As a graduate student wanting a career in academia, you need good teaching evaluations for your job application packets.  However, you are often thrust into a classroom to teach without any teaching experience or training.  And when you ask people how to be good at teaching, the answer is usually, “experience”.

This is true.  But as a graduate student who has never taught before, you don’t have that!

This post is about how to be thoughtful about your teaching strategies so that your students learn, like you, and give you great evaluations.

6 tips for graduate students to get good teaching evaluations when you have little or no teaching experience | Minted and Printed | for graduate students and graduate teaching assistants

Relate to your students

This is where your experience level is a HUGE asset!  You know, more recently than any professor, how it feels to be a student and how you felt when you took the same course yourself.

Share your experiences with your students.  Explain where you struggled and give them tips on how to succeed in the class.

My students always perk up when I say, “Oh, I remember learning this.  A lot of my classmates (or just me) found it difficult but I’ve come up with a good way to explain it.”  Students love when you are relatable like this.  And it also shows that you care.  And those are the things students mention in teaching evaluations.

Make your students feel comfortable

I always greet my students with a smile.  I also smile throughout the lecture…but that’s just who I am.  And my students always mention it in my teaching evaluations.  They always say that they could tell that I loved the subject (because math is awesome!) and that I was happy to be there.

You can also ask them how they are doing.  Especially before and after class.  Then ask them how they are enjoying the class so far.  If you’ve asked your students what their majors are, you can also incorporate relevant examples throughout your lectures.

I highly recommend a mid-semester survey.  This will tell you how your students really feel.  I like to also ask what they would like to change about class…and actually make some changes.  They love this and will share these things in your teaching evaluations! 

I’ve made a list for you of my mid-semester survey questions for the class that gave me all positive evaluations.  Give them a try and see how they work for you.

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Understand Time

Time goes so much slower than you think when you are writing on the board.  One minute to you feels like 30 seconds to your students.  You have to give them time to absorb what you have written.  Even if it feels like you are just standing in silence for an awkwardly long amount of time.

Note:  Nothing you do is too awkward.  The more awkward the better is my opinion (I’m a mathematician…awkward is our default), as long as you don’t take yourself too seriously.  It makes you more approachable to your students.

Another thing.  It’s important to realize that students have a jam packed academic schedule as well as social engagements.  I’m not saying to give them less work.  But try to seem a little sympathetic.

Group work

In class group work is my favorite.  It gives your students a chance to ask each other questions.  It also forces engagement.  When I get to a problem in the notes that takes just a little more thought to come up with a game plan for solving it, I like to break my students up into groups of 2 or 3, give them a starting point, and let them talk it out and work it out together.

Coming up with strategies on their own helps them remember the process so much more than just watching me do it!  If you would like to learn how to get started with group work, try my free 4-day email course, Group Work for GTAs.  In this course I show you how to set your class up for group work starting on day one of the semester.

Group Work for GTAS | Get good teaching evaluations | Minted and Printed | for graduate students and graduate teaching assistants

Over-prepare for class

Make sure you have prepared more than enough information, notes, and examples for each class.  Use resources other than the class textbook for alternate examples and explanations.

It’s important to actually work the HW problems that will be assigned.  That way you will know exactly what topics and ways of thinking should be discussed in class.

Check for understanding every 3-5 minutes

It’s so easy to get caught up in beautiful mathematics and then you look up 10 minutes later and your whole class either looks lost or has zoned out!

Not good.  I like to check for understanding at every step.  Here’s what I like to ask:

  • “Does that make sense?”
  • “What should we do next?”
  • “What’s the overall goal of the question?”
  • “If you were working on this problem by yourself, where might you have gotten stuck?”
  • “Any ideas on how we should approach this problem?”
  • “Why?”

If you ask these questions, your students will say that you really cared that they understood the material in your teaching evaluations.

Remember, teaching evaluations aren’t everything and you do want to be genuine when you teach.  So just be yourself and try to remember how it felt to be a student.  How would you want your professor to address the class?

I hope that you enjoyed this post!  If you have any other tips or questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.  Also, share this post with other graduate students.  There is an image to pin below to save this post for later!

Make sure that you get a copy of my mid-semester survey questions.


So we’ve learned by now that students can only be engaged during a lecture for maybe 20 minutes at a time.  Therefore it’s important to break up your lecture and include some student engagement.

The easiest way to do this is to stop the lecture and ask your students verbal questions like:

  • What’s the next step?
  • Any ideas on how we should approach this problem?
  • Does this idea look familiar?

However, a lot of the time, your students will respond with blank stares.  This just happened to me on the first day of class.  Maybe it was too early in the morning.  Maybe they were intimidated by the math.  It doesn’t matter what there issue was, I still found a way to get them to answer my questions.  Because, like I told my students, I don’t want to stand up and talk for a full 50 minutes by myself!  They need to be involved too!

I’ve come up with 4 tips on how to get your students to answer questions in class.

A guide for graduate students and graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) to get your students to answer questions and increase student engagement | Minted and Printed | for graduate students and graduate teaching assistants

Make your expectations clear on the first day of class

It’s important to set the tone on the first day of class.  If you expect your students to answer your questions throughout the semester, you must ask them questions on the first day.

It doesn’t even have to be deep or related to the subject of the class at all.  Start with low stakes questions.  Let them ask questions about the syllabus.  Ask them about their previous classes from the same subject.  You can even ask what their major is.  I’ve made a list of questions that you can ask your students on the first day of classes.


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I like to start with an icebreaker activity to get them up and out of their seats to meet each other.  I go more in-depth about this icebreaker in my free e-course about implementing group work as a graduate student.  

After setting the foundation of some type of exchange between you and your students, they will have meet me and each other (if you tried my icebreaker) and loosened up a bit.  Now you can ask them any question and they will be less nervous to answer.

Answer every question seriously

It may be annoying to repeat something that you’ve already explained.  But sometimes students miss it.  Maybe they were writing notes or maybe they just spaced out.  But for some reason they missed it.

When this happens, you should answer the question fully and make sure that your students understand.

This shows that you care about them and want to help them as much as you can.  It also shows that you won’t embarrass your students if they answer something incorrectly.

Students really appreciate that!  It has been mentioned many times in my teacher evaluations that I never make my students feel bad for asking questions and that they can tell that I care about them learning.

Remember, teaching evaluations can be a big part of your job applications if you want a job in academia.

Embrace the awkward silence

Because it will happen.  You will ask a question and no one will answer.  When this happens, the best thing you can do is wait.  And after a significant amount of time has passed (30-45 seconds), if you can tell that they do not know the answer, prompt them.

Ask them a leading question.  You know, one that will lead them to the correct answer without giving it away.  A question that will put them on the right train of thought.

When you ask leading questions, you are training your students to think that way so that they can get themselves to answers to a question (when they are working alone) and don’t know where to begin.

Here’s what happened to me on the first day of my precalculus class, even after we had such a great time getting to know each other:

We were learning about the distance formula and started to work this problem.

Find the set of all points that are 4 units away from the point (2, -3).

I plotted the point on a graph so that they could get a visual.  Then I asked, “any ideas on how to get started?”


So I asked, “can anyone find one point 4 units away?”


So then I chose a random point at least 10 units away and asked, “is this 4 units away?”

Finally, a few people said no.  And then someone said we could add and subtract 4 units from the x and y coordinate.

And then we were well on our way to getting to the answer to that problem.

After we went through all of that my students realized that I would not accept silence as an answer to any of my questions.

Call on students

I don’t really like to put students on the spot to answer questions, especially in a lower level math course because people have real anxieties about math and I don’t want to traumatize them; I want them to love it as much as I do.  At least that’s the goal.

Also, being called on is something I hated as a student and it gave me anxiety!

I like to call on students to ask them how they feel:

  • “How do you feel about this topic?”
  • “Do we need more practice?”
  • “Which part is the most difficult?”
  • “If you were working this on you own, where would you have gotten stuck?”

That last one is my favorite.  It really makes the students look back at the problem to make sure they really understand it.

Extra Tips

Along with those 4 tips, I wanted to give you a few other small things you can do to get your students to answer your questions.

  1. Smile
  2. Look like a nice, approachable person.
  3. Be relatable and tell them about when you learned the topic.

I hope that you enjoyed this post.  Let me know which tips you plan to use in your classroom and please share any other tips you may have in the comments section below.  It could really help other grad students struggling with getting their students to answer their questions.

Feel free to share this post with your friends and pin this image on Pinterest!

A guide for graduate students and graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) to get your students to answer questions and increase student engagement | Minted and Printed | for graduate students and graduate teaching assistants

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is next week?!  It came so fast!  But I know it’s right around the corner because the Amazon Black Friday emails have started rolling in each morning.

It’s so easy to get caught up in holiday deals and steals that seem to start earlier and earlier.

But before you click Add To Cart.  Let’s talk about what all we have accomplished so far.

  1.  We’ve created a list of all of our expenses.  So we know exactly how much money is coming out of our bank accounts and when.
  2. We’ve saved up a pretty decent emergency fund for rainy days.
  3. We’ve created a starter budget to put us on track for our future goals.
  4. We’ve broken that monthly budget into small, manageable, easy to handle weekly budgets.

We’ve done so much for ourselves financially this year!  Let’s not blow it for the opportunity to save 10% on unnecessary material goods.

Of course, I’m not say to forgo Black Friday all together.  I’m just saying, let’s be smart about it!

I’ve created a  guide for all of us to follow to keep ourselves under budget, out of debt, and on track to reach our goals.

How to Responsibly Enjoy Black Friday 

How to responsibly enjoy black friday deals without destroying your finances | Minted and Printed | for grad students and new professionals


Step 1:  Evaluate Your Finances

It’s important to go back and look at your monthly expenses along with your budget.  This step isn’t just to see how much money you can afford to spend on Black Friday.  It also serves to help you determine if you can reduce the money spent in any category.  For example, maybe you decide to skip on going out to eat and reduce other entertainment costs to build up your Black Friday Fund.

Step 2:  Choose a Limit

The second step is to determine how much money you want to spend on Black Friday.  A good question to ask yourself is “How do I feel about $$$ coming out of my bank account at once?”  Yes, I said bank account.  We definitely don’t want to use credit cards for these purchases.

Related Post:  The Millennial’s Guide to Understanding Credit

Step 3:  Research

This step is crucial.  Make sure you scope out the deals beforehand.  Focus is key!  Once you figure out what you want, create a list with all of your most wanted items along with the discounted price and full price of the item.  Seeing both the discounted and full prices can help you determine if the item is worth buying right now.  

Once you finalize your list, make sure that you haven’t gone over your spending limit.

Step 4:  Use Cash

If you are shopping in stores for Black Friday, try withdrawing your budgeted amount in cash.  That way, while shopping, you can be more disciplined.  It’s very hard to keep track of how much you are spending when you are freely swiping your card.  Using cash eliminates the uncertainty.  When the cash is gone, your shopping is done.

Step 5:  Shop with Focus

When you go out Black Friday shopping, take your list and your cash with you.  Don’t stray from the list and don’t go over budget.

*Pro Tip:  This tip is for you if you know that you are an impulse buyer or don’t like to plan every item you get, because that can take the fun out of shopping.  Try making sure that your shopping list doesn’t exceed 75-85% of your budget.  That way you have some fun money that you can spend on whatever you want!

Let me know what you think about these tips!  Have you overspent during Black Friday in the past?

Personally, I think I will opt out of Black Friday shopping.  I now have a Financial Planner and we are working toward diminishing my debt and reaching my financial goals.  And I don’t think that Black Friday shopping will help me get there.

I hope that this post was helpful for you!

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How to Wear Color at the Office?…a fashion post?!  I haven’t posted anything fashion related in quite a while.  Let me tell you, the struggle has been real.  When I leave for school, it’s dark out and by the time I come home, it’s evening and all I want to do is lay on my couch and watch my Hulu shows!  And sadly, the fashion category of Minted & Printed has suffered because of it.

But that’s why you have blog friends!  Today one of my new blog friends, Isabella from The Chic Melange, offered to guest post about how to liven up your work wardrobe by adding a little color.

Also, Isabella has an awesome giveaway happening on her blog right now!

How to Wear Color at the Office

How to wear color at the office | a guest post by Isabella Fuentes at | Minted and Printed | for new professionals and grad students

If you are working for either a professional services industry, the government, or are simply in a position of leadership, you are all too familiar with the staple black suit and white button up blouse. While this may be the way the corporate uniform has been for many years, we are now in the 21st century and I think it’s time we make an update! Don’t you want to be the center of attention at your next board presentation? Or to be remembered after your prospective client meeting? Besides, if the first lady can wear whatever she wants, why can’t we? Here are some great ways you can add color to your wardrobe and stand out from the crowd.


I know my minimalist friends…adding a little bit of color might be out of your comfort zone but don’t worry, you can take baby steps! How about starting off with an accessory? A bib necklace in red is sure to make a statement and it will add a nice touch to a black top.

How to Wear Color to the Office | Guest Post from The Chic Melange | Red Necklace

If bib necklaces are not your thing, try a colorful scarf. You can tie it in an unlimited number of ways, around your neck, over your shoulders as a shawl, or even around your waist as a belt! A scarf can never go wrong in both business casual and business professional situations.

How to Wear Color to the Office | Guest Post from The Chic Melange


If you are ready to take it to the next level, check out these blue pumps. Why have shoes that clickety clack if they’re not going to be something to stop and look at? If this blue is too bright, you can tone it down with darker colors like a deep red/wine for fall.

How to Wear Color to the Office | Guest Post from The Chic Melange | blue pumps


Then, you can start to color coordinate your entire outfit by matching your accessories and shoes to your top. Solid color tops are the easiest to work with. You can look for matching heels and a colorful scarf with hints of that solid color to unify the look.

How to Wear Color to the Office | Guest Post from The Chic Melange


And finally, be bold! Try a color block pencil skirt and a solid color top. You can once again color coordinate your accessories with one of the colors on the skirt. The result, a showstopping outfit!

How to Wear Color to the Office | Guest Post from The Chic Melange
Photos by Inma Galvez

How do you like to add a little color to your work outfit? Share by commenting below!


And don’t forget, the world must know you are extraordinary, flaunt it!



Author Bio:

Isabella Fuentes is the founder of the blog The Chic Mélange (, your premium guide to exceptional work wear. The Chic Mélange was created to demonstrate that you don’t have to blend in with classic styles and bland washes, but STAND OUT with hidden gems and bursts of color inspired by the founder’s favorite European brands.

Thank you for joining me as we once again break down those walls keeping us from utilizing and understanding credit to our benefit.

Last time, we talked about what credit is and why us millennials are uncomfortable with credit.  We also talked about the FICO credit and how its determined.  If you haven’t read that post, you can find it here.

The Millennial's Guide to Understanding Credit Part 2 | Minted and Printed | for millennials and graduate students

Today we will continue understanding credit by discussing how to improve every category of your credit score and what activities to avoid when building your credit score.  I will also show you a part of my FICO credit score report that I get each month with my Chase Slate card.

Your FICO score is determined by many different pieces of credit data in your credit report from those bureaus above.  All of this info is grouped into 5 categories:  payment history, debt burden, length of credit history, types of credit used, and recent searches for credit.

The following varies for different people, but here’s the gist of how much they contribute to your overall credit score:The Millennial's Guide to Understanding Credit | How the FICO credit score works

35% Payment History:  This category is determined by the presence or lack of poor debt management.

30% Debt Burden:  This includes your debt-to-limit ratio, number of accounts with balances, amount owed across different accounts, and amount paid down on installments loans.

15% Length of Credit History:  Info for this category comes from the average age of the accounts in your report and the age of the oldest account.

10% Types of Credit Used:  This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Different types of credit include credit cards, car loans, mortgage loans, student loans, etc.

10% Recent Searches for Credit:  This includes when you apply for some type of loan.  But don’t worry, multiple inquiries with 14 or 45 days of each other is seen as one.  So it’s ok to shop around for something like a car loan.

What is a good FICO score?

FICO credit scores generally range from 300-850.

The Millennial's Guide to Understanding Credit (Part 2) | Credit Scores

720 or above is great!

690-720 is good.

690 or below is bad.

How to Improve Each Area of Your Credit Score

Pay All Bills on Time (35%)

Every bill that you have including credit cards, cell phone, and even speeding tickets must be paid on time.  Otherwise, THEY will know.  Since this category holds the biggest percentage of influence, simply paying your bills on time will give your score the biggest boost!

Understanding credit

Use Less of Your Credit Limit (30%)

The less you use of your credit limit the better!  Try to use 30% or less than your total credit limit.  Using 10% or less is even better.

Increase the Length of Your Credit History (15%)

Remember this is the area that us millennials struggle with.  Let’s try to stick with the credit cards we already have.  Keep your oldest credit card accounts open but with minimal use.

Remember, I had my oldest credit card for over 5 years and my credit score is great right now!

Use Different Types of Credit (10%)

You can improve your credit score by using a mix of different credit types such as credit cards, car loans, and student loans (I guess they aren’t completely ruining our futures).  Having multiple lines of credit proves that you know how to use credit responsibly.

Reduce Your New Credit Applications (10%)

Having too many credit applications in a short period of time can drag down your credit score.  This can be difficult for us just starting out on our own.  We have to apply for new apartments, utilities, new car (in my case), and insurance within a couple of months.  But don’t worry.  This category is only worth 10% of your overall credit score.

When I submitted all of my credit applications this summer (utilities, car, apartment, insurance, etc), my score didn’t take a hit at all.

Activities to Avoid when Building Your Credit Score

Don’t go overboard. Yes, building a credit history is beneficial.  But taking out too many loans and using too much of your credit limit on your cards raises huge red flags.  Try working on just one or two of the categories listed above.  Don’t Try to fix it all at once.  Doing too much at once will mess up your debt-to-income ratio.

The Millennial's Guide to Understanding Credit (Part 2) | Debt-to-Income RatioFor example, if you make $3,000 each month and owe $1000 in credit card payments and student loan repayments, your debt-to-income ratio is 33.33%.

*Note:  In most cases, the highest ratio a borrower can have and still get a Qualified Mortgage is 43%. 

Don’t just pay the minimum amount due. It’s ok to use credit cards regularly.  Just make sure that you pay off the full balance each month.

understanding credit tweet

Don’t use your card to live beyond your means. If you can’t afford something, don’t buy it.  For an emergency purchase, use the money in your emergency savings fund.  If you don’t have enough in your emergency savings fund and MUST use your card, make a PLAN immediately to pay off the debt in the next 2-3 months.  Interest is real!!!

Related Post:  Build an Emergency Savings Fast

Don’t deny a higher credit limit. When you are being responsible with your card, the company may offer to up your credit limit!  This is great!  Not because of the extra money (remember, it’s not yours) but because it will improve your credit score!

Don’t ignore your credit score. It’s important to know your score so that you can see where you stand.  Also, your score is good to know so that you can understand what is working for you and what you may need to change.

I use my Chase Slate card to help me.  I mentioned this card last week.  It gives me my FICO score every month along with which areas are working for me and what needs improvement.  Below, I’ve given screen shots from my FICO credit report given by my Chase Slate Card.  Along with my score, the report gives me a breakdown of how I’m doing in each category.


The Millennial's Guide to Understanding Credit (Part 2) | Chase Slate FICO score Report

As you can see, I can do a little better in two categories.  I’m using 37% of my total credit limits.  This is because I’m still recovering from living this past summer without any income.  Also, I’m in the yellow with my length of credit.  If I click the View Details button, the report will tell me exactly why 67 months of credit isn’t quite enough.

The Millennial's Guide to Understanding Credit (Part 2) | Chase Slate length of credit history

My oldest account, that was started 9 years ago is my student loan account.  In 5 more months, I will be in the green in this category and my credit score will improve even more!

That concludes our discussion of understanding credit.  I hope these two posts have helped you to understand how credit works and how to utilize it.  Please let me know if there are any other topics you would like me to cover in the comment section below.  Have a wonderful day!

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