, my background in digital marketing led me back to Communications Studies - leaving me frustrated with the amount of soul-searching I had to do only to end up following my original intended career path!

I felt inspired to write this post comparing different concentrations in Communications Studies to help other struggling undergrads understand the difference between the various communications fields. Whether you're deciding what to focus on in graduate school or what kind of jobs to apply to after college, you should think carefully about what aspect of communicating resonates most with you: as in, you and you alone!

Trying to decide what field of communications to specialize in is one of the most critical moments for any communications major - which is why I'm here to give you the advice I wish I'd known when making my decision. So, read on to learn more about each subspecialty of communications and what it has to offer an undergrad in your position!

Communications Studies

If you love to communicate, then a basic communications degree is the perfect place to start! But with so many specializations - and even more specific subspecialties - it can be difficult to decide what area of communications is right for you. In fact, you might find yourself wanting to take a little bit of everything...which is the perfect reason to pursue a generalized Communications Studies degree like I did!

But wait, Haley: isn't it better to specialize in one thing than be a jack-of-all-trades? While it's true that some communications careers are going to be looking for you to delve deeply into a specific area of COM, others are looking for someone who's more of a generalist - aka someone who knows a little bit about everything. 

Not only does this give you serious job mobility and make you a marketable candidate to employers, but it also lends you the option of changing careers later in life. In other words, if you take a marketing job and decide you hate it, you can always take that Communications Studies degree and apply what you've learned to advertising, PR or journalism instead! 

Careers in Communications Studies

  • Director of Communications (avg. salary of $89,529)
  • Recruiter (avg. salary of $53,896)
  • Human Resources (avg. salary of $54,584)
  • Content Specialist (avg. salary of $66,609)
  • Public Relations Specialist (avg. salary of $50,107)
  • Digital Marketing Analyst (avg. salary of $54,089)
  • Strategic Planning Analyst (avg. salary of $56,620)
  • Web Developer (avg. salary of $59,413)
  • Attorney (avg. salary $91,873)
  • any career in any other field of communication!

Public Relations

So you started out in communications and realized that what you're really passionate about is helping brand companies and manage crises. What then? Well, that's a great indication that the career you're looking for can be found in a PR concentration! 

Since the early industrial age, Public Relations professionals have traditionally acted as the middleman between clients and the media. Today, their job description encompasses everything from collecting clips and writing press releases, to designing flyers and posting on social media. 

Granted, working in Public Relations is not for the faint of heart. You might be asked to handle big corporate crises, plan important events or just, you know, control an entire brand's reputation. Thus, anyone who wants to pursue a career in PR needs to be comfortable handling these responsibilities - and more! Still, PR can be an extremely rewarding career for people looking to make a difference in the lives of consumers, lobby for big changes in the government or solicit donations for a reputable nonprofit.

Careers in Public Relations

  • Public Relations Specialist (avg. salary $59,300)
  • Junior Publicist (avg. salary $49,432)
  • Junior Account Executive (avg. salary $48,389)
  • Brand Strategist (avg. salary $53,516)
  • Social Media Coordinator (avg. salary of $49,395)
  • Campaign Manager (avg. salary of $62,134)
  • Lobbyist (avg. salary of $59,300)


Ah, my old major...funny what happens when we just follow our instincts, isn't it? But that isn't to say Advertising isn't a rewarding field - au contraire

As an advertiser, you have the option of making a difference by helping companies get their message across to consumers, producing PSAs for well-known charities or even spreading awareness for important political campaigns. At first glance, advertising might seem like it's all about fame and fortune - but it's actually a degree that can be used in a multitude of ways to have a major impact on the world around you.

If you're thinking of pursuing a career in advertising, you should know how difficult it can be to get ahead. Even today, advertising is still a male-dominated field - just think of how hard Peggy had to work in Mad Men - and can foster a dog-eat-dog company culture. Still, that isn't to say that these stereotypes are necessarily the norm, or even common. I'm just saying that as in any career, you should be prepared for big challenges headed your way! 

Careers in Advertising

  • Copywriter (avg. salary $70,864)
  • Junior Art Director (avg. salary $51,980)
  • Junior Account Manager (avg. salary $50,186)
  • Media Planner (avg. salary $55,179)
  • Assistant Media Buyer (avg. salary $39,030)
  • Account Coordinator (avg. salary $44,654)
  • Marketing Coordinator (avg. salary $47,976)
  • Marketing Research Analyst (avg. salary $60,429)

What area of communications interests you most? LMK in the comments below or @haleymarieblog on social media! 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Glossier Phase 2 Set Review

Hello, beautiful! I haven't done a beauty post in a long, long time, so I thought I would write a review of the makeup brand that I, along with pretty much everyone else, have been obsessed with lately: Glossier!

I'll admit I was late to jump on the Glossier bandwagon. I'd been hearing about them for about a year before I finally took the plunge and decided to buy their products. But now that I've tried them, I'm absolutely obsessed! I can't say nearly enough good things about this brand...try as I may ;)

Needless to say, this review of Glossier's Phase 2 Set is going to be a positive one! But if you want to know exactly why and what makes Glossier worth the hype, keep reading for all the answers you ever wanted and more.

Boy Brow

The first item in Glossier's Phase 2 Set that I am absolutely obsessed with is their cult-favorite eyebrow product, Boy Brow. Of all the products I've tried from Glossier, Boy Brown is hands-down my favorite. In fact, it might even be my favorite brow product of all time.

Boy Brow combines all the things I love about eyebrow gels, powders and pencils. It comes in a tube like mascara with a wand, and you apply it the way you would any eyebrow gel. However, unlike most brow gels, it's way more pigmented and fills your brows almost more like a pencil. 

To me, Boy Brow is like the perfect "my eyebrows, but better" product to pull your face together on lazy days, or when you're just feeling like yourself. But that's exactly what I love about it! Boy Brow doesn't change my face; it works with what I already have. 

And that's the thing I love about Glossier's mission, which is possibly most well-embodied by Boy Brow: they strive to create products that enhance your natural beauty, rather than covering up your imperfections. 

Stretch Concealer

Glossier's Phase 2 Set also comes with their Stretch Concealer, which is a light-to-medium coverage product that conceals blemishes without covering up your natural beauty. The product comes in a pot and definitely goes on smoothest when it is applied with fingers versus a brush. Its greatest strength, to me at least, is how beautifully it blends in; whether applied to bare skin or a base of foundation, the concealer has a creamy texture that glides on beautifully.

One of my only complaints about Glossier's concealer is the lack of diversity in shades the company offers. As someone with extremely fair, red skin, I found that the fairest shade of concealer was still pretty dark, and had golden undertones that didn't perfectly match my skintone.

Of the three products in the Phase 2 Set, the stretch concealer was my least favorite (partially because I'm already so partial to my Tarte Amazonian Clay concealer!). However, that was mostly because with my acne-and-redness-prone skin, I look for a lot heavier coverage in my concealers. Like everything else by Glossier, the Stretch Concealer's greatest strength is ultimately its focus on enhancing natural beauty rather than hiding imperfections.

Generation G in Cake

As much as I love Boy Brow, Generation G has quickly become a new staple in my beauty routine. Of all the Glossier products I sampled, this one is definitely my fave! 

Generation G is equal parts lip balm and lipstick. The tints adjust to your lips to give you that perfect "my lips but better" shade. In Cake, that color translates to a just-bitten peachy nude that's flattering on literally everyone. 

With my fair skin, it's usually impossible to find a natural lip color that doesn't wash me out or look fake - especially when it comes to the peach color fam! But Generation G has quickly become the shade I always reach for when I'm on the go. Because as much as I love my BareMinerals matte cream lipstick, sometimes you just need a color that lets the real you shine through.

What are your thoughts on Glossier? LMK in the comments below or @haleymarieblog on social media! 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The College Girl's Guide to Dating a Med Student

Hello, beautiful! The title of this post might seem a little silly to some - but for those of you who have been in a relationship with someone in medical school, you know why I think it's necessary to write this post in the first place.

If you don't know anything about med school (don't worry - a month ago, I didn't, either!), then you're probably wondering what makes dating a med student so difficult that I'd want an entire blog post dedicated to it. But if there's anything I've learned over the past month, it's that balancing a relationship in med school - or any graduate school - is hard. Like, really hard.

Not only do med students rarely have any free time, but they also don't come with an "off" switch. Because they're so busy studying for board exams and worrying about getting the best residencies, it can start to feel like you're in med school, too. (I could probably tell you just as much about antipsychotics and cardiac arrest as David at this point.) And if you don't know how to handle it, or any of the other challenges of dating someone in medical school, it can take a huge toll on not just your relationship, but also your personal mental health.

But if you think dating a med school student is hard, try dating one long-distance. While David's in Pennsylvania/Cleveland studying for boards and doing rotations, I'm in Boston taking summer classes and getting ready for my LSATs. It's being in this position that's helped me learn everything I know about balancing med school and dating - and it's everything I know that's made me want to share it with anyone who might be struggling with the setbacks of being in this kind of relationship.

So, that being said, I've put together some of my most important advice for anyone dating (or contemplating dating) a med student while still in college themselves. I hope you can take something small from it, or at the very least, find comfort in knowing that I'm in your shoes, too.

(Oh, and P.S. LMK if you'd like to see a law school edition of this post in the comments below!)

Prepare to Make Sacrifices

If you're looking for a knight in shining armor to come riding in on a white horse to rescue you whenever you're stressed or sad, you're probably not going to find that in a med student. Medical school is notoriously busy, and med students are on a rigid schedule with little-to-no wiggle room. Realistically, and as douchey as this sounds, you can't expect much from them when it comes to taking days off or traveling to be together. And if you decide to get into a long distance relationship with a med student, you should probably expect that you'll be doing most of the flying in the relationship.

Of course, all healthy relationships are about just that: sacrifice! But sacrificing doesn't have to mean skipping school or work to spend the day together in bed, or coming with you to your spring formal. Sacrifices happen in all the little actions your significant other makes, too. For example, even though I usually have to fly to go see David, he takes a lot of breaks from studying just to talk about our days on the phone, and loses a lot of sleep staying up with me when I have panic attacks. Even if it's only 5-10 minutes of sacrifice, that adds up - not to mention that it shows me just how much he cares about making our relationship work.

Naturally, any good relationship is about the give and take. Just don't get a set idea in your head of what "give and take" looks like - because when you're dating someone in med school, focusing on the little things is the way to go. 

Don't Give Ultimatums

Along the lines of what I wrote above, I'd advise you to learn from my mistakes and not make ultimatums when it comes to your relationship. For me, this meant (stupidly) saying something along the lines of "if you don't come to my college graduation, I don't know if I can be with you" - but the thing you have to realize about med school is that it just isn't their choice what their schedule is going to be. 

Thus, giving ultimatums like "you must do X or be at X or else" doesn't work when you're dating a med student. It only hurts your relationship and sets you up for disappointment when things don't go the way you both planned. Instead, the best thing you can do in this situation is to encourage your significant other to make the best effort possible to do X, Y or Z, but be forgiving if they can't make it because they're on call at the hospital or in the middle of taking an important exam. Chances are they're just as beat-up about missing your important events as you are, so blaming them for it will only create undue stress, resentment and guilt...which are definitely not things you want as part of your relationship - like, ever

In the example I shared above, planning as far in advance as humanly possible was a super successful strategy, too. (Like, we're talking requesting a weekend off an entire year in advance. That's what dating a med student is really like!) Planning a year in advance might seem a little extreme, but when med students' entire schedules are often fixed from the moment they step on campus their freshman year, it's sometimes your only choice - and your most successful one - for helping them make that big life event. 

Dedicate Time to De-Stress

Remember when I said that med students don't have "off switches?" As the girlfriend, that's where I come in: I keep David grounded and remind him that there's more to life than board exams and residencies. 

There are so many ways you can help your future doctor succeed, whether that's reminding them of deadlines or helping quiz them at night before bed - but the one I find the most helpful and rewarding is helping lift the stress off their shoulders. Don't get me wrong: it's not your responsibility as a significant other to take on undue burdens, or fix everything that goes wrong in your S.O.'s life. But it definitely helps both you, them and the relationship to take a few moments together to pause, breathe and talk about things that have nothing to do with the myocardium or peristalsis or insert-fancy-vocab-word-here!

That's why I think it's so important to set apart dedicated time where neither of you talks about school, work or stress. For me and David, this usually means watching Game of Thrones episodes or swapping embarrassing photos via iMessage - but there's no one-size-fits-all approach to a relationship, so our methods of de-stressing might not be right for your relationship, either. Scheduled, agreed-upon dates and times can definitely help, too - because when your boyfriend's in med school, sometimes your commitments don't feel permanent until you know they're in the calendar. (Yup, we have a shared calendar - we are, in fact, that couple.)

Pay Attention to Arguments

99% of the time, David and I don't argue at all. But some weeks, when I miss him a lot and the toll of being long-distance hits hard, we can bicker like an old married couple. 

It's firmly my belief that those arguments stem from the challenges of him being busy and far away, not from anything we did wrong as a couple. But when you're in the middle of a particularly emotional argument, it's easy to ask yourself what you did wrong, or blame yourself for stirring up trouble, or wonder if the relationship isn't the right one, after all. 

I find perspective helps the most when I start to get down on myself after a difficult week. Yes, arguing sucks - but when I started reflecting on our arguments, I realized that most of them stemmed from the challenges of being a long distance couple with two busy halves. When it's that kind of situation, you tend to argue because you care about making the relationship work - and often, you want them to put in time and energy that they don't necessarily have. 

The fact of the matter is that med school is temporary - it's only four years, after all. Med school exacts its toll, true, but before you know it your S.O. will be walking down the aisle at graduation and signing their name with "Dr." at the beginning. So if you're fighting solely about conditions and circumstances that could be solved by your S.O. graduating from med school (assuming that 1. they're never physically or emotionally abusive toward you, and 2. you're still happy in the relationship 99% of the time), start a countdown on your phone and remind yourself that it will all be worth it to see them happily succeeding in their chosen field in four years' time. 

Don't Fall for the M.D.

Wait, what? Didn't I just say I was in a relationship with a future doctor? Well, what I mean by "don't fall for the M.D." (or, in my case, D.O.) is that you are dating the person, not their degree. So, don't be that girl who dates a future physician with rose-colored glasses. So many girls fall for the idea of the white coat, the financial success and the prestige of being with a doctor long-term - but when medical school is so hard on both parties, there's no way a relationship can survive if it's built on that kind of idealism.

As bitter as it sounds, I would encourage you to think long and hard about why you're attracted to your significant other. IMHO, it's only worth entering into a relationship as stressful as a med school one if you're 110% committed to being with someone long-term. A FWB situation or casual relationship with someone in med school isn't something I would ever recommend for either your mental health or the relationship's survival. Seeing as it takes tons of willpower and patience to understand and forgive the struggles that med school inherently brings, it's not worth dating a med school student unless you love them enough - or want to try to find out if you love them enough - to handle the challenge.

It takes a lot of soul-searching to figure out if you're in love with a person or just their degree - but when you do figure out that you're madly in love with them, not their title, well...let's just say it's the best feeling in the world. As in, the kind of feeling that makes you forget how hard med school is for both of you, and just feel grateful that you met in the first place :)

Remember Why You Started

At some point, you and your significant other probably had to make a choice. Whether you started dating in college and had to decide whether to keep dating before medical school, or had to decide whether or not to take a chance on a relationship in the middle of the stress, you faced an important decision - and if you're still in that relationship now, the answer had to have been "yes!"

So, my advice when the relationship gets tough is to always strive to remember why you took a chance in the first place. What are the amazing things about your significant other, and your relationship, that defied the odds and made you want to pursue them? 

Those are the positive qualities I like to focus on when I feel anxious or stressed about my relationship. Since I have anxiety, I find it's easier to believe my positive thoughts when I write them down - so I made an index card with all the positive aspects of our relationship on it, and look at it when I get nervous. (At least, I did until I spilled water into my purse - but that's a story for another time...)

As I said before, dating a med student is hard. Like, really hard. But when it's the right person, it's so worth it to see them happy and successful doing something they love. So, whatever you do, don't let medical school be the thing that gets between you like so many other couples do. If you love them, stick it out - and if/when you figure out that they're the one, never let them go. 

What's your number one tip for keeping a relationship alive in med school? LMK @haleymarieblog or in the comments below!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Goals for Summer 2018 + Free Goal-Setting Worksheet

Hello, beautiful - and welcome back to Haley Marie Blog!

Something I want to start doing with more regularity on the blog is posting my goals for the upcoming months/semesters/weeks/etc. As a content creator, not only do I feel like it's inspiring to read about other people's goals, but I also love that you guys can help hold me accountable for achieving them! After all, once I've put them out there on the Internet, there's no escaping the concrete reality of what I've dedicated myself to accomplishing.

Hence, this post is exactly what it sounds like: a massive dump of all my goals, big and small, for Summer 2018. From the style I hope to cultivate, to my apartment decor, to my academic and career goals, consider this post my virtual vision board for the upcoming summer months. (And please, please, please hold me to everything I write here!)

If you're at all interested in achieving anything for Summer 2018 - whether that's getting a 4.0 for the summer term, landing your dream internship/job or simply making over your Instagram aesthetic - I encourage you to do the same by writing down all your goals on the free Printable Goal-Setting Worksheet that's available for download at the end of this post. After all, writing down your goals makes you 42% more likely to achieve them ;)

That being said, here's the breakdown of everything I hope to achieve this summer - and stay tuned until the end of this post to download your own copy of my free worksheet!

Style & Beauty

Wear more bright colors.

Maybe it's the New England in me, but most of my wardrobe consists of black, white and gray, with some hints of burgundy and navy blue thrown in there. But since it's summertime, I'm hoping to start incorporating more colors like hot pinks and bright reds to get me psyched for the season. I've already revamped my wardrobe with pieces from thredUP - my favorite affordable place to shop online! - so now the next step is simply planning outfits that have me excited to wear colors. 

Buy a pair of white jeans.

White jeans are one of those fashion trends for Summer 2018 that I'm dying to hop on board with. As nervous as I am to wear white jeans (you know, being the kind of gal who spills her coffee on everything the first time she wears it), I love the way they dress up a casual look. Nothing speaks to my Summer 2018 style quite like white jeans, a pink off-the-shoulder top and a pair of summery sandals! I have a feeling that once I try this trend once, there'll be no going back. 

Go blonde with dark roots.

Last but not least, I'm excited to dye my hair again for Summer 2018! Last winter, spring and summer, I had ash blonde balayage. Then in January 2018, I cut off nine inches of hair and donated my ponytail to a local organization for cancer patients (which, unlike Locks of Love, takes dyed hair!) - which also meant coppery red highlights. Now, I'm excited to go blonde again for Summer 2018, but even more excited to embrace my dark roots. After all, there's nothing I love more than a low-maintenance trend that doesn't require upkeep!

Apartment Decor

Adopt a pink-and-gray aesthetic.

I'm one step closer to my goal of my dream pink-and-gray room from Pinterest: after collecting some Amazon gift cards from surveys and studies, I finally gave in and ordered a brand-new blush pink comforter with dark gray sheets. I'm planning on carrying this aesthetic throughout the rest of my room with gray throw pillows, a gray faux-fur rug and copper accents (see below for details). After years of an ultra-femme dorm room that screamed "sorority girl," I'm thrilled to adopt a more laid-back aesthetic - hopefully accompanied by a more minimalist attitude toward what needs to come to my college dorm room! 

Get rid of clutter, Konmari-style.

There's nothing I love gawking at on Pinterest more than pictures of ultra-organized, super-minimalist closets. I tried to use the Konmari method for the first time not too long ago, as you might remember from my blog post on the subject, but quickly found myself falling back into bad habits again once the school year started getting busy (and as I began to adopt new articles of clothing for the new seasons). So, this summer, I'm making it my goal to donate and sell all the old items in my closet and bedroom as I go through them Konmari style. Not only do I want to cut back on clutter, but I also want to pare down my possessions before I graduate from college and move in with my boyfriend in May 2019. (The plights of shared closet space - am I right or amirite?)

Add copper accents.

As I mentioned above, copper accents are an essential part of my dream aesthetic for my new, more "adult" bedroom in 2018-19. So, obviously, I've already started shopping around on Amazon for accents I want to add to my aesthetic in this upcoming school year. Namely, I'm excited for copper wire storage bins for things like blankets and towels; copper drying racks and sponge-holders for my sink and copper picture frames to decorate my desk and walls. Bonus points for geometric/crosshatched patterns like the one pictured above! 

Buy a storage ottoman.

One thing that I think sets adult bedrooms apart from college students' or teenagers' rooms is their clever use of hidden storage space - and, since one of my major goals for the 2018-19 school year is to keep my space organized, I love the idea of having an ottoman that doubles as storage. When a guest looks at a piece of furniture like this, he or she would never guess that there are textbooks, blankets or all manner of knick-knacks hidden inside - but to me, that is the beauty of it, and that's why I love storage ottomans so much. Catch me scoping them out on Amazon until my next paycheck arrives....


Explore Cleveland's food scene.

I have several trips scheduled for this summer (which is a HUGE change from my years and years of stagnant summers), but one of the trips I'm most excited for is visiting David on his birthday this July. (In case you aren't following me on Instagram and haven't heard my mushy rants yet, David is my long-distance boyfriend from Ohio who's busy studying to become a doctor. Sorry, ladies, he's taken!) Anyways, we've been making a list for the past couple of weeks of all the restaurants we want to scope out in Cleveland over my next year of visits, and I'm super excited to get a head start on exploring the food scene with him this summer. Follow me @haleymarieblog for all the food porn pics starting July 27, 2018! I'm counting down the days already :) 

Drink a German pint in Munich.

My second trip this summer? Verona, Italy! But first stop is Munich, Germany, where I'll have a 12-hour layover to explore the city. Being a total foodie, I'm obviously more hyped for the food and drink more than any other part of this trip - and number one on my list is to enjoy a pint of German beer in Munich, since I'll (finally) be legal abroad! (That, and a plate of spaetzle, which are traditional German egg noodles/dumplings best enjoyed with butter and bacon...mmm, I can feel my arteries clogging already....)

Wander cathedrals, castles and palaces.

Another must on my German to-do list is exploring all the beautiful architecture Munich has to offer. If you haven't seen pictures of St. Peter's Church or Nymphenberg Palace, look them up and you'll see what I mean! I can't wait to not only take gorgeous photos in these beautiful locales, but also soak up the feeling of being surrounded by so much beauty and art. There's nothing quite like wandering, especially when the sights are as gorgeous as these! 

Visit Juliet's balcony in Verona.

Next stop on my European world tour? Fair Verona, Italy, where Shakespeare's famous play (you know the one) took place. The balcony that inspired it all is located in Verona, and it's one of the first places I hope to visit when my plane from Munich lands in the little town. Keep an eye on my Instagram this late August and you might just catch me snap a pic! Caption: "Wherefore art thou, Romeo?"

Leave a note on the Wall of Love.

Verona is a city of romance - so what better sight to see than the famous Wall of Love? Romeo and Juliet's Wall of Love is a place where lovers leave notes to their beloved taped to the wall (pictured above). One of the items I hope to check off my travel bucket list when I'm there is writing one of those very letters. I can't wait for my words to become part of this living work of art - but for surprise's sake, I won't tell what I'm going to write just yet ;) 

Enjoy an espresso in an Italian cafe.

Fun fact: my grandma and grandpa told me that in Italy, if you drink your coffee standing up as opposed to sitting down, you'll actually get charged less. (Who knew, right?) Regardless, I'm still making it a goal of mine to sit down in an Italian cafe - and pay the extra dough - to enjoy the ambience of sipping a cappuccino on a quiet summer day. It might seem like a silly goal to some, but for the coffee-addicted like me, you can see why I'm prioritizing this during my time in Italia.

Treat myself to a wine and pasta dinner.

Last but not least, what better way to celebrate being in Italy than with a big plate of pappardelle and a tall glass of roscato? I plan to treat myself to at least one fancy dinner during my week in Verona, to celebrate myself and how far I've come. Because #selfcare is important, ladies! (And wine and pasta totally qualify as self-care in my book.)

College & Career

Achieve a 3.6 GPA in my summer classes.

My target GPA for the next four semesters (between two summer sessions and two normal semesters...then graduation, baby!) is a 3.6. After a rocky semester following a monthlong bout of penicillin-resistant strep (don't ask...), I ended last spring with a 2.8 semester GPA and a 3.4 cumulative GPA. If I want to get into my dream law school - aka Moritz College of Law at the Ohio State University - and earn a full tuition scholarship, I need to bring that up to at least a 3.6. As Type A as this probably makes me sound, I'm committed to working hard all summer long to make my long-term dream of becoming a lawyer and children's advocate come true - and if that means studying my ass off, then so be it! 

Register and study for my LSATs. 

Along those same lines, I want to take the September 8th LSAT. Even though I probably won't start law school until 2020 (whether that means deferring admission this year or applying next year), I want to start getting myself acquainted with the test so I can get at least a 165 out of 180 when I apply to Moritz. Lately, my life has been all LSAC prep books, practice tests and flashcards, all the time - but I know it will be worth it when I get my LSAT scores back and see that 165 or 170 staring back at me.

Dress professionally for class.

It's my opinion that you should always dress for the job you want, not the job you have - and seeing as my job is "student" right now and I want to be a lawyer, I figure I should probably step up my game a little bit this summer by dressing to impress! To me, wearing a professional outfit to class shows your professors you're committed and take your studies seriously - in fact, in grad schools, dressing up is often required. So, it's my goal to start treating my schoolwork like my job (because it is, at least for the time being) and dressing professionally when I walk into class. Sorry in advance to all my BU sweatshirts and sweatpants...

Content & Creativity


Land a beauty partnership.

I strive to take my blogging seriously - and sometimes that means accepting sponsorship deals. I've done plenty of sponsorships in the past, but since I've gotten back to school, it's been a long time since I've partnered with a brand I love to bring you awesome sponsored content. This spring, I've had my eye on a bunch of beauty companies who are popular on Instagram. I won't reveal their names, just in case I do end up partnering with them in the future - but just know that sponsored beauty content is definitely on the Haley Marie Blog horizon for Summer 2018 ;)

Learn to hand-letter with brush pens.

Staying creative is just as important to me as keeping up with my studies, as it's a major form of self-care and de-stressing in my life. One thing I've been wanting to do for a long time now is learn to hand-letter - and while I've tried my hand at it with some of my favorite products (like Coptic sketch markers and Stabilo fineliners), what I really want is a set of watercolor brush pens that I can start using to make calligraphy. I was inspired by a girl at my school who started an Instagram account called @calligraphybymargo showing off her amazing designs - so if you get the chance, you should definitely follow her and thank her for the creative inspo! 

Update my bullet journal for Summer 2018.

Last but not least, I have been bullet journaling on-and-off for close to two years now, but I've never actually gotten in a consistent habit of it that's lasted more than a few weeks. I want Summer 2018 to finally be the semester that changes! So, my goal is to upgrade by #bujo layout for the Summer 2018 semester and start using my bullet journal to keep up with all my schoolwork, goals, hopes and dreams for the 2018-19 school year.

As a reward for to download your free goal-setting printable!

What's your goal for Summer 2018? Tweet me it @haleymarieblog so we can hold each other accountable!

Monday, May 14, 2018

25 Apps That Helped Me Get My Shit Together

Hello, beautiful! As many of you know, I'm obsessed with apps - I must download a new one at least every other week. (In case you missed it, click here to check out my list of the best apps for college students.)

Anyways, it's been awhile since I wrote a post here on Haley Marie Blog about my app obsession. So, in the spirit of getting ready for my first session of classes for Summer 2018, I decided to throw together this post on all the apps that have helped me get my shit together in time for the upcoming semester.

Between spring cleaning, money makeovers and study sessions, these apps have helped me tackle every step of my to-do list. From productivity-boosting tools to healthy living companions, these apps (which are mostly free!) will help you achieve the life of your dreams in a flash.

So, without further ado, here's my list of 25 apps that helped me get my shit together - I hope they help you get healthy, happy and organized, too!

1. Google Drive

An old standby for keeping everything you need in one convenient place. I especially like to upload photos and documents at work when I know I'm going to need them remotely from home later.

2. iScanner

This app will turn any photographed document into a scanned PDF. It's 100% worth the upgrade to the paid version for unlimited pages and the ability to email docs to yourself.

3. GroupMe

The easiest app for creating group messages between people who don't all have iPhones. I use this in my position with the Boston University Panhellenic Council and think it's honestly a game changer.

4. Evernote

Much like Google Drive, Evernote allows me to create notebooks and sync my writing across devices. I find it especially helpful when I need to take notes at a meeting and refer back to them on-the-go.

5. My Study Life

This app saves my life at least once a semester. Keep all of your due dates, exam dates and class schedules in one convenient, color-coded place.

6. StudyBreak

Ever worry that you're not being productive when trying to study? Stop clicking away to play Kim K Hollywood and start focusing with this handy Pomodoro timer that gives you warning notifications whenever you get distracted by your phone.

7. Duolingo

If you want to learn a new language, Duolingo is hands-down the best free app out there. It offers lessons, challenges and virtual clubs for language learners to help you master your second tongue in no time.

8. Quizlet

Chances are, if you're in college, you already know all about Quizlet's amazing flashcard features. However, I highly recommend downloading the app to carry your study materials wherever you go.

9. Apple News

IMHO, no app has ever come close to replacing the classic Apple News. Apple News allows you to follow only the topics and publications that interest you. Goodbye, FOX News!

10. Countable

In this day and age, it's more important to know how your representatives are voting than ever before. Keep up with Congress using the Countable app, and easily send your opinion or call your senator when an issue catches your eye.

11. Simple

After I got tired of big banks charging me even bigger fees, I switched to Simple, an online checking and savings service that doesn't charge overdraft fees on any of your accounts. Simple lets you know how much of your money is safe to spend, so you can finally kiss $0 account balances goodbye.

12. Stash

Investing is as easy as depositing $5 with the Stash app. Simply set up automatic weekly or monthly purchases of shares of stocks that interest you to start making bank fast.

13. GoodBudget

GoodBudget offers a virtual alternative to the envelope system of budgeting. Fill your "envelopes" with cash each month and input your transactions to easily keep track of your budget.

14. Studio Tone It Up

Studio Tone It Up offers my favorite live and pre-recorded workouts from my girls K&K. I love keeping up with Karena and Katrina in-app - it makes exercising fun!

15. Nutritrack

For fans of the old Sustainabody app, Nutritrack is its new-and-improved cousin. Instead of helping you count calories and focus on weight loss, its focus is on macro- and micronutrients, so you can make sure you're getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

16. Stigma

If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you know how unpredictable your moods can get. Stigma helps me keep track of my anxiety patterns so I know when to worry about relapses, change my medication or talk to my therapist.

17. Calm

As far as I'm concerned, Calm is the best free meditation app out there! IMHO, nothing else comes close to its rainstorm noises or simple meditation timers for squeezing a few precious moments of R&R into your day.

18. 3 Good Things

You might have heard that maintaining a regular gratitude practice will make you a healthier, happier person. Now, you can carry your gratitude journal wherever you go and add your three good things for the day whenever inspiration strikes.

19. Zocdoc

Anyone who's needed to book a last-minute doctor's appointment knows what a disaster dealing with nurses can be. That's where Zocdoc comes in: it lets you easily schedule same-day doctor's appointments in your health insurance network, for half the wait and half the cost.

20. Spot On

As a proud Planned Parenthood patient, nothing makes me happier than tracking my cycle in the Spot On app. Not only does it allow me to easily plan for my period, but it also comes with fun condom and dinosaur emojis in the Apple keyboard. Yasssss, please!

21. Iodine

Thinking about switching medications? Iodine is the easiest way to compare costs, side effects and efficacy across different brands. As someone on antidepressants, I can honestly say I've turned to Iodine more than once for advice - and it's always worked!

22. Cladwell

Say goodbye to mornings spent rummaging through the closet not knowing what to wear. Thanks to Cladwell's enormous dictionary of clothing, you can easily add the items in your wardrobe and generate outfits - and even capsules - at the touch of a button.

23. Konmari

That's right: everyone's favorite cleaning sensation now has her very own app! It's even useful, giving you checklists to walk you through the process of Konmari step by intimidating step.

24. Libby

If you have a library card, then you need to download Libby. Libby, an AI bot, helps you borrow thousands of e-books from your local lib and download them straight to your e-reader or even your phone.

25. Reading List

Last but not least, one of my resolutions for 2018 was to read more books for pleasure - and nothing has helped me achieve that quite like Reading List. Reading List keeps track of everything from the books you're currently reading to everything you want to read next, so you'll never forget another title or author again.

What's your favorite app for staying organized and getting productive? LMK in the comments below or @haleymarieblog on social media!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

5 Things I Wish I Learned in Sex Ed

Hello, beautiful! Today's post is going to be a bit different from others I've written on Haley Marie Blog in the past, but it's something I'm extremely passionate about: body- and sex-positivity.

Like many of you here in the United States, I didn't have sex ed growing up. My sex ed experience consisted of a 30-minute video in health class (known dauntingly as "The Video") that we watched when I was ten. Supposedly, The Video was supposed to cover all the nitty gritty details of sex - but in the end, all I got from it was that girls get their periods every month as long as they don't get pregnant.

Growing up, you wouldn't believe the effect this had on my self-esteem. When I first became sexually active with a partner (around the age of 15 or 16), I barely knew what a guy's penis looked like, let alone my own vagina. At 15, I went on the pill for the first time, and my mom - whom, don't get me wrong, I love to pieces - was annoyed that I hadn't asked for her permission before starting to take birth control.

And here's the real kicker: at 17, when I lost my virginity to my long-time boyfriend, I had to Google how to use a condom. Let's take a brief moment of silence to let that sink in for dramatic effect.

[Insert moment of silence here.]

Now that I've admitted all of that embarrassing information publicly on the web, hopefully you can feel a bit better about your own relationship with sex and your own sexual education growing up. More importantly, I hope you still have questions about sex and your own sexuality, and will never consider yourself "done" learning about how to have a healthy and satisfying sex life.

So, in the spirit of sexual education, today's post is all about five things I wish I learned in sex ed (if I'd had sex ed) that I had to figure out by my own devices. Not only will I be sharing the funny stories of how I learned these things not-quite-by-the-book, but I will also be giving you the scientifically-backed information you need to know (complete with links to external resources!). Consider this post the condensed sex ed course you never knew you needed!

1. That the pill is not the only form of birth control.

I've gone into great detail about my negative experiences with the pill on my blog (click here to read why I quit the pill) but I'll briefly recap for those of you who missed it: when I was 15, I went on hormonal birth control pills, and they pretty much ruined my life. Like, we're talking worsened depression, vaginal infections and - wait for it - dyspareunia (which is pretty much a fancy medicalized term for pain with sex). 

Don't get me wrong: I'm not telling you my horror story with the pill to suggest that there's anything wrong with oral contraceptives. After all, there's a reason why the pill is still so gosh darn popular! For women whose bodies respond well to the birth control, it's easy and convenient with minimal side effects - not to mention cheap. But it's also important to be aware of all your options, especially when you're receiving information about your birth control options for the first time.

Doctors are quick to prescribe the pill to teen girls who want protection against pregnancy, or relief from a slew of other hormonal symptoms ranging from cystic acne to killer cramps. However, there's also the shot, the ring, the patch, the implant and the IUD, among many other hormonal and non-hormonal methods of preventing pregnancy. 

Your takeaway...

Planned Parenthood has a handy page here comparing all the different forms of birth control you can try. You can also take their quiz to help you determine which form of birth control is the best option for you. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't referred to this more than a few times when making a decision about what birth control to go on next. Let's just add this to the laundry list of reasons why girls need Planned Parenthood in their lives!

If I could say one thing to doctors everywhere about hormonal contraception, it would be this: make sure your girls are informed. Give them all the information they need about all of their options, and help them make an educated decision about which birth control method is right for them. Don't just stick them on the pill because it's easy, cheap and convenient when it might not be the best thing for a girl or her body. 

Most importantly, let's allow girls to decide what's best for them and their bodies - not parents, nurses, doctors, church leaders or politicians. #amen

2. That your vagina is a self-cleaning oven.

I'm just going to come out and say it: I like my vagina! For years, I've felt pressure to change my sex organs; to make them into something they're not. But when you're constantly trimming pubic hair, washing your vagina with scented soaps and perfuming them with special sprays, it takes a toll on the healthy bacteria that help keep vaginal infections in check.

As women, I think we feel self-conscious about our vaginas because we're taught that they're "gross." After all, they're wet, sticky, slimy, smelly and, at times, downright disgusting. (If you've ever had a yeast infection, you know what I one wants their discharge compared to cottage cheese, ever!) But all the grooming and fussing about we do to make them less sticky, slimy and smelly isn't doing our vaginal health any good, either! 

Lots of women groom "down there" not for themselves, but for the men and women they're having sex with (whether that's vaginal, oral or any other kind of sex, it's sex just the same). But just remember: whether or not you want to shave, spray or soap up your vagina is your choice, and no one else's. 

Your takeaway...

It's usually best to leave your vagina alone and let it do its thing. Because soaps, sprays and douches can upset the healthy balance of bacteria that live down there, it's best not to use any products that contain irritating ingredients such as glycerin (which yeast love to feed off of) or fragrances. (Side note, but this applies to sexual lubricants, too!) 

If you do feel the need to use soap or other products to keep your vagina clean - which, if you do, is hopefully because you want to and not because your partner wants you to - I recommend using either unscented hypoallergenic soap or a mild cleanser formulated specially by gynecologists. (The Summer's Eve Simply Sensitive wash for sensitive skin is a personal favorite of mine - and while it does contain small amounts of fragrance, it's 100% OB/GYN approved.)

And, last but not least, when it comes to grooming, the big question is often "to shave or not to shave?" Nowadays, it's just as common not to shave as it is to shave (or wax, if that's your thing) - so don't feel pressure to go hairless if that's not your style! However, if you do choose to shave, make sure you use a sharp razor (no rust allowed!), lots of (fragrance-free) shaving cream and, of course, patience.

3. That it's okay to ask questions about sex.

In my parents' defense, I was never told that it wasn't okay to have sex, or that I shouldn't be having sex at a certain age. We just never talked about it, period. I didn't think this had much of an effect on my attitude toward sex until I actually started having it - at which point I realized I knew pretty much nothing about sex, and had never really given much thought to whether or not I thought I was ready for it. 

At one point in high school, I remember pointing out to my mom that she'd never given me "The Talk," to which she replied that she assumed I already knew everything I needed to know. But I can definitely say with some certainty that not talking about sex affected me more than she probably intended it to. Not talking about sex certainly didn't stop me from having it, or from having questions, but it did stop me from feeling like I had a reliable source of answers to all my burning questions about sex.

If I had only asked my mom the answers to questions I wanted to know, she probably would have answered - but at 17, what girl knows that it's okay to have (and ask) your parents questions about sex? At 17, when I lost my virginity, my main concern was hiding from my parents that I was having sex, and my secondary concern was avoiding pregnancy. Finding out answers to questions like "why does this position feel uncomfortable?" or "do I really need to pee every time I have sex?" (short answer to the latter: YES!) just wasn't a priority for me - but looking back, I really wish I'd asked my mom questions like that when I still had the chance. 

Your takeaway....

IMHO, if you talk to your parents openly about sex when you're young - ideally before you actually start having it - you'll reduce the amount of sexual stigma and shame you feel down the line. So, whether you've been having sex for three years or haven't had sex at all, if you have a burning question about sex, I recommend asking the real expert - aka your mom! 

Of course, many of us either don't feel comfortable seeking information from our parents, or know that our parents would disapprove of us having sex in the first place (whether because of religious, political or god-knows-what-kind-of reasons). And I can totally respect that. Sadly, not all of us are lucky enough to have that kind of relationship with our moms and dads.

In that case, I've compiled a handy list of reliable places where I got info about sex, sexuality and everything you could possibly want to know about the two as a teen. You're welcome for saving you from the awkward search history results....
  • Planned Parenthood. Everything you ever wanted to know about birth control, STD prevention and free women's health services in your area.
  • Bedsider.  A free resource aimed at young adults that has answers to all your burning questions about birth control, STDs, sexual pleasure and more.
  • Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski. THIS BOOK SHOULD BE MANDATORY IN SCHOOLS! It's basically Sex Ed 101 for women trying to unlearn sexual shame, stigma or trauma, whether it's because of slut shaming, body confidence, sexual assault or more.
  • OMG Yes. Learn to orgasm a thousand different ways with this Emma Watson-approved owner's manual for your clitoris. (It's a paid resource, but once you buy it, you've got access for life...and $40 is definitely worth a lifetime of orgasms.)
  • Bellesa.  Bellesa describes itself as "female-friendly HD porn." If you're tired of watching hulking guys pound it into booby blondes, come here for a refreshing dose of fem-centric porn.
  • Cosmo's Sexy Sutra. Because why have sex in boring ol' missionary when you could be doing it a thousand different ways instead?

4. That having more partners does not equal an STI.

STIs are a public health epidemic - and I'm not just being dramatic! So, my question to you is, if the only people getting STDs were the ones with dozens of partners, how come we're still seeing such high rates of transmission in the United States?

Perceived sexual promiscuity and STI contraction are not related. A person can have had sex with over a hundred people - but that's no guarantee that you're going to get an STI from them, just like only having sex with one partner isn't a protection against getting STIs. 

Sure, having sex with fewer partners definitely decreases your risk for STIs. (Not to mention that yes, unfortunately abstinence is the only 100%-effective form of protection against STIs and pregnancy.) But as long as you practice safe sex every single time - no ifs, ands or buts about it - you could have sex with as many people as you wanted with minimal risk of contracting STIs.

Your takeaway...

So, now you know the cold, hard truth about STI transmission, which can only mean one thing: no more slut shaming! Having lots of partners does not necessarily mean a person is carrying an STI - just like having a handful of partners doesn't guarantee that a person is STI-free. 

That being said, it's still important - nay, essential - to understand how STIs spread, and how we can best prevent their transmission. The number one rule to follow? Always, always use a condom (or dental dam)! Click here to check out my personal favorite eco-friendly brand of latex condoms - you're welcome ;) 

If you're still craving more information, Scarleteen has a great article that goes into greater detail about how you can prevent the spread of STIs. Additionally, if you're skeptical or nervous about asking your partner to use a condom, you might want to check out this great read from Cosmo about how to make using condoms way sexier....

....oh, and don't forget this handy guide from the CDC to cutting a latex condom into a dental dam. If you really wanna do humanity a favor, bookmark and send this to everyone you know. (You can thank me later.)

5. That masturbation is normal (and healthy!).

Last but not least comes the taboo no one wants to talk about (ha ha, "comes," get it?): masturbation. We all know that guys do it, and treat it as one of those non-negotiable "boys will be boys" facts - but for some reason, when it comes to women and masturbation, society suddenly goes silent on the topic altogether.

When I discovered masturbation as a teenager, I was ashamed, scared, curious and aroused all at the same time. Like most of you, I wasn't sure if what I was doing was normal, right or unhealthy, or if every girl's body worked the same way as mine. And when I had my first orgasm from it, I remember feeling confused and let down by the odd mixture of pleasure and shame I felt alone in my bedroom.

Back then, I wish someone would have told me that not only is masturbation healthy and normal, but so were all the mixed feelings I was having about it, too! Of course, there should be no shame in women's sexual pleasure - but it's normal and even common to feel the whole range of emotions when it comes to your body, your orgasm and your way of getting off.

Your Takeaway...

The way I see it, masturbation is critical to a healthy and happy sex life. Ideally, young women should start exploring their own bodies long before they're ready to allow a partner near their most intimate parts. Masturbating helps you get a feel for what your turn ons and turn offs are, without the added risks of pregnancy, STIs and your partner's emotions to stress you out. Not to mention, when you know what makes you feel good, it's much easier to show/explain to a partner how they can help you orgasm as well! 

So, let's address the elephant in the room, shall we? How exactly does one masturbate? Every girl's body is different, but there are a few surefire tips and tricks to help you cross the finish line (so to speak). Namely....
  • Get in the mood. First thing's first: don't masturbate when you're sad, stressed, angry or downright exhausted. Your brain is your largest sex organ - so before you get down with yourself, make sure to get yourself in the mood! Whether it's lighting some candles, dimming the lights, cozying up in bed or watching/reading some scandalous pornography, setting the scene for some hot solo sex will help you "frame" your masturbation experience in the kind of contexts that get you going - and, alternatively, avoid stressful situations that can kill the mood in a flash.
  • Find your clitoris. In case you haven't heard, your clitoris is that bean-shaped thing at the top of your vulva (note: vulva, not vagina!). It's home to thousands of teeny nerve endings that, when stimulated, are responsible for that wave of pleasure you feel as you orgasm. There are many ways to stimulate your clit, but for beginners, I recommend staying on top of the clitoral hood (aka that little flap of skin covering the sensitive part of your clit). Of course, some women find that direct stimulation is way too intense, yet others love it hard and fast - so do a little experimentation next time you get some alone time and find out what works best for you! 
  • You've got other body parts, use them! Though most women can only orgasm from clitoral stimulation, masturbating shouldn't be all clitoris, all the time. If it were your partner touching you, you'd want them to show you a little TLC - so why jackhammer out an orgasm when you could take your sweet time exploring instead? Just like when you're having sex with a partner, there are so many fun and interesting places you can touch when having solo sex, too. Try gently caressing your inner thigh, playing with your nipples or any other kind of touch that feels good to you...and once you find what you like, remember it so you can communicate it to your partner later.
  • Invest in a sex toy. After masturbating with your fingers for awhile, you might find yourself getting curious about other ways of getting off (or suffering from a wicked hand cramp). That's a good time to invest in your first vibe! You can head to any local sex shop if you feel comfortable - or buy online from somewhere like Amazon or Adam & Eve that sells toys in discreet packaging. See below for some personal recommendations:
Finally, it's important to remember that orgasm should never be the goal during masturbation (or any sexual activity for that matter). In other words, don't go into masturbation looking to "achieve" anything. It's a nice bonus if it happens, but ultimately, your focus should be on feeling good, whether that's by yourself or with a partner (or partners - to each her own!). So, don't stress yourself out over whether or not you think you'll orgasm and instead focus on what feels right to you - that's right, you and you alone! 

What's one thing you wished you learned in sex ed? LMK in the comments below or @haleymarieblog for a like/RT!