How to Survive On Call

Many entry level positions in student affairs have some sort of on call responsibility as part of them. Working at a small school, I’m on call more often than my friends at larger schools. I was rather nervous about being on call, but (knock on wood) nothing too terrible has happened during my rotations.

While different schools have different regulations about where you can and can’t go while you are on call, there is still this restricting feeling. I have to basically stay withing my city limits, but luckily I have found things to do here to keep me busy. Below are some things that have gotten me through the rotations I’ve had so far.


Since I can’t go visit anyone, I invite my friends to visit me when I’m on call! I’m not too motivated to explore a strange city alone, but I love doing it with friends. Also, if any stressful event does happen when I’m on call, I have my friends as a source of support waiting back for me in my apartment. The friends that visit know what I do for my job and understand that if the purple phone rings (yes my duty phone is in a purple case), I might have to take off.


Like many females, I developed an addiction to Pinterest this past year. I’ve always loved trying new recipes, but now I have an endless amount of recommendations! Since I know I won’t be going out of town for a stretch of days, it’s a great time to try new things and eat the leftovers for lunch.

To Do List

Now, this is not the list for things that have a specific due date. This is the list of things that just need to get done around my apartment, like organizing my closets and finishing certain crafts. It’s something that will keep me busy while I wait for my students to engage in reckless behavior and it’s something that if I do get that phone call, it ‘s not the end of the world if it doesn’t get done.


I like to watch entire seasons of TV shows. Later on, I’ll always wind up associating that show with whatever was going on at that time. Arrested Development? Moving to grad school. Law and Order SVU? Studying for comps. How I Met Your Mother? Moving to the lovely little city in the northeast that I call home today. So while you’re on call, rather than being forced to watch reruns of shows on cable, CHOOSE the reruns you want to watch on your computer, Xbox, or mobile device. I sound like a commercial.

What NOT To Do

Just because you haven’t gotten any calls doesn’t mean your phone will continue to remain silent. Don’t break any of the restrictions that your supervisor or department has in place. Just don’t. But on the lighter side of things…don’t schedule a hair appointment during your on call. I didn’t do this, but I was just thinking about it and what if you got the call in the middle of it? Terrible!

Leave other suggestions of ways to keep “busy” during on call time. I’m sure the school year will keep me busy enough, but the summer’s been rather slow. For those of you who have been serving in on call positions for some time, what are your favorite things to do?

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