Category Archives: Residence Life

Myths of Residence Life: A Series

I had this idea after housing assignments went out to write about all of the complaints that were coming in from the parents. I listed them down. And then I inadvertently wrote an ENTIRE post about just ONE of those complaints. Oops. So instead, while I am celebrating (and recovering from) my first big girl vacation, you can enjoy the Myths of Residence Life.

If you have any of your own myths that you would like to add, leave them in the comments!

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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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Changing Policy

No matter where you work, there will be something that you disagree with. While not everything can be changed, as an employee there are some changes that you can push for! As a live-in professional, you might have to follow more rules that a person that doesn’t live on a college campus. Maybe you want to be able to paint your apartment or have someone live with you. Are there things you disagree with at your work place? Have you thought about changing the policy?

It’s hard to make changes right away. Certain things are completely okay to ask about, for example, having a partner or child live with you. If you have been hired as a live-in professional, you do need to know if these important people (that you probably are living with at the moment) can come with you to your new place. You will either be told yes or no. You might be the first person to ever ask that question and they might change or create a policy right then! Other things you might need to wait on. It’s hard to make big changes when you’re the new kid and don’t fully understand how your new work place works.

A good place to start is by asking questions. Why is the currently policy in place? One of the schools I interviewed at had a ban on pets in professional staff apartments. Why? Well, back when pets were allowed, one staff member had a LOT of cats and when she moved out, the entire apartment needed to be GUTTED because of the cat urine smell. Unfortunately, like a lot of policies our students must follow, one bad egg ruined it for the rest of us. When was the policy last updated? The current policy in place might be outdated! What your colleagues think of the policies in place? You might want your cat or dog to be able to live with you, but your other co-workers don’t have pets so while they’re not exactly pushing for a change, they might be supportive of you.

At your workplace, how do you go about changing the policy? Depending on the policy, it might be something you need to do with HR or it might be something that just stays in your department. What do other updated policies look like? Are you able to write it or would a legal team have to?

One of the most important things when changing a policy is having support from co-workers and supervisors. Depending on the policy itself or the school you work at, changing a policy can be a big deal. You might not be able to do it alone. If you are a newer employee, it is much easier to get things done if you have the support of those who have been around longer and have more connections at your institution.

While it’s not the easiest thing in the world, you can change a policy, even as an entry level employee. The important thing is to ask and to understand that it can take some time. Have you changed or implemented a policy at your campus? What’s a policy that you would like to change or implement?

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Home Sweet Home

In the middle of finals week, I realized that for the first time in nearly ten years, I was going to be living in the same apartment for more than one year. I hadn’t really thought about it, but once things got real busy with move out, I noticed something was off. Oh, that’s right, I wasn’t incredibly stressed about my own move.

I absolutely hate everything about moving. I hate packing. I always think I have less crap than I do. I hate cleaning. Once everything is all packed away, you see all the dust left behind. And when you arrive in your new place, you have to clean. I hate dealing with the fridge. There’s always that debate about throwing things out and buying them at your new place or putting all your ketchup/salad dressings/condiments in a cooler and bringing them along. I hate dealing with the first shopping trip at the new place. There’s always so much to buy. Ugh.

The worst is that for the most part I always knew that I was going to be in my various apartments for a year (or less) so I would tell myself not to decorate, not to bring too much, not to make it homey. And of course I never listened to myself. In fact, this might have been the slowest I’ve ever unpacked an apartment…I still have yet to hang anything on the walls in two rooms!

As much as I hate moving, I feel like the yearly moves prevented me from winding up on Hoarders. When you’re moving at least once a year, you can’t take piles and piles of junk with you. While I feel like I’ve done a decent job at keeping my apartment clean, once I realized I wasn’t moving, I started to get anxious about it. Months and months ago (seriously, during the winter) I cleaned out my closet and made a pile to donate to Goodwill. That pile is still sitting in my bedroom. Oops.

So what crazy thing did I decide to do next? Oh, you know, just rearrange the whole apartment. By myself. I realized I was in trouble after I had emptied my desk and shelves and then realized everything was too heavy to move by myself. While my original intent was to make my apartment not look like a Hoarders episode, I accidentally did just that and now need to wait until someone can assist me in moving this heavy furniture.

Besides all the furniture moving, I have a few other ideas for decorating my apartment. Since I’m going to be here for awhile and all. I have a few pictures up, but my walls still feel pretty bare. I would LOVE to do something big to go behind my bed. Another thing I want to do is get a rug for my bedroom. While I don’t exactly have the funds to do any of these things at the moment, maybe I’ll get myself more settled in and decorate!

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Social Media Concerns

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have my job before the days of social media. While I enjoy it for personal use, it honestly can make some days turn into a major headache once I get complaints of students using Facebook or Twitter to bully one another or to post pictures of things that they shouldn’t have in their rooms or apartments (yes, we do see your party pictures). I imagine that before Facebook, students shared pictures the same way they shared them when I was in middle school – getting them developed and passing the envelope around. Also, I know that before I had a digital camera, I took WAYYYY less pictures because it was so expensive!

I already mentioned that students posting pictures of inappropriate activities can get them in trouble. I had friends get in trouble for this my first year at Undergrad U. They had been drinking one night in their room with a few friends and took some pictures and of course posted them on Facebook and I believe somebody reported them to a Residence Life Professional so then of course they got in trouble. I’ve had other instances of students or friends posting about things in their room (street signs, pets) and get in trouble for that as well.

A more recent phenomenon has been these “Confessions” pages. Undergrad U has had a pretty active page for a month or two now, usually filled with things like “I think my RA is hot” or “I had sex in the library/locker room/bathroom/etc”. Most of the time these are harmless, but other times students talk about hurting themselves or others and we have no way to find out who posted it.

Students definitely don’t understand the consequences of posting certain things online. With Facebook, the things you posted are most certainly linked with your real name. Trust me, it’s not fun to have to go through years of pictures and un-tag or delete inappropriate photos. It’s even worse when you have message people you haven’t talked to in ages asking them to take down their photos they may have posted of you. I didn’t have a Facebook until I was in college, but some of these students have had Facebook since they were thirteen…that’s going to be a LOT of Facebook digging their senior year!

Now, it’s not like I go creeping on the internet looking for my students’ Facebook and Twitter accounts trying to get them in trouble. Trust me, I don’t want to see this stuff. The less I know, the better! But if we are made aware of something, we have to chat with the student about it. I usually hear a lot of, “I had no idea you could see that!”

Another issue that has been happening with Residence Life (and it’s something that started happening while I was still a student) is that after receiving their roommate assignment, a student will go look up his or her new roomie on Facebook. Sometimes, the parent does this. And then all hell breaks loose. “My child cannot live with this heathen! They have PARTY pictures on Facebook!” While Facebook can be great for roommates and other incoming students to get to know each other, it becomes a problem when a student uses Facebook to “play up” one aspect of his or her life.

What are some issues that social media has created at your job? How do you work with students on addressing social media concerns?

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A Review of My Internships

Technically, I had three internships during grad school. All three were in VERY different areas of student affairs, but one really just felt like an extension of my assistantship, so I tend to not count it.

One of my internships was with an office at a college that provided services to people with a range of…I’m going to say needs because I dislike the term “disabilities”…including test-taking accommodations (extended time, readers or writers, etc), note takers, physical accommodations (arranging for a private bathroom or ground level room), and many other things. I loved the work that the office did…the only thing was that I didn’t do enough of it! Shortly before I came on board, the director of the office left, so there were some transitional issues in the office. I don’t think the interim supervisor was ready to take on an intern and as a result, there really weren’t too many projects for me to work on. A lot of the time, I would just assist in whatever area needed help. One day I wrote someone’s test answers because the student had broken their arm in a snowboarding accident. I took on a LOT of tasks meant for student workers. I also did not have much interaction with students…something I really wanted seeing as I was going into student affairs!

Luckily, I wasn’t the only student in my program with internship issues. I think a lot of us didn’t realize that since these internships were meant for us to learn something, we could ask our supervisor to assign us tasks that would help us grow and develop the skills we wanted. As I went looking for my third internship, I thought about what I didn’t like about the past two…and yes I’m saying two because I really didn’t like that my not-really-an-internship didn’t teach me anything that I wasn’t taught due to my assistantship. Also, it was getting closer to graduation and I was beginning to think of what sort of job I wanted after graduation. I made sure to look for things that I knew were going to help me out.

This last internship was in a student activities office. I focused mostly on the “fun” stuff, like events and Greek life. There were multiple professionals working in the office, so even though I had one direct supervisor, I got to work with a lot of people! It was completely the opposite of my previous experience. The very first day I was there, one of the office workers walked me around campus, both to give me a tour and to introduce me to other campus administrators. The nature of my work had me interacting with students more frequently, but to provide even more chances for interaction, I wound up moving my “office” location so students could pass by and say hi. I was a much happier person at this internship!

Some tips when you are looking for an internship…

Ask your potential supervisor what type of projects he or she has in mind for you! You don’t want to be viewed as just an office assistant that is going to make copies and file things.

Tell your potential supervisor about some things that you would like experience with. Some might be projects you can do on your own, others might be things you’d assist with. Is he or she open to helping you get these experiences?

What are some things that you will NOT do? One of my internships (guess which one) was something that I absolutely did not want to do. I took it just to have something to do. I’m sure if I had tried harder, I could have found something else. OR I could have spoken to my supervisor about what I wanted to get out of it. While I didn’t want to be an RD for the summer, I could have thought of some projects that I was interested in.

How have your internships gone? What are the most valuable things you’ve learned from them?

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Talkin’ About First Generation

I was a first generation college student. Not only had my parents not gone to college, but nobody else in my family had gone to college either. I was the first.

I never thought it was a big deal. My parents and everybody else around me made it very clear that college was just what came after high school, just like middle school came after elementary school. When I went to college, I didn’t say anything about it because I thought there were others like me. But no, the second I started having trouble at Undergrad U, suddenly it was a BIG DEAL that I was a first generation student.

The counseling center enrolled me in a special program for first generation students. The program offered a lot of services (free tutoring, special sessions with financial aid, pamphlets to send home to parents) that I’m SURE helped other students, but they weren’t of any use to me. I was a white girl raised in an affluent area. Probably the most awkward moment was when I was sitting in a session about diversity…as the only white girl. Everybody kept staring at me like I didn’t belong in the program, like I was some sort of spy for the non-first generation students. Shortly after that I just stopped going to anything the program had to offer.

It wasn’t until I was in graduate school that I learned more about first generation students any why they need more support than non-first generation students. It was also during grad school that I felt like some sort of zoo animal. I was the only first generation student in my class and everybody kept asking me all sorts of questions. The one I hated the most? “What’s it like to be a first generation student?” “Oh I don’t know…what’s it like to not?”

One time I brought up this issue with my mom and she got mad. She also didn’t think it was a big deal. I told her that I didn’t think it was a big deal either and thought that was going to be that but it seems once every few months she brings it up again except she turns me into the bad person. Basically she thinks that by my bringing that topic up, I feel that my parents disadvantaged me by not going to college. Um. No. That’s not why I brought it up, I brought it up because it was something that came up in class.

Just like anything else, you can’t make assumptions based on a certain status. Helping first generation students IS important, but you have to find out more information about each student’s situation before helping them. If the counseling center or even the program coordinator would have talked to me, they could have directed me to workshops that did apply to me.

What are some program your institution has in place for first generation students? What are some of the challenges you face in your department when working with first generation students?

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Picking Favorites

Parents aren’t supposed to have favorite kids, right? Parents love all their children equally, even if Susie is pulling straight A’s while Sally is getting busted for smoking weed behind the 7-11. It’s only in the really messed up families that a parent picks an obvious favorite (or least favorite) child.

Perfect moment for this image.

And as a student affairs professional, I try not to have favorite students/residents/buildings/student groups/student leaders. But, just like siblings fight over this sort of thing, my students grumble about this constantly. “Why is she at that building’s event but not ours?” “How come she has a lunch meeting with him?” With the things these students know, I swear PDFM U has it’s very own Gossip Girl following me around and updating the students on my life.

“Spotted: The Author attending ABC’s Philanthropy Event”

Here’s the secret to how I choose which events to attend: I am a good, dedicated, overworked, entry-level student affairs professional. I also have no life. SO. If you invite me to something and I have the time free, I will 98% of the time be there. The students that accuse me of “never coming to anything” NEVER INVITE ME TO ANYTHING. Or…on a slightly more annoying note, the thing the students invite me to is something that as a professional, I CANNOT attend.

Remember back in college, everybody joked about this triangle?

I believe I chose good grades and social life, because I honestly don’t remember ever getting a good night’s sleep.

Well, that triangle still exists except the labels have changed – they are now me, students, and booze. You can still only pick two. If there are students and booze, I cannot be there. If there is me and booze, there sure as hell better not be students there. If there are students but no booze, I can be there. Maybe I should make a flowchart with this and distribute it to my students so they know what sort of events to invite me to…

I feel like I’ve mentioned it before, but in my almost one year here at PDFM U, there are some students who have gone out of their way to get to know me. I really appreciate that. They are the ones who have helped me the most and really let me know what’s going on at this school. Students out there – if you want to get to know a campus administrator better, you have to reach out! It’s a two way street. I know there are some people out there who set some very strict boundaries and won’t talk about anything personal unless it’s a work-related issue, but most of us do open up a bit.

Have you ever had to deal with this before? How do you handle students that accuse you of favoring one group over theirs?

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2013 Goal Updates – March

The downfall of me planning most of my posts ahead of time is that I start writing my “Goal Updates” post mid-month but really can’t do much since I can’t tell you all about things that haven’t yet. Then I forget about it until…oh…the day I intended on posting it. Sigh.

Be More Organized

Well, nothing says “We like you and want to keep you” quite like giving you a ton more responsibility, right? After spring break, I returned to this HUGE stack of mail in my inbox with all these new tasks that are assigned to me. I spent a week staring at the papers before deciding that I needed to come up with a system for them first. So far, so good.

I did a major spring cleaning of my bathroom. I know earlier this year I completely reorganized it, but for this cleaning I actually scrubbed the tub, sink, and toilet, I mopped the floor, shook out the rug…it’s all nice and shiny in there now!

I may very soon have a major change in my living arrangements (and that’s all I’ll say about it for now!) but because of that I am planning some rearranging. Unfortunately I think that might require taking some furniture apart because I’m pretty sure it won’t fit through my door.

Read More

I went on a trip earlier this month and downloaded a TON of samples on my Nook. I get a little mad when a sample has only 17 pages…with most of them being acknowledgements, chapter listings, etc. I did actually buy one of the books – “Sorority Sisters” by Claudia Welch. I enjoyed reading it and I think it’s something any female reader with a close group of friends can understand…not just those in a sorority. The one thing that stinks is books are EXPENSIVE. I think I’m either going to have to go back to Goodwill to look for books or try and find a library.

Schedule More Me Time

You know you’re getting to a point where your work life and your personal life are so entwined that you’re inviting your friends to college events for a night out. I have found other things to keep me busy in my new city, but work has been so busy with late night events that I haven’t really had much me time…good thing I enjoy work! I also seem to finally have a group of friends. Some have “normal” 9 to 5 jobs, others have crazy retail hours, and then there’s me. Ha!

Keep in Touch

This month has been soooo busy! I’ve traveled twice this month and I have one more trip coming up this weekend. Even though I didn’t travel to see my friends, I wound up being in touch with them more than a normal month because they’d comment on my Facebook pictures and we’d wind up chatting all night about where I was and what I was doing. I also did get to see my Big which was wonderful. She hasn’t visited me in my new city yet so hopefully we will find time for that in the next few months. It’s difficult because I don’t plan my weekends until I know what weekends I’m on call.

Be a Grown Up

I rented a car for the second time in my life. That seems like a grown up thing to do. I also found all the documents in order to do my taxes, but I still haven’t done them. Of course, that’s all negated by the fact I was pouty about not day drinking on St. Paddy’s. Oops.


In April, I plan on finishing a book that I haven’t read in forever and finishing a major non-work related project. Woo!

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The Benefits of Living On

Now that job search season is in full swing, I thought I’d touch on some of the benefits of a live on position. Yes, I know that I’ve previously complained about it, and I assure you that by this time last year I did NOT want anything to do with a residence life office. I was sick of fire alarms and students knocking at my door and students walking past my windows and well, there were days that I was sick of students in general.

But living on definitely has its advantages! The main one is the price. I know my live-off friends earn slightly more than me, but not enough to make up for what they pay in rent. Not having to pay rent and utilities lets me put more towards my student loans and other debt. Also, many live-in/on positions include some sort of meal plan, so I’m also spending less on food. Some schools do require that you pay a small monthly fee, but the ones I’ve heard have always been under $100 a month.

I also don’t have a monthly utility bill. I’m okay with having “basic” cable (is that what having only 70 channels is called these days?) and I don’t use phone service (hello iPhone!) so I really don’t have to pay any monthly bills. Many of my friends in apartments and houses keep their heat set to just above freezing in order to save money. I don’t have to worry about that and I can keep my heat set to a reasonable temperature.

If you live in an expensive city, professional staff apartments are probably way bigger than anything your off campus friends are living in. While my apartment isn’t a palace, it’s larger than most of my friends’ places and definitely big enough for me.

Many people value safety when looking for a place to live. I can’t really think of a safer place than a residence halls. You have to have an access card, many have a staffed front desk, and there are campus police patrolling frequently.

My favorite part of living on (and probably the thing I will miss most) is having maintenance workers on site 24/7. If something breaks at my parents house, they have to either figure out what it is or schedule an appointment with someone. If something breaks at my apartment, I submit a Fix It or call a number and BAM problem solved.

What are your favorite aspects about living on?

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