Category Archives: Entry Level

Where Are They Now?

One book that I have been meaning to read is Job One. Job One follows a group of SA Grads AFTER graduation. Kind of like this blog does…except. It only follows me. While this book is nearly ten years old, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on where my classmates now are in their careers.

A lot of my classmates are in the same boat as me – they found jobs somewhere around graduation, started, and they are still there. I keep seeing a ton of Facebook statuses about everybody hitting their one year mark. For those individuals not in ResLife, I see a LOT of apartment searching right now. Why? People quickly signed leases since they NEEDED to move and now that they know they are staying longer, they are looking for a nicer place or they are moving in with friends they’ve made.

Two classmates went back to school. Well, one just kept on trucking and started doctoral classes WEEKS after we graduated. The other wound up getting a job at a school with a doctoral program and enrolled after she finished her first year. While another degree isn’t on my agenda anytime soon, I am very proud of these two for continuing.

I have a few classmates that did not hit their one year mark for a variety of reasons. All but one finished out the academic year at their institutions but have recently started at their new jobs. Their reasons for moving included wanting to be closer to significant others and family. One got a job at Grad School State – although in a different department than where she worked while we attended school. And the one who didn’t make it through a school year? He had some MAJOR life changes. Shortly before Thanksgiving, his wife was offered a job on the other side of the country. They could not turn down this offer, she makes a LOT more than he does. His wife moved out before Christmas and he followed in January. He was going to start looking for jobs but then they found out that she’s expecting! He’s decided that he’s going to be a stay at home dad once the little one arrives this fall, so finding a job for just a few months didn’t make sense.

There were some people that didn’t get job offers last summer. One just kept doing temp jobs at Grad School State before getting offered a job at a school a few hours away. Another moved to a pretty remote area of the country with her fiance where there really aren’t a lot of job opportunities. A third wound up with a job offer sometime last fall – but not in Student Affairs. He took it and he enjoys what he’s doing and he definitely applies the things he learned in our program, just to a different set of people.

I really want to get my hands on this book. I’m interested to see how my classmates compare to the students in the book!

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So You’re In Grad School: August

Here we are. The start of a new school year. This is when I should have started my SYIGS series, you know, so it started with the school year. Oh well. If you’re new to this, SYIGS provides some tips as well as gives information on what to expect in a Student Affairs-esque grad school program. Everything I write is based on MY experience at Grad School State…your program might be somewhat different, but it shouldn’t be TOO drastic.

If you’re a first year student…

You’re probably getting ready to leave for grad school if you haven’t already. I’ve said it time and time again – grad school is VERY different from undergrad. It’s an adjustment and it will take you some time to get used to it. That’s okay. Oh, and you’ll probably also learn a theory that will later explain your behavior during this time period.

My first few weeks at GSS were jam packed with training for my assistantship…why yes, I was in ResLife! Not only did I have training for my position, but I also sat through all of RA training so I could know the campus and the procedures better. It was a big help, especially since GSS and Undergrad U were VERY different institutions.

GSS held a graduate school orientation. The ResLife office made sure to have it on their schedule so us newbies wouldn’t be missing anything important. It wasn’t like the fun-filled orientation that I went through as a student and that I saw GSS freshmen going through. No campus tours, no entertainment, no ice breakers. I was so confused! I went to a resource fair, but instead of showcasing the different departments on campus, I was provided with bank and insurance options. At one point I was told I needed to pick up my student ID, but I didn’t know where to do that! It was at this moment that I realized graduate student services is an area that will probably be on the upswing in the next few years…

Another eye opener was that there were a lot of people in my program OLDER than me. Many of the students had graduated from college and worked “real” jobs before realizing they hated being mindless corporate robots whatever they were doing and making the decision to start a new career. So at the end of the day while I wanted to go to the bar and get to know my new classmates, they had homes and husbands to get home to. Who does that?

I guess all of my previous “points” have been stories about my experiences, my major tip for this month is DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS. I can promise you that there will be somebody in your program or working at your assistantship who thinks they “know everything” and will roll their eyes at your question, but do not let that deter you! Training and orientation are the times to ask questions!

If this is your second year…

You might be a little bored right now. I’m sure there are training things that you are being forced to go to that you feel you don’t need to go to because obviously you learned it all before. Obviously. Yes, you might be bored, but please don’t let this attitude show! It might stop one of the new students from asking a question (see above).

I definitely recommend getting to know the new grad students in your program. Did you have a second year take you under their wing last year? Be that person for someone else! It is great to form a friendship like this now so you can help someone with this whole grad school process.

I had someone take me under their wing and then I took someone under my wing. I am in touch with both of these people. My “older” friend helped me as I was navigating the job search process. I just helped my “younger’ friend with hers and I also talked her through some tough decisions that she had to make during grad school.

No matter what year you are…

August is a crazy month for Student Affairs…students are returning, orientation is happening, training is happening, and of course there is a HUGE programming push during the first few weeks of school. Good luck to all of you out there!!

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So You’re In Grad School: July

I wish I had had the genius idea for this series when I first started this blog. When you’re so used thinking on an academic calendar time frame, it’s really hard to think about something in a January – December way. If I were to start it all over, I would have picked July so I could start with “So You’re GOING To Grad School…”. For those of you that have been reading these posts all along, this is where they start over. Last month, I wrote about the end of a student’s first year and what comes next after graduation. This month, I’ve got something for those of you that are packing up your things and getting ready to move.

If you did graduate earlier this year, I don’t have much to say in this specific post BUT this whole blog chronicles my start in student affairs. I’m not that far ahead of you and I’m sure some of the things I write about will resonate with you. If you have any questions, feel free to send them my way. Starting your first “real” job isn’t that easy and that’s okay.

And now…onto the main part of this post…

For those of you just starting your journey…

You might be moving next week. You might be moving next month. You’re probably really excited and that’s great. I’m not here to try to bring you down, I’m just here to give you some pointers. Unlike your first day of freshman year, you won’t show up the same day as all of your classmates. Your “starting date” most likely depends on what grad assistant position you have. ResLifers will be some of the first to arrive on campus to help with RA training and move in. If you’re doing academic advising, your supervisor might only have you arrive a day or two early. If you don’t know what day you need to be there, now is the time to find out!

There are a lot of differences between grad school and undergrad, even if you chose to stay at the same school! Your office might have limitations in place on how you can interact with students, so you might not be able to go to the same old parties you used to attend. Speaking of friends, the older you get, the harder it is to make friends and that starts with grad school. Think about it. During freshman year, you most likely lived on a floor full of students in a big building full of students. Everybody was new and there were a lot of you. You all had to endure the dining hall together. Now, there are less of you and you might not all even live in the same town. And you’re all super busy. Making (and keeping!) friends gets much harder as you get older.

Academically speaking, there are plenty of differences between undergrad and grad school. Remember in undergrad, the syllabus would tell you to read a chapter or two before coming to class? And nobody did? Well…you’re not going to get away with that anymore. You’ll have PLENTY of reading to do and you’ll be expected to at least kind of know what it was about by the time you get to class. HOWEVER, we had less “homework” (at least it my program). We just had to read and do papers and projects. We didn’t have things that needed to be turned in on a weekly basis.

And for those of you that signed up for one more year…

You’re probably off doing your intern thing. We’ve already chatted about evaluating your internships and trying to get those most out of it…not much else I can tell you there. We also talked about prepping for the upcoming year. Wherever you are, make sure you are still studying every so often! And! If you have some downtime, read up on current events in Higher Ed, like on The Chronicle of Higher Education or Inside Higher Ed‘s websites. You don’t want this to be like elementary school when you returned back from summer vacation completely forgetting how to do long division…or was that just me?

Any other grad school graduates have tips for those currently in grad school? Leave them in the comments!

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Sitting On The Other Side Of The Table

You may have noticed that at some point during the spring semester, I stopped updating so frequently. Heck, even for the bit of summer we’ve had so far, my updates have been rather…sporadic. Author, I thought your job barely required a pulse in the summer! You’ve let me down! Well, for starters, my job requires more than just a pulse for the summer months…PDFM U is NOT one of those ten month gigs. Also, since I’m not brand new here, I’ve taken on some pretty large projects and the time to get serious on them is NOW while the students aren’t here. But most importantly, we’ve had some vacancies in the department the past few months, so I’ve been picking up additional responsibilities.

Due to these vacancies, I’ve gotten to see the other side of the process that I went through just last year. While I was excited for new co-workers, the process was not as fun as I had thought it would be. It was also rather lengthy, so now I realize why it took schools so long to get back to me!

The first thing that happens is that a job description has to be created. We were lucky in that these positions have existed here for quite awhile, so the approval process wasn’t that long. If it had been a new position or if we had made major changes, the description (and position itself) would have needed to go through a longer approval process. Part of that is making sure that we have the money for the position. Your position actually costs the institution more than just your salary – you’ve got benefits too – health insurance, retirement, and at PDFM U, we get a meal plan. (I wish everything I just said made me feel better about how little we get paid in Student Affairs…but…it doesn’t.)

The job description then gets posted. It has to be open for X amount of days. On many sites, you will be told to apply by a certain date. When I was job searching, I missed this deadline by HOURS and they would not accept it. Ouch. I believe our postings were up for two months. And here’s the thing, during the time we really don’t look through the materials. So, if you’ve submitted your stuff the day after a posting went up, you might not hear anything other than the standard “we’ve received your materials” email for WEEKS.

After the position had been up for awhile, we had to figure out who was going to help with interviews. We knew we were going to have phone interviews and on campus interviews and wanted to make sure that the departments we worked closely with also had a say in who we were going to hire. After coming up with this extensive list AND figuring out who was going to be a apart of which interviews, we had to find a time that we were all free. As I mentioned before, the past month or so has been very busy, so you could imagine we had a difficult time getting everybody together. Finally, we nailed down some dates and times to pick who we were going to do phone interviews with, when we were going to do phone interviews, and when we were going to do on campus interviews.

In my office, we each reviewed resumes on our own. There were a LOT of them. Some people were overqualified (one person had been a director of his department for FIFTEEN YEARS). Others were under-qualified (including one person who had just finished his first year of college). The hard part is, with the amount of resumes we had, it was impossible to read every single word on every single one. This is why everybody stresses that your resume needs to be good! It’s so important to go through the job description and see what points you should speak to. If we say that a major part of the job description is Z and you don’t mention Z at all, your resume is going to get shoved in the “Do Not Call” pile. Another note on resumes – at first glance it should be visually appealing. I’m not saying you need to be a design major, but simple layout choices can make a resume MUCH easier to read.

Next came the phone interviews…this was my least favorite thing about interviewing for jobs and I definitely did not like being on the other side of it. Seriously, NOBODY likes phone interviews, but with people from all over the country applying for jobs, it’s necessary. Some tips if you are the interviewee? Write down everybody’s name! We were really impressed with the people who remembered our names. Also, if you are using a cell phone, make sure you are in an area that has good service!!

It took us awhile to get to the on campus phase. A lot of the people that were supposed to take part in on campus interviews had vacations planned. I was super excited for on campus interviews!! It is much easier to get a feel for someone in person than over the phone. What are some things that you should expect? You will have multiple interviews that day, some with small groups, others one-on-one. For example, your future co-workers might interview you has a group, but your future supervisor might interview you one-on-one. You will most likely be given a tour of campus. If you are applying for a live-on position, you SHOULD be shown an apartment, however, it might not be the apartment you wind up being assigned to! Some parts of the day will be much more casual than other parts. Everybody tends to freak out about on campus interviews, but I don’t think they’re that bad. Be warned – it is a LONG day.

After we finished all the on campus interviews, we had to meet again as a group to decide who we wanted to hire. By this time, it was nearly three weeks since our first candidate had come to campus! When we made our decisions, I was definitely excited – only to find out that we still had to do background checks and reference checks and notify the person and give them X days to respond. And then they still wouldn’t be here! If someone is currently in another position, they have to give notice first!

While the process was not as fun as I was hoping it would be, I am super excited for the new people to get here in August…if only they could come sooner! Also, seeing the process from the other side gave me a good understanding of WHY things took so long. So, lovely readers, if you are job searching and wondering why you still haven’t heard back, there’s a good chance that somebody who is supposed to be interviewing you decided to go to Cabo instead. But seriously. You’re not the only person being considered and it does take time to sort through all of the information we receive. Hang in there!

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Unpaid Internships: Post Grad Edition

Lately there’s been a lot in the news about the legality of unpaid internships. Many of the articles (and their comments) focus on college students that are required to do internships as part of their degree requirements. I was required to do an internship as part of my degree and my academic department had very strict rules as to what would count. They couldn’t be “coffee and copies” internships. Our supervisor had to be willing to sit down and have one-on-one meetings with us. While my classmates and I weren’t paid, several of us were compensated with meals during working hours or small stipends to cover traveling expenses.

A lot of colleges want their students to do internships. It gives them “real world” work experience. Companies like it because they essentially get to work with someone for a bit of time and train them now and if they like the person, they can hire them in a year or two when they graduate. Some companies are a little greedy and see it as free labor. Maybe more academic programs need to have restrictions for internships like mine did just to protect the students.

But that’s not what I’m hear to talk about today. You know what the good thing about doing an internship while you are in college is? YOU ARE IN COLLEGE. You don’t have to pay back your loans yet, you’re probably still under your parents’ insurance plans, and if you play your cards right and get an internship in the same city that your school is in, you might still get to take advantage of the cushy college lifestyle – dorm rooms and dining halls. Unfortunately, too many industries are now expecting that recent graduates take unpaid (or barely paid) internship positions.

I have a friend, let’s call her Elizabeth, that majored in Art History. Real smart girl, really knew her stuff. I had to take just the basic art history course and wanted to bash my head against my desk throughout each three hour lecture. Not Elizabeth. She was fascinated. While we were in school, she did an internship at a local, but well-known, museum. She had phenomenal grades and I’m sure if Undergrad U published a class rank, she would have been the top of the class. At the end of senior year, Elizabeth started applying for museum jobs. Now, she was well aware that entry level museum jobs were not the most well-paying, but she liked what she was doing, so she didn’t worry about it (sound familiar, student affairs folk?!). Time after time, Elizabeth was turned down. From her internship at the local museum, she had some connections and found out through the grapevine that she was a great candidate and well-liked, but just didn’t have enough experience. She asked her former supervisor and several professors how she could get enough experience to qualify for an ENTRY-LEVEL position and they all told her that she would probably have to do an internship or two AFTER graduation.

Plenty of students in the more creative fields probably hear the same thing every year. I know plenty of people who have gone out there and done it – worked for free for a year or so and then landed some awesome job. How did they support themselves? They didn’t. Their parents gave them money for rent and they worked some small part time job to get some cash for other expenses. Or maybe they were close enough to a large city with a booming industry that they just lived with their parents or other relatives! The point is, it’s hard to be an unpaid intern after graduation if you don’t have the support of others – and I’m not talking emotional support. I’m talking about money. Who’s going to pay your rent or your phone bill? What about when student loan bills start rolling in six months after graduation? The world doesn’t get put on hold because you need to do an internship before you can get a job.

Unfortunately Elizabeth did not have that sort of support. Her parents passed away during her freshman year of college. Elizabeth needed money for rent and other bills. She needed a job that provided benefits – something that a part time job wouldn’t do. She took a full time office assistant position which made finding an internship really hard – many required her to work more hours than she was able to with her full time job. Elizabeth stuck it out for quite a bit, living in the expensive New York City area, hoping to get an internship at one of the many museums in the area, but never got one. She eventually returned to our college town, as the cost of living is MUCH more manageable there.

I’m sure there are tons of people out there reading this post…okay reading articles SIMILAR to this post that are wondering why Elizabeth and many other students would choose to major in something that isn’t guaranteed to lead to a lucrative career path. Clearly Elizabeth knew that she wasn’t going to have financial support after graduation, why go for something that would require an internship? My question is (and this goes beyond the creative industries) when did entry level positions become…well…non-entry level positions? Elizabeth played her cards right – she got good grades, she did an internship in college to gain experience – but at the end of the day it wasn’t enough experience. All of the museums were looking for people that had work experience after graduation. How can these new graduates get work experience when nobody will hire them because they don’t have work experience? It’s something I see happening to a lot of my friends.

More and more lawsuits are being brought against larger companies due to their use of unpaid interns. The Labor Department has guidelines for what can be “intern” work and what needs to be paid work, but I don’t think too many companies are paying attention to those – until now. I am hoping that since these stories are getting pretty widespread coverage, the culture around unpaid internships will change, making it easier for new graduates to get started in their careers.

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So You’re In Grad School: June

If you’re about to start your first year…

Slow down, sailor! Enjoy your last remaining days of freedom. Come back next month and I’ll have some stuff for you.

If you’ve just finished your first year…

Congratulations on finishing your first year! Hopefully you are getting settled in at whatever internship you have for the summer. As in previous months, it’s time to think about the upcoming year. Many programs require that you take a comprehensive exam or complete some sort of major project (or both!) during your second year. The timing and due dates for these vary from program to program. You might take your exam during or right after the first semester. Other schools wait until spring. The same goes with any reports or projects. I was one of the unlucky souls that had to do both. I didn’t know much about the report I was going to have to do, but I did know about the exam and decided to take advantage of NOT having classes to start getting my materials together and studying.

Some things you want to ask yourself right now might be: What materials will you need? Do any notes need to be rewritten or copied from a classmate? Which textbooks do you need? Do you only need certain sections? Is there any way to condense any of your notes? What material will you need to focus on the most? How often will you be able to study once the semester starts?

Since I didn’t know much about the project, I focused on preparing for the exam. I knew when it was and what material it covered. The first thing I did was to create a folder for each class. In it, I made a checklist. I wanted all old exams, chapter outlines, and notes from each class in the folder before I began going through everything. It took me a few days to sort through everything and put it in some sort of order, but I did it! (I also got to throw things away that I no longer needed…that felt good!) Once I did that, I made a very broad “study” outline. I wanted to use the summer to narrow the materials down and make a final outline for each class. I also wanted to prioritize my classes…there were some classes that I did not remember the material from at all and I had taken them less than a year before! Before the summer ended, I also wanted to make a study schedule for the semester so I would be prepared for my exam at the end. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s much better to be over-prepared than to be panicking mid-semester!

If you’ve just finished your second year…

Some of you may have job offers already. Some of you may be working already! Keep on reading, I only direct posts specifically at grad students once a month.

Some of you don’t have job offers yet. That’s okay! Keep looking! Like I mentioned last month, things will open up as other people take jobs elsewhere. That’s definitely happening in my office. The fiscal year started on June 1st, so some departments are JUST beginning their candidate searches.

Not everybody that I graduated with got jobs right away. In fact, some people just got their first professional jobs this year even though we graduated last year. What did they do in the meantime? A lot found temporary student affairs positions so at least they were in the field. One of my friends stayed at the same institution and worked as a temp in MANY different departments…eventually they hired him! Others have left the profession. They are still working in some sort of helping profession…we have a few high school counselors among our group! Basically, we’re all a bunch of people who chose to do something because it made us happy…if you chose student affairs for the money, I’m not sure what rock you’ve been living under the past two years. Now that school’s over, do what makes you happy, even if that means working at some hip coffee shop while job searching. I won’t judge you for it, but your mother most likely will. Just kidding!!


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My Week Without Internet

The internet in my office died recently. Not my whole building, just my individual office. I realized something was up when I hadn’t gotten any emails in an hour. I checked my email on my phone (yay technology!) and found that my inbox was rather full of emails from impatient students. I called IT and the first person that came to my office couldn’t figure it out. The second person couldn’t either. Clearly something was wrong with the hardware that allowed me to access my computer. We just didn’t know what part.

I wound up being without internet in my office for nearly four full days. I wish I could say that I was a much more productive person during that time, but the truth is I spent a lot of time imaging what working in the days before email must have been like. Like most of my friends, I absolutely hate using the phone and resort to email just because it’s not okay to text my boss questions I have that are work-related. Maybe if I had to use the phone more often, I wouldn’t hate it as much.

As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t completely cut off from the internet. I had access to email on my phone and for important emails, I was sitting at my desk, typing away on my phone. It was kind of frustrating and must have looked absolutely ridiculous. While I had some internet access, it was not ideal.

My biggest gripe with the whole week was that even though I was adding things to my Outlook calendar on my computer, they were not syncing to my phone. Thank god school was out and I didn’t have too much going on because I rely on those fifteen minute reminders that my phone and computer give me.

I know this entire post sounds like a major first world problem – “WAH WAH WAH MY INTERNET’S BROKE!!” but the whole thing reminded me of the article I read earlier this month about the man who WILLINGLY went without internet for a year. I expected my time without internet to be so productive, but instead I found new ways to distract myself. The internet did not make me easily distracted or lazy. I’m that way naturally.

Maybe this whole experience would have been different if everybody else on campus also couldn’t access the internet. Maybe we would be forced to interact with each other more, rather than just shooting emails across campus. But similar to Paul Miller’s experiment, we probably would have SAID we were going to do that and just did nothing until the internet came back.


So in between me first typing this and me scheduling this post, the internet DID go out for the whole campus. Instead of making us be creative, the higher powers sent us home. Which is fine and dandy…except I live on campus. Womp womp.

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We’re Pretty Lucky

Last week, I found myself with some extra time off and decided to take a long weekend and visit Grad School State. It was definitely a much deserved vacation.

I was happy to get off campus for once. It seems that even when I’m not on call, I tend to stick around (now that I’m making friends in the area) but as long as I’m in the city, I feel the need to be “on”. What’s that mean? Well, if something serious were to happen, if I’m on campus, I’m going to have to jump in. And if I’m around the city, I need to make sure I’m on my best behavior. During RA training, we talk about how RAs are role models to their residents. Who do you think act as role models for the RAs? Oh you know, the pro staff.

I was also glad to see all the people I knew from GSS. I had friends that were in lots of different departments and it was nice to see them after all this time and hear what they have been up to. Everybody in my program seems to like their jobs. I only know of two that are searching and it’s not so much that they don’t like their jobs, but rather they are relocating to be closer to a significant other. My friends from outside the program…that’s a different story. They always seem to be looking for something better or complaining about something. Part of me wants to smack them…”Oh, I’m sorry, your boss asked you to come in on a Saturday? I had to go to the hospital with a kid with alcohol poisoning at three am.” But then I realized we’re the lucky ones! We like our jobs! It must suck to get called into a job that you don’t like on a Saturday.

The moment that it really hit me, I was talking with someone who is looking for his next job and he just seemed really down and said, “Oh well, it’s not like you can get your dream job right out the gate or even ten years down the road.” I don’t know about the rest of you, but I did! Granted, I’ve always thought about “dream _____” in a much more reasonable way than others. I know that I can’t have some high level job right after graduation, so I kept my goals in the entry level arena. I also tell people that my dream car is a car that only costs about $40K which isn’t exactly unreasonable. Back to my original point…

People also keep telling me that they “admire that I’m doing what I love even though it means I’ll be poor for the rest of my life” (except sometimes it’s more eloquently said). Yes, I know that I have a masters and I know that my job requires more than the normal nine-to-five and I’m sure if you divided the amount I make by the hours I worked, we would find that I would have been better off as a stock room worker at a chain clothing store that sells overpriced jeans, but that’s not the point. I’m happy with my job. At the moment, I’m able to make ends meet. I’m not on the border of being starving and homeless. I guess what I want to say to those people is sorry I value my happiness over a paycheck (#notsorry). 

Sorry that went a bit towards the rant-y side. I’m not even mad, I’m just happy with my job. I do have friends that aren’t in student affairs that do like their jobs. I also have friends that are still looking for their dream jobs but are making sure they are taking on the “right” responsibilities and projects in their current job to help them attain that dream job one day.

If you’re not in your dream job yet, what is your dream job? What steps are you taking to get there?

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So You’re In Grad School – May

May is always a month that’s pretty easy to remember…LAST DAY OF SCHOOL, WOOOOO!!! But seriously. I know last month I dropped the ball on my “So You’re In Grad School” post because I couldn’t remember what I did in April during my first year of my program. Guess what? I’ve been thinking about it all month and I STILL don’t remember what I did in April. But, because May was the end of the year, I definitely remember what I did in May.

If you’re a first year student…

Hopefully you have your summer plans all set because now it’s time to plan for them! You might be staying right where you are, you might be traveling to the other side of the country! Orrr you might be in the unlucky position of “we’re closing your building, MOVE!”. Trust me, that’s no fun. Also, I’m over moving. Like seriously over moving. Anywho.

If you do have to travel a long distance for your summer internship, make sure you have a reliable way of getting there. What’s that mean? Well, if you plan on driving to your internship, whether it’s a daily commute or driving ten hours twice the entire summer, take your car for a tune up. You don’t want to have to tell your supervisor that you are going to be late because your car broke down. If you are flying to get where you’re going, make sure you have a ride from the airport to campus and make sure you know how you’re going to get around during the summer. Does the city you’re going to be living in have a good public transportation system? Check it out ahead of time! Do you plan on renting a car for weekend trips? Look into the car rental service closest to where you’ll be living and see if there are any special restrictions. I rented a car the WEEK before I turned twenty five and had to pay an extra ten dollars a day. Other places might have a higher fee or might not rent to you, depending on your age.

Try to find out as much as you can before you leave for your internship. What are the details of where you’ll be living? Will you be housed in an apartment? Will you have roommates? One of my classmates got housed in a dorm room for his summer internship! It was a NICE dorm room…but he never thought he’d be back in one of those! Are there any special summer trips or retreats that you are expected to go on? What is the weather like in the summer where you are going? What are you supposed to wear in the office?

If you do your homework from the above two paragraphs, you will have a better grasp on what to pack and what not to pack for your summer internship. If you are flying, you might want to look into shipping a box or two ahead of time so you’re not paying a fee to check extra suitcases. At the end of the day (I can’t believe I’m about to say this) every town in America has a laundromat, so always pack less clothes. Always.

If you’re a second year student…

Congratulations. You’ve survived grad school. You better celebrate now because you’re about to start working full time and you will continue to do so for the next fifty years or so. I just sucked the fun right out of it, didn’t I?

Hopefully you have a job offer. Heck, maybe you’ve even accepted a job and have a start date and all that jazz! If so, that’s exciting and you might want to actually read some of what I wrote to the first year students as you plan to pack and move to wherever it is life takes you. Especially that part about bringing your car in for a tune up. You do not want to be stuck on the side of the road with your fully packed car. It’s no fun.

You might have multiple job offers at once. Whatever you do, DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT THIS TO OTHER PEOPLE. There are plenty of people out there that are currently employed and you will not earn their sympathy. If you have a few select friends that have their job situation figured out, talk to them about it or chat with a professor. But seriously, do not just complain to the whole class. Every program has that one kid that does it and nobody likes them.

So. Yes. You might have multiple job offers. And you might have a hard time choosing between them. There will be pros and cons about all of the schools, the positions, the locations. One job will pay more than the other. It’s not an easy decision to make. You need to think long and hard about it and honestly, you need to go with your gut feeling. I know most people fresh out of grad school will want to go with the highest salary (you’ve gotta pay those loans somehow!) but that might not be the best job to take. In a perfect world, the job with the best description and best location would also be the highest paying, but it NEVER works out that way. I wish you the best of luck with your decision. (Also, if you do need someone to complain to, I have a job, you can whine to me. Or wine to me. Whichever.)

You might not have a job offer yet. That’s okay. As people are accepting (or declining) job offers, more positions are opening up. Some schools don’t have their budgets set for next year yet and once they figure those details out, they will know if they can add that position or not. If you don’t have a job offer yet, put your stuff in storage, keep looking for jobs, but more importantly, ENJOY YOUR TIME OFF. Once your friends with jobs get settled in, go visit them. See new parts of the country. Go to the beach. Once you get a job offer (which you will), you will not have time to do any of those things.


Whether you’ve finished your first year, your whole program, or just finished college and are about to start your Student Affairs adventure, congratulations on finishing another year!

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The Right Fit

So, the other day I mentioned that a job I turned down was at a school that just wasn’t the right fit. But what does that even mean? Think about when you were applying to GO to college. Everybody told you that you wanted “the right fit” and that “you’d just know”. Those things apply to a job. You want to work somewhere that you will be happy and continue to grow.

There are some things about the school or position that you will know just from reading the job description or researching the school.


This one is pretty obvious. Where is the school located? Is it somewhere you want to be geographically? If you want to stay on the West Coast to be close to family or a significant other, why would you even apply to a job in Virginia? On a smaller scale, what sort of environment do you want to be in? Do you want to work in a city or do you want to be in a more suburban or even rural area? In a city there’s PLENTY to do that’s off campus (fun for you), but it also might make it hard to promote on campus programming (terrible for your job). At some schools, there is NOTHING if you venture off campus.


If the school you’re applying at has a religious affiliation, you might have to see if your values line up with the school’s values. This is something you really should be doing anyway, but more so if there is religion involved. Back when I was applying for assistantships, one school with Catholic roots said that I would not be able to have overnight guests of the opposite gender. Not for me, sorry.

What You’ll Be Doing

This might sound silly, but you want to apply for a job you’re going to like. If you really hate academic advising, don’t apply for a job that has anything to do with academic advising. At smaller schools, you may be working in more than one department, so even though the job may be listed as one thing, make sure you read the description to see exactly what you will be doing. On the flip side, if you are working in a larger department, you’re going to want to see what your role will be in the department.

Aspects Important to YOU

There are some things that will be important to you that your classmates won’t care about. If you have a significant other or child, you’re going to want to make sure a live in position works with your lifestyle. I really wanted to work at a small school.

There are other aspects of the job that you can’t just look up online but instead will have to ask about during interviews. Other things might be a bit awkward to just come out and ask, so you will have to make your best call based on what you see during an interview.


What’s the office culture like? Is it a laid back, fun place to work? I honestly can’t imagine working in some stuffy office all day. Some offices have a much more casual dress code than others (jealous). Do the staff members seem to get along? Are they friends outside the office?

Professional Development

How invested will the school be in your growth once you get the job? Do they spring for ACPA or NASPA or tell you to just register for a free webinar? Is there a set professional development program? Will they let you take on projects?

Supportive Supervisors

This is probably the most important. You and your supervisor need to be able to work well together. This isn’t just another on campus job that you will leave once you graduate…you’re in it to win it this time! What is your boss’ supervision style? Do they seemed relaxed or does it seem like they’ll be hovering over your shoulder every step of the way?

As much as interviews are a time for your future employer to be learning more about you, it is also a time that you can learn about them! Make sure to go in with a list of questions about things that matter to you!

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