So, you’re interested in becoming a graduate student in student affairs?

Going to graduate school is one of the best decisions I have ever made.  I have learned so much since I moved to Dayton, OH just seven months ago.  I am currently in a college student personnel program while working as a graduate assistant in Housing and Residence Life.  While applying to graduate programs during my senior year, I noticed a high number of other seniors applying for higher education programs.  Throughout the past few months, I have seen a tremendous amount of students expressing interest in student affairs graduate programs, some of them being only sophomores! While that makes me extremely excited, it also makes me a little nervous.  I think it is important for people interested in graduate school to truly research and reflect on the idea.  I decided to write this blog post (which I hope is helpful) for prospective student affairs graduate students. Keep in mind that this is just my personal experience and I cannot generalize the #SAgrad experience for all programs and people.

The following is a list of things I have learned in the past seven months.  Some of these things I sort of knew before I began my courses.  Some are things I did not necessarily predict or realize about graduate school when applying.  I think it’s important for potential graduate students to know some things before changing their entire life career plans and accepting that offer.

1.  Being a student affairs graduate student/professional is not the same thing as being an involved undergraduate student leader.

It makes me so happy to see how many undergraduates love their organizations, sororities, fraternities, etc.  I remember being extremely involved and loving every minute of it.  However, I think it is important to not automatically equate “loving sorority/fraternity membership” to “I must become a graduate student in student affairs.”  There is a big difference between being a single member of an organization/staff and advising/counseling an organization/staff and holding all of its members accountable.  Being an RA and supervising seven RAs are two completely different experiences.  Are you truly in this to support students?  Or are you in this because you want to stay in college forever?

2.  Graduate coursework is no joke.

Be prepared to read more than you have ever read in your life.  Your coursework will be full of complex theories about identity development, student development, and cognitive/intrapersonal/interpersonal development.  You will also spend a lot of time diving into key issues in higher education.  There is so much more behind being a student affairs professional than what you perceive as an undergraduate.  Student affairs professionals are intentional about the way they approach their work.  I did not realize this as an undergrad, but there is an intentional reason behind almost everything they do.  They are designing learning experiences for students that promote development.  I am learning how to do this now and at times it seems impossible.

3.  Graduate school is adult limbo.

You are not an undergraduate, but you are not a professional staff member.  You might live in a residence hall with first year students.  You have left your best friends at your previous institution and now you must make new friends so you can make it through the next two years (this is your cohort and it will be full of the coolest people you will ever meet).  Life is weird in graduate school. 

4.  Nobody will understand your program and career path.

You would think “I want to work at a college” is easy to understand, but most people just will not get it.  I have spent many family gatherings, friend reunions, and interactions with people trying to explain what I do.  Just smile and let it go!

5.  You only have two years to jam pack as much preparation and learning as you can.

Go to a conference.  Present at a conference.  Join that extra committee.  Diversify your graduate experience!  Do not stick with the mindset that your graduate assistantship will give you enough preparation.  Intentionally pick internships in service areas that you are passionate about.  Intentionally pick internships in service areas you have absolutely no experience in.  This is the perfect time to explore service areas so you are able to narrow it down for the job search.

6.  Some students are not going to like you.

Many of us are interested in student affairs because of an amazing mentor we had as an undergraduate student.  You will not be that amazing mentor for some students.  That might sound harsh, but it is true.  Some students will not like you.  Some students are not interested in a mentee/mentor relationship.  Some students will only want your help as a supervisor, not a mentor.  This is normal and do not feel like you are an awful person because you are unable to form an “amazing” relationship with each and every student you interact with.  Also, do not gauge your success as a supervisor on if you think your students “like you” or not.  Your students are not your best friends.  If your students are filling your personal needs as a person then something is wrong.

7.  You will learn SO MUCH about yourself in graduate school.

Get ready for those student development theories!  Many of them will freak you out at their accuracy.  You will make sense of some things that have happened in your past.  Studying student development theory has been a phenomenal learning experience so far.  It is pretty crazy how a theorist’s student development theory can pretty much outline your entire life starting at birth.  These theories will challenge you to create your own personal theories.  These theories will provide you with the tools you need to design learning and developmental experiences for your students.

8.  If you truly want to be in this field, you will love graduate school.

Graduate school means being on the path to your dream job.  Sometimes you will want to quit school.  But other times, you will realize how much you love it.  You will meet new friends.  You will find new mentors.  You will make jokes with cohort members about how awful some of your assignments are and it will be funny.  You will meet those students that remind you why you chose to pursue a career in student affairs.  At the end of the day, all the hard work will be so worth it.

This was blog post was not meant to scare anyone.  As a current student affairs graduate student, I think it is important for people to realize how big of a decision they are making when they change their career path to something most people will not understand.  I also think it is important to get a glimpse of what life will be like for the next two years. 

Graduate school is a roller coaster.  Be sure to keep your hands in the air and enjoy the ride!

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15 Reasons Why Grad School is the Best Thing That’s Ever Happened to Me.

Who knew you could learn so much in just four months? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how blessed I am to be getting a master’s degree with a graduate assistantship. Here are 15 reasons why grad school is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

1.  I can’t really sleep past 9:30am (most days).

Before grad school, I slept so late. I would schedule my undergrad courses so I could sleep til noon. This was not healthy. I am in the office by 10am every day (well, most days). I have an 8:30am alarm automatically set for each day. 

2. I have to wear business attire every day.

Like, this is no joke. Anyone who knows me from undergrad knows I loved to roll around campus in sweatpants and t-shirts. Anytime I set foot in my office, meetings, walk around campus, I am in business casual (so, basically, every single day). At first, I thought it was torture, but now I really love it.

3.  I only wear sweatpants in my room where noone can see.

I’ve said my goodbyes to looking like I’ve given up on life in public.

4.  I have to read.. like, it’s not even an option.

Good luck making it through graduate courses if you aren’t a reader.  I had to teach myself how to read for classes.  At first, it took me forever.  I’ve finally mastered the “grad school skim.” Believe it or not, I’ve learned a few things from reading, too!

5.  I am responsible for holding others accountable.

Talk about stressful. I wouldn’t trade my students for the world, though.

6.  I have to be responsible and act mature (well, more mature than undergrad).

I have a planner. I write stuff in it. I know what’s going on and when. I clean my room and I now have my own bathroom.

7.  I have a Google calendar that literally details every single thing about my life ever.

You want to hang out with me on Saturday? Cool, let me send you a google invite.  This is so new to me, but I have become dependant on my calendar.  If it’s not on my calendar, I’m not going to it.

8.  I have friends here that push me to be a better person.

“Taylor, you should really do this.”

“Why?”

“Because you’d be good at it.”

“Ugh. Fine I’ll do it.”

My fellow grads are my favorite people ever.

9. I’m at a Catholic and Marianist institution.

This is something that’s been missing from my life for a long time.  It feels good to be back in a place I can connect to spiritually. I might not attend mass as much as I should, but the spirit and feeling here is different than a public school and it inspires me to make good decisions.

10.  I have learned that not everyone will like me and that’s okay, as long as people are doing their jobs and are being held accountable and responsible.

Something HUGE that a student affairs professional needs to learn. Just because all students like you, doesn’t mean you are good at your job. I’m not saying that people hate or dislike me here, but I’ve started to let go of trying to impress people and I’ve started to force myself to do my job the best that I can.

11.  My supervisor is the perfect role model.

I’m really not trying to be a suck-up. She’s just the best and I’m blessed to have her here to show me the ropes.

12.  I’ve learned the importance of student affairs and development.

We literally save lives. And I love it.

13.  I don’t really eat Taco Bell as much as I used to.

Don’t get me wrong, I still eat it a lot more than any normal human being. But, It’s definitely not as much as before!

14.  I have gained an appreciation for previous supervisors.

I’m sorry I was annoying and probably really sassy at times.  Your staff meetings were actually really short and I miss them.  Also, I’m sorry I always submitted my program requests and evaluations late.  And most importantly, thanks for not giving up on me even though I probably really sucked at times.  Oh, and last one, I’m sorry I missed 2 desk shifts within the same month. You all rule!

15.  I’m doing what I love with amazing colleagues that I love in a place that I love.

Word.

grads

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My New Life

Hi everyone! Today I realized that I have not been keeping up with this blog at all.  So, I decided to write a new post.  Students were not even on campus the last time I wrote a blog post.  As you can imagine, lots of things have happened since then.  I could probably write FOR DAYS.  I am going to attempt to write about what I REALLY do with my assistantship, in my classes, and in general as a graduate student!  I also want to write about some of the new friendships I have formed over the past few months.

I am the Residence Coordinator for Marianist Hall at the University of Dayton.  Typically, there are several RCs for each building.  Marianist is considered one of the “smaller” halls on campus, which is why I am the only RC! To be honest, I really enjoy being the only RC.  I really get to connect with the RAs and DAs in my building, as well as be a present and recognizeable face in our community.  Also, my AC (supervisor) is amazing! Being the only RC has allowed me to form a great relationship with my supervisor. She is an NKU alum as well. Go Norse!

As the RC, I directly supervise 7 RAs. There are 12 total for my hall. My RAs have been awesome so far! My favorite part of my assistantship is supervising the RAs and watching them learn and grow every day. I try my best to challenge them to step out of their comfort zones and meet the needs of their communities.  My 7 RAs are called my “subteam.” The full 12 RAs are called the “team.” My subteam calls themselves the Taylor Gang. I supervise new RAs, returner RAs, juniors, and seniors. Some of my RAs will be graduating in May! It has been really easy to connect with the graduating seniors because I was literally in their shoes just a few months ago.  Overall, these bright and wonderful people are my absolute favorite part of my assistantship.  Although sometimes they may chat themselves all the way to a full 2 hour team meeting on a Thursday night, they are still wonderful people! Haha! One time, an RA brought me a diet mountain dew to a 1:1 and another brought me a diet coke.  Needless to say, they totally get me.

Another part of my assistantship is to serve as a behavioral hearing officer. Yes, you heard that right! I am a hearing officer. I meet with students who have possible policy violations and determine findings, as well as follow up with consequences. I can’t go into any detail about cases because it is all very confidential, but I can say that this has been one of my favorite parts of my assistantship.  Some of the best times to help students are at their weak points. I am able to provide encouragement and opportunities for learning. Pretty cool, right?!

I also serve as the Desk Attendant Liason. This means that I communicate the needs of the DAs to my supervisor, as well as simply check-in with the DAs and the DA Supervisor.  My DAs rule!  I enjoy seeing their smiling faces as I walk into Marianist every day. I also serve as the CA Forum Adviser. Each RA has a Community Assistant (CA) and I make sure the CAs have professional development opportunities and hold forums for them twice a month.  Other than these duties, I also serve as the Housing & Residence Life person on call twice a semester (each is one full week 24/7).  Also, I get to help plan Winter RA Training. Overall, I do lots of stuff!

Enough about my assistantship for now because I could literally write forever about it! Next topic: classes.  So far, I have enjoyed the content of my courses.  Classes in grad school are difficult because of the amount of reading that is assigned.  If you don’t read, you can’t really participate in class, and you get a poor participation grade! I had to write my life story in 9 pages, find common themes, and create my own theory for one of my assignments.  Other assignments have included research on a service area in higher education, current issues projects, state policy presentations, case studies, and more.  There’s usually something due every class! So far, I am doing well my classes. Some of the theory is really difficult to grasp, but I am slowly understanding it all. My cohort is awesome. I love my classmates! I am most likely interning with Greek Life next semster.  I am unsure which institution I will be interning at, but that is the service area I’ll probably end up in for Spring 2014!

Last but not least, I have made some of the best friendships at UD. I can easily say that this place is full of the nicest, most caring, genuine, and supportive people I have ever met. The community at UD is strong and present. I would not have been able to make it this far without the support of the 2nd year GAs, people in my program, my AC, and just everyone in general.  I have already found a very helpful mentor named Zach.  He is a second year in the program as well as an RD. I seriously probably bug him so much with my questions, but he is always there to support and guide me in the right direction. If you’re reading this, thanks Zach! Oh, and my UD friends have a pretty cool nickname. They call me Maytag. Because apparently Dwyer sounds like dryer. It has stuck and even some of my RAs have started to call me Maytag!

That is all for now.  I just thought I’d update this blog!

Until next time,

Taylor AKA Maytag

Here are some pictures!

Marianist TEAM

UD GAs

UD HRL

UD HRL2

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Training & Preparation

Hey everyone!

I have now been living at UD for about 10 days.  It seems like much longer than that!  I moved in on Saturday, July 20th.  For the first few days, I walked around campus and explored the area.  It took me an hour to find a grocery story because I got so lost!  I finally figured out where the store is and a bunch of other places, too.  The first few days went by really slow because I didn’t know anybody yet and training hadn’t started!

Training started on Tuesday the 23rd.  I finally got to meet the other new UD Housing & Residence Life GAs and some of the returners.  So far, training has been great.  The days are long but I am learning so much!  We’ve had sessions covering a bunch of topics, such as the theory behind student development and how it relates to our practice, duty and crisis, behavioral hearings, and so so much more. 

I am personally being trained until Friday, but RA training starts on Sunday!  200 student RAs and DAs will be moving in this weekend!  I am excited to finally meet the students I will be supervising.  Classes start in mid-August.

Overall, Dayton has been amazing.  The people I work with are fantastic and the campus is absolutely beautiful.  I am so blessed to be here.

Until next time!,

Taylor

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The Final Countdown

Hey everyone!

Just 4 days until I move into my new residence hall at the University of Dayton!  I will be living and working in Marianist Hall.  I looked up the building on UD’s website and HOLY SHNIKEES. Just some perspective: I have worked in Commonwealth at NKU for two years. Anyone who went to NKU knows about the halls. They’re pretty tiny and old. Marianist Hall is beautiful. It was built in 2004 and houses first and second year students. It has a post office, bookstore, chapel, credit union, and dining location inside. I basically will live in the Mall of America!  Although I am looking forward to living there, the actual building is the smallest thing I am excited about.  I cannot wait to meet my staff, supervisors, RAs, and start working with students.  THAT is what I am most excited about!  My supervisor sent me a cool update today!  She went to NKU and was an RA!  Literally so excited about this.  I received the list of RAs I will be supervising.  There’s seven of them! This is about the amount of RAs that are in one building at NKU.  As scary as all this sounded at first, I can’t help but be extremely excited. I have an amazing opportunity to learn through practical experiences that will prepare me for my future career in student affairs after graduate school.

I received the outline of my training schedule for my position and all I can say is that it’s going to be a busy two weeks full of new knowledge and preparation!

Also, I registered for courses.  I am enrolled in three (normal amount for grad students).  Perspectives in Higher Ed, Student Development’s Role in Learning, and I forget the title of the third one (something about structure in postsecondary education). 

More cool stuff about UD that I found out: 12 places to eat on campus. Yes, TWELVE. Some are open until 1 AM. I am pumped.  Parking passes are cheaper than NKU’s parking passes.  The buildings are made out of brick (weird, I’ll have to get used to this).  Brown Street, near campus, has every food I have ever loved all on one street.  There’s a Taco Bell within walking distance (happy tears).  The people there are extremely nice.

I just thought I’d give you (the very small amount of people probably reading this) a quick update!  More posts to come probably during or after training.

Dayton, Here I come!

Thanks for reading,

Taylor

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Let’s get this started

I just graduated from Northern Kentucky University, earning my bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and Marketing. I will begin graduate school this fall. And yes, I am definitely one of those students that realized their senior year that their current degree was NOT what they wanted to do with the rest of their life! After my experience as an I-LEAD Intern (an amazing program put on by ACUI), my campus involvement activities, and my job as a Resident Assistant and Building Manager, I found my passion for helping students in the college campus environment. After realizing this, I knew what I had to do: pursue a career in Student Affairs.

I will be moving to Dayton, OH in July to pursue a master’s degree in College Student Personnel! In two months, the University of Dayton will be my new home. I will also be working as a graduate assistant with Housing & Residence Life as a Residence Coordinator. I am very excited, and nervous, to begin this new life path. Since I am moving away from my family and friends, I decided to create this blog in hopes of updating people about my life throughout the next two years.

The grad school selection process was hectic, stressful, and scary. I had to decide between two great schools, but I just knew UD is where I am meant to be! The campus is amazing, the community is extremely welcoming, and I just felt right at home after meeting the people there.

Anyway, feel free to stop by my blog to read about what is sure to be a crazy, hectic, awesome, and rewarding experience that is in store for me at UD! I cannot wait to get started.

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