Looking back, I never thought I’d write something like this. I never had someone sit me down and tell me what I am about to write now regarding grad school. Looking back at my semesters as a graduate student, I wish that I could have done things a little differently. Nothing incredibly detrimental happened, I just wonder if my experiences could have been different. Grass is always greener, right? I just wish someone had these conversations with me. A conversation that starts a little like: “How is what you’re doing preparing you for what you want to do long term?”
Before we get to that question, there’s some advice I want to give. During your spring semester, here are 5 things you should do to prepare for your second year of grad school and ultimately, the search process.
#1: Take Inventory
Take a look at everything you’ve done. Take a look at the projects, papers, classes, and possibly internships you’ve done. What did you like and what did you dislike? What did you learn and what do you still need to learn?
Those simple questions can really lead you to understand what your second year may look like. It will begin to point you in the direction of what functional areas you still need to explore. Some people entered grad school with one idea of a functional area and they never wanted to deviate. Some didn’t and still don’t. Take a look at what you love to do and what you’re yearning to do. Make a list.
#2: Read the NASPA/ACPA Competencies
If you are in a graduate program like mine, we don’t talk about the actual competencies as much. These are important because they have been determined as areas that we need to provide for ourselves and our students. The entirety is here.
Taking a look at the competency areas really provides a holistic look into where you excel and where you can focus more of your efforts. To be clear, advanced mastery is not expected of all competency areas at time of graduation. This is meant to guide your professional development. Too often we engage in learning opportunities that are exciting but that are comfortable–move beyond the comfort.
#3: Build a Community Outside of your grad school/cohort/program
This can look like so many things. There are so many ways to get connected. Building a support system of folks from outside of your institution will not only allow you more opportunities but you’ll get connected to some amazing folks within the field. I’m not just saying to join The Facebook Group ™. There are, however, Facebook groups for Residence Life, Fraternity and Sorority Life, Student Activities, Student Affairs Professional Development, and then Affinity spaces. There’s tons of opportunities.
Or you can join professional spaces like NASPA and ACPA, the knowledge communities they have, and affinity spaces for people with specific identities and roles.
#4: Create your Reading List
If I’m just using personal experience to go by, there are already enough books on my bookshelf that I wont get to until I’m 90. Today, I bought six more books so I’m very clearly not an expert in finishing my reading list or even making a dent. As a current grad, I absolutely know what it’s like to not be able/want to/find time to read more. Going back to #2, it may assist you with some competency areas. I have more books on my reading list than I would like to admit.
There are some amazing online syllabi here, here, and here that will give you some options to books that you should read to further your understanding of different areas. Honestly, the best resources I’ve found came from reaching out to my mentors and friends. Use those connections you’ve made because your support network can help you find what you’re looking for or what you need.
#5: Find Something You’ve Always Wanted To Do
And set aside time to actually do it.
So, how is what you’re doing preparing you for what you want to do long term?
> BONUS <
Podcast With Clare Cady on Access to Higher Education