Monthly Archives: September 2013

Why I Didn’t Value a Liberal Arts Education (And Why I Do Now)

I declared my major when I applied to Undergrad U. In fact, I rarely use the word “declared” because it was more like “picked”. I looked at the majors available, picked one I liked, and wrote it on my application. Done.

Because I arrived at school knowing my major, I absolutely hated all of the general education courses I was required to take. I spread them out over my time at Undergrad U, mixing them in with courses required for my major. I thought I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up..why did I need to take all these extra classes that had NOTHING to do with my major?

To be fair, my major didn’t leave a lot of room for experimenting with non-required courses. I took the gen eds required of me – a composition course, a psychology course, some course about scientific literature…ugh. None of those courses appealed to me and I didn’t bother looking to see what else was out there.

What makes this whole situation worse was that I knew the “supposed” benefits of those required general education courses and a liberal arts education in general. As I gave prospective students tours of Undergrad U, I spoke with great enthusiasm about how our course requirements ensures that all the future musicians, scientists, and artists would be well-rounded individuals upon graduation. I just didn’t believe it. Or care about it.

When I arrived at Grad School State, I felt so behind my classmates. Undergrad U had less gen eds than most schools AND I tried my best to get out of as many as I could. Most of my classes had been project-based and I felt I couldn’t keep up with all of the readings and the papers and presentations. But still, I didn’t think it had anything to DO my lack of “well rounded” courses, I just thought it was a side effect of my major.

Now that I work at a college, I frequently hear about courses that are offered at PDFM U as well as other schools. And you know what? They sound INTERESTING. I would LOVE to take some of these courses. I actually LIKE learning about things – so long as I’m not under pressure to write papers and take tests and get good grades. I sometimes wonder that if I had waited to choose my major and had more freedom to select courses that interest me if I would have wound up with a different major. If I would have had learned different skills.

But then I remember that I’m older now and think much differently than I did back then…which means just like I hear my students complain now, I too would be complaining about these random course requirements. Maybe it takes a certain type of student to enjoy a liberal arts college while they are a student.

If somebody came up to you and said, “Hey here’s a ton of money, go get another degree!” what do you think you would study? What type of school would you choose? Of course, this is purely for pleasure, otherwise I’d be going to trade school because plumbers and electricians make a lot more money than live on student affairs professionals…just saying. If I could do it again for pleasure, I think I’d study literature. Maybe. Depending on the courses offered at the school. I miss reading. I used to read for fun constantly, but college bashed that out of me. Some of the readings my students have to do sound so interesting! And I’ve heard of colleges with Harry Potter lit classes…

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How to Not Be THAT Freshman

Note: I originally posted this last September. After walking around campus today, I realized that it still applied. 2017, enjoy!

Everybody eventually looks back on their first year of college and says to themselves, “was I really that clueless/naive/dumb/etc ?!?!” I started asking myself that about halfway through freshman year. I’ve thought long and hard about what makes freshmen so…freshmen-y and have compiled a list of tips for you.

Look down.

Are you wearing a lanyard with your key/ID/meal card around it? Take it off. Right now. That’s how everybody knows you’re a freshman. At one institution where we used our IDs to enter our buildings, I carried mine in my back pocket. There were only a few instances of leaving it in yesterday’s pants. A lot of schools use some type of proximity sensor so you have to just wave something as you walk by. Figure out what works best for you, but seriously, take the lanyard off your neck. You don’t want to be THAT freshman wearing a lanyard.

Look to your left. Now to your right.

How many people are you walking around campus/your new city with? Is it more than four? Stop, stop right there. I know that they say “safety in numbers” but you’re going to the extreme. You know that awesome party you’re about to go to? Well, it just got busted because a neighbor saw twenty five freshmen walking up to the door. Walk in small groups so you stay safe but don’t anger the neighbors. Also, if you’re coming home from a party, it’s much easier to see if you’re missing a person out of a group of four than forty. You don’t want to be THAT freshman wandering campus in a herd.

Got Questions?

Contrary to what some professors and teachers say, there are dumb questions. There are certain people provided to you early in your freshman year to answer many of your dumb questions. These are your orientation leaders and RAs. But after a certain point, Google is your friend. Need to contact the Health Center? Search for “(your school’s name) Health Center”. Tada! In class, if you have a question that only relates to you (“Can I miss a quiz because my brother’s wedding is that weekend?”) ask the professor at the end of class or during office hours. You don’t want to be THAT freshman asking dumb questions in the last five minutes of class.

Know Your Limits

In college, you can have too much of a good thing. Just because your dining hall is all-you-can-eat doesn’t mean you need to eat it all. Put down the brownie. Grab a piece of fruit every so often. You don’t want to be THAT fat freshman. For alcohol, take it easy. Yes, you probably will have at least one night you regret, but you don’t want to be THAT freshman that throws up all over the communal bathroom during orientation. As for sex, wrap it before you tap it. No glove, no love. However you want to say it, USE PROTECTION. Susie Q might look at pure and innocent but you do not know what sort of Fifty Shades of Promiscuity she might be into. Likewise, Susie, make sure you’re on birth control. You don’t want to be THAT pregnant/STD-carrying freshman.

Don’t Panic

A lot of what I said probably just made college seem like the most terrifying (or most wonderful) place on earth. Everybody will be stressed out or nervous or scared at some point in their college career. You might go from being be THE valedictorian of your class into a freshman class where there are many other valedictorians. Congratulations, you are now average. You might get a bad grade. You might sleep through a class. You might be sitting here reading the above realizing you are THAT freshman. Stop. Take a deep breath. Don’t have a meltdown in the middle of the hallway. You will survive. You don’t want to be THAT crying freshman.

Congratulations, Class of 2017, for making it this far. Good luck with classes and don’t try too hard.

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What I DIDN’T Do On My Summer Vacation

I cannot believe that summer is over. It seems like just a few weeks ago I was making my summer to do list and thinking of all the time I would have to do things since I wouldn’t have students popping in every few minutes. Boy, was I wrong!

Some student affairs professionals have ten month contracts meaning that they don’t work during the summer. While a two month vacation sounds lovely, I kind of collected student loans like Beanie Babies and I need every cent I can get.

Unfortunately, unlike Beanie Babies, my student loans ARE worth tons of money.

I really thought that I’d have time to get all this stuff done. Most of the things on my to do list were things I wanted to do…I wasn’t taking departmental things into consideration because I had never done any of that stuff before. Next year when I’m planning for summer I will definitely know better!

So what was on my to do list?

To Do: Clean My Office

I really wanted to re-organize EVERYTHING and make my office look brand new by the time the RAs returned for training. I had all of these grand plans. My office was going to look like something off of Pinterest.

What Got Done

I did move old files into a filing cabinet to make room for things from this year. I also went through the mountain of papers on my desk…only for a new mountain to start growing. I’ll take care of it during Christmas Break.

To Do: Update The Website

I wish updating my department’s website was more like this…I could log on whenever and update it myself. But that’s not how it works. I have to send whatever changes I want to make to this IT person and he has to do it. There were some sections of our site that were in DESPERATE need of an update and I decided I would do that this summer.

What Got Done

I passed it off to a new employee. She needs to meet people in a different department, so IT’s a great place to start, right?

To Do: A Bulletin Board In Each Building

I wanted to do a bulletin board in each of my building’s entryways. I thought it would give the RAs a good example and be visually pleasing for all of our lovely summer residents. I saw so many cute bulletin board ideas on Pinterest and in the teacher supply store.

What Got Done:

I bought cute bulletin board supplies…that’s about as far as I got.

 

So what am I going to do next summer? STAY OFF PINTEREST!! Pinterest just gives me wonderful ideas that I don’t have the time or creativity to follow through with. I’m also going to put departmental things on my to do list (like planning RA training and training the new hires) and give those items timelines so I can fit my own tasks in more realistically. Did you do everything you wanted to this summer?

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So You’re In Grad School: September

Clearly, August and September are busy times when you work in Student Affairs. First impressions count, especially for incoming students. Even without taking classes, I’ve had barely any free time the past month or so!

If you’re a first year student…

By now you are anywhere from one to four weeks into your first semester. Depending on what you studied in undergrad, there might have been (or still may be) a rocky adjustment period as you get used to the workload, the way it’s taught, and the course materials. At first, I thought I wasn’t going to have to read anything. Few of my Undergrad U courses actually used the book, and besides, the lecture was basically a presentation about what we just read. It was COMPLETELY different once I was a grad student. We were expected to discuss what we had read. That was class. Discussion. So I swung completely the opposite way and thought I had to read EVERYTHING. That also did not work. I drove myself insane. There were not enough hours in the day. Eventually, I became really good at prioritizing and skimming and bullshitting discussion topics in a pinch.

You also might feel homesick. Or undergrad sick. I’ve said it a thousand times, but grad school is DIFFERENT. One of my friends decided to go to Grad School State and she’s having a rough time with it. She says she doesn’t like it. I know she likes her classes and professors…but she hasn’t really made any friends yet. A big difference is that she’s not studying Student Affairs, her program isn’t cohort based. I definitely need to make time to chat with her soon. It’s hard to make friends as a grown up. My advice? Put yourself out there. Find something to join. Organize an event and invite the people you know and tell them to bring the people they know.

One thing that I didn’t have too much of an issue with was being busy with work. I worked part time (and sometimes more!) my entire way through undergrad. Balancing work and school was completely normal. I had other friends that struggled though. Some never worked while they were in college. Others had non-ResLife assistantships and struggled to get all their hours in each week around our class schedule. One issue was if we were doing group projects, it was hard for ResLifers and non-ResLifers to work together just because our work hours were so different. I had programs to attend at night, I couldn’t be doing homework then. At the same time, they had office hours during the day, so clearly they could not work on homework at that time!

If it’s your second year…

So you (successfully) made it through your first year and you’re probably thinking that you have this grad school thing down. You have a way of studying and doing homework and balancing everything that works for you. Great, share those tips with some of the first year students. They need the help. Also, hey, first years need friends. Go befriend one!

Unfortunately, you can’t plan for everything. In your second year, you’re going to be starting your job search. Your program may require a comprehensive exam or that you do an internship. Your supervisor or other higher ups at your assistantship might decide that you’re getting more responsibility. All of those things could happen at once! So if you’re a second year student reading this, remember to keep calm and carry on breathe.

 

 

I hope you all enjoy September, no matter what year student you are, or even if you’ve graduated (like me!).

 

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August Goal Updates

Ugh…do I even HAVE to do one for August? Everybody in Student Affairs knows that ResLifers don’t get an August. We have July and then September and in between is this weird black hole time warp called RA Training and Opening. August is no place for goals.

Be More Organized

My apartment looks like a disaster zone. So does my car. But you know what DOES look organized? My office. My boss made a deal with us “grown ups” that we didn’t have to be at every single training presentation – as long as we were in the office working on things. I definitely had things to work on, but I also used some of that time to clean my office. I’m glad I did it before the year started!!

I managed to get my blog back on track and it looks like I’m about to have my most successful month EVER. If I find myself with a bit of free times, I write posts or post ideas on my iPad. When I have a larger chunk of time, I edit and schedule posts. Sometimes this means I’m working on posts MONTHS before they go up. It also means starting this post halfway through the month…

And of course, now I’m posting this in basically mid-September, so surprise surprise, my posting when COMPLETELY off track again. I’ll blame the freshmen. Always blame the freshmen.

Read More

I have not read a book this month. You know what I have read? Emails. Lots of emails. Emails from RAs. Emails from residents. Emails from parents. That counts, OKAY?

Schedule More Me Time

I don’t even know what this is at the moment. Like, I’m beyond excited when I get back to my apartment before 9 pm.

Keep In Touch

I have several friends with birthdays in August and I tried my best to get them all hand written cards in time for their birthdays. Some of them wound up with hand written emails instead. Sorry.

Even with the madness, I did get a few visits in! Right before the madness started, I made sure to visit Rachel and see her new apartment. It has a balcony. I’m jealous. Rachel also made her way over to my apartment and another one of our friends from home was with her!! I only had about twelve hours to spend with them, but we had a super girly sleepover and went to a twenty four hour diner…it was like being back in high school again!

Be A Grown Up

Earlier this month I went to the mall with a friend. We were in Victoria’s Secret and we wandered over to the Pink side. We both stopped, looked around, and realized that we were too old to wear most of the things we saw on that side.

I can’t.

Another instance of feeling grown up OLD was when Rachael and Elizabeth came to visit…we had this LOVELY idea to go to a bar and dance cause that’s what people our age do, right? But after one drink I was EXHAUSTED. I was also hungry and I’m not a fun person to be around when hungry. So that’s where the diner and sleepover came in.

Okay, so since I always associate being “grown up” with being “old”, I have another one! I’ve been commuting. But Author, doesn’t everybody like HATE commuting? Nope! See, us student affairs professionals have to live ON CAMPUS. We don’t get to leave work. Before RA training started, I made it a point to get in my car at the end of the work day and DRIVE SOMEWHERE. Well, not just randomly drive around but to one friend or another friend’s house. There was even a few Wine Wednesdays where I’d sleepover a friend’s house and drive to work in the morning! I actually like being in my car…can’t answer emails, can’t worry about work stuff. I just get to drive and sing along to Disney songs in the car.

Here’s to September being a much more productive month!

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