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With all the great articles being written and published every single day, how do you know which ones are worth your time? Fortunately, you have us to comb through and pull out the most interesting tidbits of the week. And here they are! 

The beleaguered field of legal education suffers another body blow in this fascinating Bloomberg article. The graphics clearly show that law students with very little chance of securing high-paying jobs wind up paying more for their degrees than the more desirable high-LSAT students.  If you have any intention of going to law school, get that LSAT up.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-01-21/are-you-paying-too-much-for-law-school-#r=hpt-fs

New Jersey will be getting its first private medical school, and Seton Hall will be its location. This story has continued to develop over the past few weeks, and so far everybody seems to be on board. Of course, this is still many years away, but for those of you who will not be applying to medical school for another few years, this is worth keeping your eye on.

http://www.thesetonian.com/news/view.php/859094/Seton-Hall-community-reacts-to-proposed-

Senators Lamar Alexander and Michael Bennet have proposed a re-instatement of the year-round Pell Grant for students who want to finish college in three years instead of four.  For those of you who continue to struggle with how to finance your degrees, this should be something you get out there and support. Perfect or not, is one more way for you to get your education financed.

http://www.rollcall.com/news/the_case_for_year_round_pell_grants_commentary-239648-1.html

A fascinating piece about the day we lost sight of what “Liberal Arts” meant.  We at Forster-Thomas work on the practical side of admissions for the most part, helping people get into their dream schools, but we do enjoy musing about the overall direction of higher education from time to time.  This article explores in depth how the pursuit of the almighty dollar may have limited the potential of a college education in recent years.

http://chronicle.com/article/The-Day-the-Purpose-of-College/151359/

As always, if you have questions about your upcoming college or graduate school application, let us know – we’ll be happy to help!


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Just because you can’t go to work doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time today! For those of you who still have Internet service, we decided to give you a few helpful suggestions on how to make the time fly by!

Rock out to All About That Bass while weeping over your round one rejection emails.

Read even more reasons not to go to law school this year and feel good about your life choices.

Catch up on Transparent.

Practice your acceptance speech for your (anticipated) victory at the Lean Startup Challenge this year.

Teach yourself to make voodoo dolls in preparation for the round two rejection emails.

Get creeped out about the fact that vampirism actually works.

Obsessively troll Internet forums trying to figure out if anyone has heard back from Stanford yet. (No link required, you know where those forums are)

Follow Elon Musk on Twitter.

Watch endlessly recycled footage of crews deicing plane wings on the news.

Be happy it’s 2015 and snowstorms are not actually that big a deal anymore.

Happy Winter! from the Forster-Thomas Team


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What can I say? We're psychic.  The day after we post a blog about the importance of problem-solving and creative thinking to graduate schools and employers, Rotman School of Management in Toronto has put their money where their mouth is by offering a free ride to the student who can untangle a complicated situation using basic business principles.

The Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto is Canada's #1 business school. Rotman ranks among the Top 10 in North America. In 2013, Poets and Quants awarded former Rotman dean Roger Martin as Dean of the Year.  What does all this mean?  Long story short, an MBA from Rotman is about as good as it gets – – except, of course, a free MBA! The topic details are up on Rotman's website today, so you can begin preparing immediately. They even provided videos of winners in previous years for you to review.  The rest of the deadlines and awards are listed below. 

Happy hunting!  And if you want a few professional pointers on how to ace this kind of problem-solving challenge, drop us a line and we'd be happy to advise you.

Key Dates

January 23: Topic Details Distributed – Stay tuned to the Rotman Problem Solving Challenge website for details on how to submit your answer the question!! 
February 6: Registration Deadline (Written Submissions Due) 
February 20: Presentation Invitations Sent to Top 100 Submissions 
March 28-29: Problem Solving Challenge 

Awards


The top individuals with the highest cumulative scores will receive the following: 
First overall wins a full tuition scholarship valued at $90,000
Second overall wins a $60,000 scholarship
Third overall wins a $40,000 scholarship
Fourth overall wins a $30,000 scholarship
Fifth overall wins a $20,000 scholarship
Additionally:
Top individual presentation wins a $10,000 scholarship
Top individual written submission wins a $5,000 scholarship
The top groups with the highest group scores will receive the following:
First place group wins $5,000 per team member
Second place group wins $3,000 per team member
Third place group wins $2,000 per team member
Fourth place group wins $1,000 per team member


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It has become a truism in contemporary America that college students believe they are more prepared for the workplace than they actually are, according to their employers.  Whatever you might feel about vanishing on-the-job training and outrageous demands for entry-level work experience, the fact is that employers, and not students, decide where to set the bar.  Therefore, it is extremely important, both for getting your first job and for getting into graduate school, that you demonstrate a track record of the qualities employers want to see.  Here are a few big ones.

Problem Solving.  Most college courses expect you to listen to a limited range of problems and apply prescribed solutions to them.  The working environment, as students quickly find out, is an altogether different animal.  Tasks are open-ended, not self-contained.  Measurements of job performance are unscientific and qualitative — does your boss ‘feel’ like you did a good job?  When applying to graduate school, it is very important to use your essays, particularly those with a leadership or accomplishment angle, to demonstrate your ability to proactively find solutions to entrenched problems.  No one is going to be impressed by you doing precisely what was expected of you.  They will, however, be impressed by you seeing a problem, taking the initiative and solving it, despite whatever obstacles stood in your way.

Perseverance.  In college, if you’re not doing well in a class, you can appeal to a professor, leave a class and not bother with it, or find any number of other ways around the problem.  In the workforce, when you’re presented with a problem, walking away is not an option.  They expect solutions.  In your essays, be prepared to write candidly about mistakes you have made, failed approaches to solving a particular problem.  Then explain how you were able to adapt and ultimately overcome the difficulties you faced.

Comfort with people. 
Another thing conventional colleges do not train students in is how to most effectively collaborate with peers, bosses and employees — since the approach for each is different.  Some students are naturally thoughtful, inquisitve and courteous, but others, especially those with STEM backgrounds, may not be.  Between college and graduate school, it is expected that you will pick up on some of the basics of ‘getting along’ with others.  To be a strong leader, of course, you need to be able to motivate others in pursuit of a shared goal.  This is another vital aspect of any great leadership essay.

Of course, these are only a few of the many qualities employers and graduate schools look for in students, but they are some of the most important.  So start thinking about how you can adapt your leadership essays to highlight one or more of these qualities!

Got more questions?  Email us!


Friday, January 16, 2015

How to get a Judicial Clerkship

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Many law students aspire to become judicial clerks. Aside from the prestige, it can lead to great career opportunities. But clerkships are extremely competitive.  How can you maximize your chances of success? Read on and find out.

The clerkship hiring process is cyclical. Currently, according to the experts, it is in a state of non-regulation.  Practically, that means that the process of applying for clerkships is much less predictable than it was 10 or 20 years ago. That said, the judiciary has not suffered from the same shrinkage of positions that top law firms have, so clerkships are still very desirable. What does this all add up to? A highly competitive landscape for clerkships, that’s what. So if you’re planning to apply to law school, what can you do to make yourself more attractive to judges and more likely to land a clerkship before graduating?

Your preparation begins long before you apply.  Clerkships take into account all of your previous work experience, including internships and jobs.  If you have prior experience in government or in clerical work, that helps.  If you have demonstrated an interest in administrative or criminal law, that helps too. If you are still in school when you apply, include any future positions you have accepted (e.g., “prospective summer associate”).  If you have already graduated from law school and have a job, that can actually be an advantage! Incoming law clerks who have prior federal experience may be eligible to match their highest previous rate of federal pay within the grade for which they qualify. 

Note that not all classes are created equal. Although it’s very important to have strong grades overall if you plan to land a clerkship, it is extra important to have strong grades in classes taught by professors with ties to judges.

Be flexible in where you apply, and when. Many students struggle to find a clerkship because they are too restrictive in where they are willing to live. Be as flexible as possible when it comes to location; there are judges everywhere in America. If you cannot be flexible with your location, for example for family reasons, then at least offer flexibility in terms of timing. One of the unusual things about clerkships is that they hire years in advance, so you might be applying this year for a job three years from now. The more you can hold open future years, the more likely you are to get a position. By the way, this does not just apply to when you are in law school. Even after you graduate, you have anywhere from 3 to 5 years to continue applying to clerkships, which means your flexibility may extend even further than that. Think about it!

Make sure your applications are perfect. There are many things you’re not going to be able to control by the time you’re actually applying: your grades, your work history, your relationships. But there still a lot of things you can control.  Have you checked and double checked for typos? Have you really thought about and personalized your cover letter? People read them! Highlight relevant experience in your resume, particularly if you have more content than fits easily on a single page.

For more info check out these useful posts as well, or contact us.

http://abovethelaw.com/career-files/strategies-for-success-the-quest-for-your-judicial-clerkship/

https://oscar.uscourts.gov/qualifications_salary_benefits


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The common application revolutionized college admissions in the 70s and 80s.  Why can't it do the same to business schools?

Every year, the b-school admissions process makes for a lot of not very jolly holidays here at Forster-Thomas, and this year was no different.  As I tore through the fifth of nine schools with one particular last-minute MBA applicant, she complained how much easier the process was when she was applying to college.  There’s no question that applying to business school, or any graduate school, is a much more complicated and provincial process then the now largely standardized college applications. That isn’t to say that there aren’t a lot of challenges when applying to college; supplementary essays, unusual application or transfer requirements, and school research are three that come to mind. But the fact remains that it is much more practical for a student to apply to 12 colleges than to 12 business schools. So why don’t they get with the 21st century program, so to speak, and offer a common application?

On the surface, it seems like a pretty obvious idea. Although it is far from perfect, most students would agree that compared to the days when you had to write out every application by hand and mail them in to schools across the country, the common app is cheap and convenient. It also saves a bunch of trees – eco-friendly, hooray!  The common app, for all its shortcomings, offers a more level playing field for  students without Ivy-league graduate parents or robust school guidance systems. 

And yet, despite the arguments in its favor, a b-school common application is unlikely to ever come into being.  There are both political and practical reasons for this. First, the practical reason. Graduate programs at any top university are incredibly diverse. Among MBAs alone, one has to consider the one-year, the two-year, the JD/MBA, the MPA/MBA, the eMBA, the online MBA, and dozens of others.  What’s more, the offerings evolve every year. As if that wasn’t enough, they all have different requirements, different deadlines, and different volumes of applicants. Even standardizing an application within a school is a challenge; if you decided to do it at the graduate level, which programs would be included and which would be excluded?  Then there’s the related question of accreditation. Should all accredited business schools be included? Only third tier and above? Who gets to make that decision?  There’s also the other elephant in the room, US News Rankings.  Schools don’t know how a common application might affect rankings, and most are not eager to find out.

That leads us into the more salient reason why there is no common app for graduate school; from an admissions officer’s standpoint, it would be self-defeating. Each and every business school likes to believe that it offers a unique educational experience, and they like having complete control over their applications, essays, and other requirements.  It gives them tools to hone and winnow the incoming class to their particular taste.  It also forces the applicants to show genuine interest in the school, and it helps them carve out a niche, or so they feel. It’s not in Olin’s best interest to make it easier for students to apply to Harvard. And it’s not Harvard’s best interest to have students applying to Harvard just because they can.

College admissions and  graduate school admissions are both highly politicized processes. They are likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future. So if you are an applicant or are planning to be one next year, focus on what you can control, and limit the range of schools you are applying to only include schools you’re seriously considering.


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A recent trend in teaching, the flipped classroom offers greater interactivity and a more dynamic classroom experience.  But for international students and those hailing from more complex backgrounds, the system also presents challenges.  How can you shape your application to take advantage of these new challenges?

In 2007, Colorado high school teachers Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams were tired of sick students missing lectures and falling behind in class, so they decided to take advantage of technology to rectify the situation.  They began taping their lectures and posting them online for all their students to see.  The lectures became very popular online, and Bergman and Sams realized that without intending to, they had stumbled on a new form of pedagogy – the flipped classroom

So what exactly is it?  It’s pretty simple.  In a flipped classroom, students spend their class time doing workshops and ‘homework’ and the professor serves as a guide to help them learn.  At home, the students are expected to watch lecture videos and review the baseline material they will need to perform the workshops in the following class.

The advantages of the system are fairly obvious – it makes class time more interactive and increases student engagement, and saves professors from having to repeat the same twenty-five power-points over and over and over again.  But the flipped classroom also makes a unique set of demands on prospective students.  As more and more medical and business schools make use of this teaching method, it’s important for you to understand what kind of student excels in a flipped classroom, so that you can (hopefully) embody those principles in your application!

To be clear, we’re not suggesting you USE any of this terminology in the essay.  But if you are aware of the qualities that make flipped classroom students successful, you should be able to find ways to integrate that naturally into your essays, short answers and interview responses.

Leadership.  Many students from international and conventional American scholastic backgrounds are used to being champion followers.  It’s how they got top marks, how they stood out from their peers, and how they earned praise.  Top American business and medical schools, however, are not looking for that kind of student anymore.  They are looking for a strong follower who has also demonstrated leadership capabilities.

Showing leadership in an essay is not hard – leadership is, simply put, any time you are building consensus or guiding a team in pursuit of a shared vision and overcoming obstacles – but living leadership in a meaningful way is, for some students, a major challenge.  If you are serious about Stanford, Harvard and Columbia, start seeking out leadership opportunities nearby, either at work or with volunteer societies.  Think in terms of group leadership rather than individual leadership.

Initiative.  Success in a flipped classroom comes to the student who is not afraid to carry ideas beyond what the professor initially hands down.  Independent thinking and research serve you well in an environment where you are expected to perform in front of your peers and your professor.

When you are crafting your application, writing your essays and thinking about what you’ve accomplished in your life up to this point, try to find times in your life when you sought out new challenges or invented them.  Look for opportunities you were able to exploit that others missed out on or gave up on.  The more natural initiative you display, the more successful you will be in a flipped classroom.

Teamwork.  In a flipped classroom, all the students learn together, as a unit.  The professor acts as a guide but cannot (and will not) correct every slip-up and error.  Therefore, students must create a collegiate atmosphere, helping one another understand challenging concepts and taking the time to review challenging questions.  In other words, it’s not OK to let someone in your workshop fall behind.  Everybody has to come along for the ride as much as possible.

When writing about teamwork, focus on how you teach.  Explain your method, and describe how you are able to adapt it to different people with different styles of learning.  Talk about why you find it rewarding.  Demonstrate a sustained interest in helping and collaborating with your peers.  It will make you not only a more appealing candidate in the classroom, but also in clubs and overall campus environment.

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Questions about flipped classrooms?  Flip us an email!


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This exceptionally strong medical school has a focus on primary care and draws most of its class from within the state of North Carolina.  In order to better understand its process and supplementary application, read this blog.

School Nickname: UNC
Median MCAT: 32
Median GPA: 3.75

Dean: William L. Roper.  From 1997 until 2004, Dr. Roper was dean of the School of Public Health at UNC.  Before joining UNC in 1997, Dr. Roper was senior vice president of Prudential HealthCare.  He joined Prudential in 1993 as president of the Prudential Center for Health Care Research.  Before coming to Prudential, Dr. Roper was director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), served on the senior White House staff, and was administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration  (responsible for Medicare and Medicaid).  Earlier, he was a White House Fellow.

More about the school: Also read this

The UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine has a special opportunity and responsibility to educate physicians who can help meet the health care needs of our state, the nation and the global community. With a committment to producing outstanding physicians who are well prepared for meeting society's health care needs in the 21st century, they are interested in students who will join them in this mission.

Top Residencies: anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology, emergency medicine, orthopaedic surgery, family practice, pediatrics

Application: More here.

Preference is given to North Carolina residents. Consideration is given to each candidate's motivation, maturity, leadership, integrity, and personal accomplishments, in addition to the scholastic record. Reapplications are compared to those previously submitted.

Students should plan to take the MCAT no later than September prior to the year they are planning for matriculation.   For applicants taking the exam for the current 2015 application cycle, the latest scores we will accept will be from September 18, 2014 - there will be no exceptions. In other words, if you are taking the MCAT exam in October, November or December of 2014 for the first time,  you will not be able to use the scores for the 2015 application cycle at our school.

Prescreening: Our prerequisites must be met from an accredited college or university within the United States or Canada to allow eligibility for verification by AMCAS.

Supplemental applications will typically be sent to qualified out-of-state applicants who meet the following academic criteria: science GPA (or BCPM) of >3.49; cumulative GPA of >3.59 and a total MCAT score of 33 or greater.

Required Courses: full list here.   NO SUBSTITUTIONS ALLOWED.
    •    Eight semester hours of general biology
    •    Eight semester hours of general chemistry
    •    Eight semester hours of organic chemistry
    •    Eight semester hours of general physics, biochemistry strongly recommended
    •    Six semester hours in English, three semester hours in behavioral or social sciences
    •    Advanced Placement (AP) courses are accepted as long as they appear on your official transcript. If you have received AP credit for any of the required science courses, we strongly advise you to consider taking advanced level college courses to enhance your academic preparation for medical school.

Secondary Statement Questions:
*Respond to each prompt in no more than 1-2 paragraphs (150 words total).  Short!  Be extremely efficient in your word counts!  Don’t try to discuss more than one subject in any depth.

Prompt 1: We have all tried something and failed, whether it was something big or something small. Describe a situation or an experience you had when you realized that you were not up to the task, and tell us what life-lessons you learned from this experience.

Strong failure essays focus on owning the failure.  What does that mean?  Pretty simple — it means that rather than shifting blame or making a simple situation complicated, take charge from the very beginning, explaining what you did wrong and describing in detail the negative impact it had on yourself AND on others.  It’s not enough for it to just have been a problem for you.  You have to include the impact on those around you.  At the end, devote fifty words to explaining how you have changed as a result of this experience, citing a specific example when you were faced with a similar situation and succeeded.

Prompt 2: Much of medical school education is based on team-learning. What important activity have you accomplished that required a team approach, what
was your role in the outcome, and what did you learn from it?

This prompt is trying to assess how you operate as part of a team, or possibly leading a team.  The most important thing is to be clear up front about what actually happened, what the situation and the context was, so that the reader will understand the story you’re about to tell.  Once you’ve devoted 20 words to the where, why and what, explain your role rather than generally talking about the ‘team’s work’ — be specific as to who did what, and if you had to draw someone out or get someone to focus on a particular element of the job.  Conclude with 25-30 words explaining what you learned from the experience, with a focus on personal transformation.

Prompt 3: Give an example of how you have made a difference in someone's life whether it is a patient, friend, classmate, or a family member and explain what
this experience taught you about yourself.

The trap in this question is to focus too much on the ‘other guy’ — to make the entire answer about the person you were helping.  Remember the committee wants to learn about YOU — so when you speak about the person you helped, do so in a larger context.  How old were you?  What did you expect out of the relationship going in?  How did things turn out differently than you had anticipated?  Save 25-30 words at the end to discuss what you took away about your own personal growth — be specific, citing something you didn’t have or do before that you do now.

Section G: Research Interests (MD/PhD Applicants Only)
Please list your top 5 areas of research interest below. This list will help us determine which research faculty you should meet if you are invited for an interview.

Section H: Re-applicants (MD and/or MD/PhD Applicants)
Prompt 1: Explain why you have decided to reapply. Please respond in no more than 1-2 paragraphs (150 words total).

Focus on what has changed in your application since the previous year, highlighting things that the committee might have otherwise overlooked, particularly soft skills or informal elected leadership positions.
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Have more questions?  Email us!

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Looking to finally go for that MBA in 2015-2016?  Happy hunting -- here are a few tips on how to handle your big year before your applications.  Photo by Daniel Zimmermann.

So Christmas is over, you got all your presents – hopefully they were good – and now you’re thinking about two things. One, going back to work on Monday, and two, getting ready for this year’s b-school applications if you’re planning to apply in 2015. Now some of you may be thinking, but I’m not even done with 2014-2015 applications!  Fair enough. But the fact is, the type of candidates who will be getting acceptance letters to Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton in October are the same type of candidates who are thinking right now, what should I be doing to strengthen my position before the mid-summer rush of procrastinators hits?

We are so happy you asked. This year, instead of resolving to burn off or bulk up that 15 pounds nobody’s going to notice anyway (did you miss All About that Bass?), or swearing up and down you’ll finally read “This is How You Lose Her” (such a downer!) Forster-Thomas has put together five New Year’s resolutions that are not only good for you, they’re great for your chances of getting into business school to. So read on, and find out what they are!

  1. Up your GMAT.  Some of you may not have taken practice tests yet, and some of you have taken practice tests but not exams.  But for those of you who already have a score, and did not get the 700+, 80th percentile quantitative you were after, resolve this year to improve that score – and not to beat yourself up if you can’t. It isn’t the end of the world … as long as you give yourself the time to adjust.  There are other things you can do to make up for the numbers gap, like taking additional quantitative coursework on the side. As long as you give yourself time. Which is why, your New Year’s resolution number one should be to work on that GMAT.
  2. Create leadership opportunities. A lot of you out there have been making excuses for a long time. Your excuses sounds something like this. “Oh, my job takes up so much of my time and energy, I just haven’t had the chance to take on many extracurricular activities since college!” Well guess what, Mary Jane – those extra hours you spent partying and someone else spent volunteering, or better yet creating volunteer opportunities for others, may well be the difference maker in September. So step one is to stop telling yourself you’re too busy. You’re not. Step two is to think about where you are already involved – are you currently volunteering somewhere on a part-time basis? Is it something you could scale up? Almost every volunteer organization needs good business thinkers. Fundraising, organizational, and logistical challenges abound at most nonprofits. And guess what? You are well-trained to help them with those things. If you don’t currently have any extracurriculars worth mentioning, it’s time to find one. And if you can’t find one, maybe it’s time to create one of your own.
  3. Target your schools. One thing that you can start doing right now while you are still on break is researching what’s out there in terms of b-schools. Yeah, I know you know that Harvard, Booth, Kellogg, and whatever that school is out in California are pretty exciting destinations. But what you know about Vanderbilt, INSEAD and Emory?  And those schools that you’ve got your heart set on -- what do you really know about them, other than their US news ranking? Differentiation is not just for candidates, it’s also for schools. The better you understand what makes your target school special, the more likely you are to get in. So get out there, meet alumni and current students, set up a campus visit when you have free time, and do all the reading you can on useful websites like Bloomberg and Poets and Quants.
  4. Prep your workspace. Nope, not talking about your desk, Milton. Every business school requires at least two recommenders. Some require three. Have you thought about who you’re going to choose? Are you making sure that the work you’re doing for them is really standout? Are you seeking opportunities to lead and make a difference at work?  I hope so, because they’re not going to come to you. You have to find them.  If you are due for a title bump or a promotion, do you have a timetable for when it’s coming? Do you have an exit strategy so that you don’t leave your employers hanging? Although it’s too soon to be having any specific conversations, it’s definitely not too soon to be laying the groundwork for those conversations.
  5. Get some help. Naturally, you have a lot of things on your mind. But when you’re talking about business school, you’re talking about your professional future. What could be more worthy of your time and attention than that? So make sure that you are getting the help you need to understand and prepare for the process. Talk to friends who have been through it.  Discuss your plans with your family and loved ones. And not to toot our own horn, but we do have a pretty awesome Leadership Action Plan, which gives you regular professional coaching months or in some cases years in advance. Talk about a leg up!

Anyway, like any good set of New Year’s resolutions, you’re definitely going to end up shame-binging on Haagen Daas one night thinking about how many of these you DIDN’T get to.  And that’s OK, we forgive you.  But if you pull off a bunch of these New Year’s Resolutions, you might find that your 2015 and all your tomorrows just got a whole lot brighter.