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Don’t Judge a (Face)book By Its Cover

Welcome to the first of the Myths of Residence Life Series! This post was actually written BEFORE the idea for the series came about…but I realized it fit so well! Incoming students have the ability to see YEARS of their future classmates’ lives on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and whatever else social media platform that’s out there.

So I might be dating myself here, but I was in college when Facebook became open to everybody. I didn’t think too much of it. The only change for me was now I could be Facebook friends with my friends that were still in high school (I mean, I wasn’t that old).

And then housing assignments were released…I was working at my good ol’ Undergrad U student employment job. I was told that typically we get slightly more phone calls after assignments go out. People are unhappy with what building they are in or what floor they are on. Somebody’s precious darling has allergies and needs air conditioning. Typical calls. The calls started coming that very day and did not stop until the school year started. My supervisor said that she had NEVER heard the phones ring that much.

Why the incredible increase in calls? Students could now look up their roommates on Facebook. That was something I honestly never thought of. Yes, Facebook existed before I left for college, but my roommate didn’t (and still doesn’t) have Facebook. For the friends I did make on Facebook, all of our profiles were NEW. While this was only the first year, that’s still a whole year’s worth of photos. We’re currently several years past this point so now my incoming students are seeing photos of their future roommate’s high school career. Ugh…I couldn’t imagine having those awkward years documented on the internet.

The point is, so many students were making assumptions about their future roommates based on what they saw on Facebook. People use their Facebooks (and before that MySpaces) to display who they want the world to view them as. Back when all these phone calls were flooding in, people didn’t think about privacy settings on their pictures or censor themselves just in case a future employer might stumble across their profiles one day. Some students were calling to complain that they didn’t want to live with their future roommates because all they saw on Facebook were party pics or offensive jokes. Others were calling because their roommate seemed “lame” or “different”. It is impossible to describe what a person is like based off of what you see on Facebook.

While my roommate and I didn’t have the anxiety-laden opportunity of stalking each other on Facebook prior to moving in together, I wonder what a stranger would think of me based off of my Facebook profile. I have my profile set to super secret, so the stranger would have to request me first but that’s beside the point.

First off, we have my cover photo and profile picture. These tend to be absolutely ridiculous. In fact, when I first arrived at college, my Facebook picture was one of my comics. Oops. Right now my current cover photo is a close up of my favorite food and my profile picture is actually a poorly photoshopped photo of one of my friends. So at the moment random stranger would probably think I’m a fat man (not that my friend is fat…just the food and all).

Next, my “about” info. My main network is Hogwarts and my relationship status lists me as being in a relationship with one of my lady friends. My quotes and “info paragraph” haven’t been changed since 2008 and are just a listing of inside jokes. The only musicians I like are my friends bands or singing groups. I don’t have any books, movies, or TV shows listed, but at the moment Facebook is recommending kids books and movies…

And last but not least, photos of me. Since that’s where 99% of my students complaints come from. There are a LOT of pictures of me with my friends’ pets. Not too many party pics…but several photo bomb pictures. And lots of sorority pictures. Of course. Sorority squat!

I don’t think any of that accurately describes me. I don’t use Facebook to list every like and dislike and chronicle every moment of my day. Sorority pictures are in there a lot because those are a lot of the big events I go to…and that’s where the cameras are. At the same time, when I think about students “cleaning up” their Facebooks before they begin their job searches (or before applying for college housing), I don’t think the “after” version of their profiles represent them either.

It’s been a few years since I heard from those angry parents at Undergrad U. I’m still hearing from angry parents. They’re checking out their kid’s roommate’s Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. “He tweeted rap lyrics, my son doesn’t like rap, MY SON CAN’T LIVE WITH HIM!” I wish I was making this up. Now that I’m no longer a student, I’ve started telling parents that we will not change a room assignment just based on something they saw on Facebook. The whole idea of college is to figure out how to live on your own. If there are major issues or lifestyle differences that cannot be worked out once the students have arrived at school and given it the ol’ college try (pun intended), then we will look into finding your precious anti-rap darling a new place to live.

Student affairs professionals of the world…what are some of your most bizarre “well I saw it on the internet” moments you’ve experienced?

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Take Time For Me

Lately, whenever I sit down to work on my blog, I always feel the need to start with something to post NOW to make up for the lack of posts. It tends to be some sort of apology. And it sucks because I spend my time writing that and then I have no energy left to do any actual blog work.

I never wanted this to feel like WORK work. I have one and a half jobs already. I don’t need (or have time) for another. But lately, it’s been feeling like work. With all of the extra stuff going on at work, I rarely have free time…I spend my nights and weekends catching up on work email…ugh.

Recently, I started working on two other blogs…one is for that half job I mentioned and it’s barely off the ground for the same reasons that this blog comes to a screeching halt every few weeks. The other is a more personal blog inspired by many people, including my follower Training Camp Rookie. Since it IS a more personal blog, I’m not going to post a link here (remember, The Author is anonymous) however some of my followers might see a new follower in the next few hours….you’re more than welcome to follow me! (In fact, please please please follow me!)

So what am I trying to say? It’s 9 pm. I’m in my bed watching reality TV. I set aside this time to work on my blog. THIS blog. Write some posts, schedule some posts, etc. I opened my binder and saw just how behind I was and I realized that I didn’t want to do this anymore. Well. That’s a bit…much. I just don’t want to do this right now. Tonight. Maybe tomorrow or the day after or next week I will want to write more, but right now I’m just really overwhelmed. When I like writing, I feel like my writing is better, and I don’t want y’all reading crap just because I don’t feel like it anymore.

I’m gonna go put my energy into at least ONE of those blogs for now. Who knows when I’ll update this next? Catch you on the flip side.

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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July Goal Updates

Since it’s been six months, I’ll fill all you new readers in. Back in January, instead of coming up with a New Year’s Resolution, I set five “goals” for myself. I use the term “goals” rather loosely since there really is no end goal and no way to measure them. At the end of each month, I reflect what I have done in terms of those goals in the past month.

Be More Organized

Clearly, I haven’t been too organized this month. I basically neglected my blogging schedule, my apartment is starting to resemble one of those cluttered second hand stores, and my walk in closet no longer functions as a walk in closet anymore. As in you can’t WALK into it.

However, this past weekend I had this absolute rush of productivity. I realized that RA training is just around the corner (already?!?!) and that if I don’t start doing things NOW they basically aren’t getting done until Christmas. Maybe. I’m hoping that continues into this week and coming weekend, but I don’t know…

One of the things I did yesterday was rearrange my room. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for awhile, but I never bothered measuring my furniture to see if it would all fit. After seeing my friend’s room, I went home that night and started measuring. There are still a few things I’d like to do in there, but I already like how it looks so much better now.

Read More

For most of the month, it was unpleasantly hot and rainy. It was terrible. I did not want to be outside. Then, something wonderful happened…my Nook decided to start working again AND the weather returned to normal. I parked my butt outside and read “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides (the same guy who wrote “The Virgin Suicides” and “Middlesex”). I bought it at some point last year and I read the first part twice on my iPad without realizing I had already started it on my Nook. I’m so proud of myself for finishing a book for once!!

I honestly don’t know when I’m going to have time to read things that aren’t on the internet in the next month, but I’m hoping to find something small!

Schedule More Me Time

I am super bummed…the vacation I was planning with my friends fell through. A group of people that still live close to Undergrad U did something together, but those that have moved far away were out of the loop. We joked that it was because the boys were trying to plan it. Luckily I will be seeing this same group of friends over the winter at a wedding!

I did take some time off and ran away to my lake house. The best/worst part was that my work phone didn’t have service. This was a wonderful realization the first day, but by the third day had me completely on edge! My service-less phone was somehow able to show that I had a voicemail from a number that I knew to be Campus Security at PDFM U. When I finally drove back to PDFM U, I half expected to see the building that houses my apartment destroyed. When I finally listened to the message, it turns out they had a question about keys to some building. Sigh.

I didn’t manage to sneak in any other time off before RA training, but I’m planning a nice long weekend a few days after move in. Then after that, it’s a long haul until my vacation with my big and my little!!

Keep In Touch

Recently, my best friend from home asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. The other girls in the wedding party are her younger sisters and our other friends from high school. Our high school group has had a group iPhone chat (seriously my favorite feature) going the past few weeks, joking about the wedding and bachelorette party and all sorts of things. While it’s not the same as seeing them in person, it’s nice to have that group feeling.

One of my friends is actually coming to visit me in a few weeks! I’m really excited…since none of my other friends live near me, it’s usually easier for me to go somewhere else rather than have people come down here. Unfortunately it is during RA training, so she’s gonna get some nice R&R while I’m…I don’t know…teaching RAs how to extinguish a fire? But seriously, I’m thinking of all the cool things there are to do in my city and making sure I drag her to each and every one of them.

Be A Grown Up

My to do list has been looking veryyyy grown up lately. Go to the post office, go to the bank, go to the store, make dinner, clean the tub. Ugghhh. Oh and everything wedding related. I swear, I might give up Facebook and exist solely on Twitter. People don’t seem to post as much wedding crap on Twitter. Oh and I still haven’t scheduled a dentist appointment…BUT WHO HAS TIME??

Until next month, mis amigos!

Jobs With Benefits

Way back in the day, before everybody and their grandmother owned an iPhone, I was an assistant manager at a certain mall clothing store that sells overpriced jeans and t-shirts with the store name scrawled all across the front. I was working over thirty hours a week, I made more than minimum wage (barely), I had a key to the store, AND I got to take HALF HOUR lunch breaks. I thought I was living the life. I WAS SO COOL. Of course, I didn’t have enough money to pay rent, so I lived on my friends’ couches and all of my student loan lenders agreed that my income was so pitiful that they made my minimum payment $0. (True story, the government STILL thinks I don’t make enough money to pay my loans.) 

So what didn’t come with my awesome job? Benefits. I didn’t have health insurance or paid time off. If I ever told my manager that I needed a certain afternoon or evening off (you know, to take my GREs or something) she gave me the whole day off. At first I thought she was being nice, but then I realized that meant I was getting less hours. If I called out sick, my manager would just sigh and say something along the lines of “Well, I don’t know what we’re going to do without you. I guess I will just work the night shift too” which made me feel guilty and the next thing you know, I’d be at work folding t-shirts while hallucinating due to my fever. That’s not okay.

Luckily, most professional jobs come with some sort of benefits package. These differ from job to job and industry to industry. The specifics won’t be posted in the help wanted add, I know during all my on campus interviews, I met with a representative from HR that was able to tell me what my benefits would include.

So what are some of the benefits of jobs with benefits?

Paid Time Off

Paid time off, commonly called PTO, can include vacation time, sick time, holidays, and personal days. All workplaces handle these things differently. At some places, you have to “earn” your PTO, so you get X amount of days or hours each pay period. At other places, your vacation time may start with the calendar or fiscal year and you get the lump sum all at once. Some companies make employees wait a certain amount of time before they can use any PTO.

Depending on where you work, you might have to work certain holidays. If you’re not salaried, you may get overtime for this (jealous!). If you are, your supervisor might give you a different day off. PDFM U has a holiday calendar. I love going through it and writing DAY OFF all over my calendar. We also have a “floating holiday” that is usually tacked on somewhere to give us a four day weekend. This usually happens in the summer when students aren’t around.

Insurance

There are more types of insurances out there than I was aware of…medical, dental, vision, life, etc. Some of these your workplace might provide to you free of charge, others you might have to pay into. On top of that, you might get one level of insurance for free but have to pay to get a higher level of coverage or to cover any family members.

Some of my friends are still covered under their parents’ health insurance plans. Others that are married have chosen to use their spouse’s plan. If one of those statements applies to you, you might not need to get health (or some other) type of insurance through your workplace.

I know a lot of people my age tend to think insurance is “stupid” and that they could use the money for something else, but trust me, it’s not! Getting into a minor accident could cost you thousands of dollars if you have to make a trip to the ER and don’t have insurance. Ambulance rides alone can cost over $500. If you’re the sort of person that is worried about paying into your work plan for MAYBE $20 a pay period, you are definitely the sort of person that does not want to be hit with an unexpected medical bill.

Retirement

I literally know nothing about retirement plans. Health insurance…yeah, I’ve been to a doctor, I get that. But I haven’t retired yet. It’s not even something I’ve started thinking of. When I first started working at PDFM U and had to fill out the paperwork, I had to select the five year period that I thought I might retired during. UMM WHAT? I think I selected 2055 – 2060. That’s a long way off! I got even more confused when the HR rep started telling me about the different options. Nope. Just take my money and put it somewhere so I can have it again when I’m old.

Some companies have a company matching policy in place where if you contribute up to $X to your retirement fund, they will match it. Take advantage of this. Free money. I read somewhere that you should save 10% of your income in your 30s, 15% in your 40s, and 20% in your 50s and beyond. Well, I’m going to start NOW. I figure by the time I’m eligible for social security, it will no longer exist.

Student Affairs Specific

There are some added perks if you work at a college or university. If I wanted to take a class, I could free of charge. If I had a spouse or dependents, they could take a class (or go to college) here for free as well! Some schools have different policies, like discounted tuition, or you have to be working a certain amount of years before you, your spouse, or kids are eligible. Still, that’s a major discount. I know a lot of people working here with hourly tuition (cafeteria workers, custodians) have taken advantage of it so they could move higher up the chain in their departments.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a “live on” professional, meaning that as part of my job, I have to live on campus. It has it’s advantages and disadvantages, but the nice part is that I didn’t have to worry about finding an apartment on short notice and I don’t have to pay rent.

While colleges might not be known for their fine cuisine, we get discounted meal plans which means I don’t have to worry about how much money I’m spending at lunch. Some schools give their employees free meal plans ranging from a certain amount per month to unlimited. One thing to be cautious about – if your department is giving you an unlimited meal plan, they might be expecting that you eat a lot of meals in the dining hall with students. I’m not sure if that’s something I could get behind.

When you’re getting your first professional job, you’ll probably have a lot of questions about the different benefits packages available. Don’t be afraid to ask! At every school I visited, the HR departments were more than helpful with explaining everything to me. Even as an employee, I sometimes have questions about my insurance coverage that they are more than willing to explain. I’m sure that as I get older, my retirement package is something I’ll have more interest in and once I have kids, I’ll care a bit more about that free tuition.

Whoever googled “student affairs professionals summers off”…that’s cute.

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How I Felt on St. Patrick’s Day

How I Felt on St. Patrick's Day

Knowing somewhere out there, college students are day drinking. I’m so old.