So, I just finished my first year of my #SAGrad at UMass Amherst, and I am eager to share a few things I learned this year. Let’s get right to it, shall we?
(In no particular order)
1. Your Assistantship(s) should not equal your life
You. Are. A. Student. First.
Never forget that.
Yes, you will become enthralled with your assistantship(s), and you will have a lot to do, but you also have a degree to attain. So attain it!
2. Set Expectations with your supervisor.
Number one should be easier once you do this.
As soon as you begin your assistantship(s), have a conversation with your supervisor(s) and establish a number of things: modes of communication, goals, your supervising needs, their needs, dress codes (BOOOOOOO), etc. Ideally, this will ensure a smooth year full of transparent communication.
Also, have a conversation with your supervisor(s) about what words you might need for your resume. Yes. You read that. Literally, words.
Resume building is essential throughout your assistantship(s), and getting certain experiences may be important to you and you need to communicate those early in the process. That way, when job interview season rolls around, you are prepared to talk to your experiences.
Sometimes you just need to go to bed.
So do it. Your health comes first. Always.
4. Be a Devil’s Advocate.
Diversity of thought is important both in work and in the classroom setting with your cohort. Ask questions. Ask for clarifications. Be curious. You don’t need to agree with everything everyone says. That’s totally okay. An essential part of the learning process is seeing the other side of the coin.
Being constructive with your learning begins with being comfortable enough to question. I feel some of the biggest learning moments this year came when people in my cohort challenged each other. We never took things personally because we understand that we are all here to learn. Challenging each other is necessary for growth.
5. Student Development Theories are not Gospel.
That’s right. I said it.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t think they are important. I’m all for the existence of student development theories. They are great for foundations of informing practices.
However, many of these theories are antiquated and are in need of rejuvenation—especially with the constantly evolving culture of identity exploration on college campuses. This is exciting because we are in a unique situation in our generation to be able inform and revive some of these theories to better fit our campus climate. All students are different, and I can guarantee that none want to be placed into boxes.
6. Create/Build your social media presence
I will concede this point to Josie Ahlquist’s blog post on this very topic.
In today’s landscape of Higher Education, it is essential to be actively engaged on social media and or blogging.
Employers are looking more and more into your experiences and knowledge outside of the classroom and even outside of your Assistantship(s).
7. Join a committee, or two, or five
Yes, I served on five committees this year.
Wait, six if I include the search committee.
Committee work is essential if you want to quickly place yourself at the table with many important people at your university. Committees are great ways to make connections, network, and learn the inner workings of an institution.
8. Be up front with your faculty.
If you are getting swamped with work, if family stuff comes up, if you need to take time for yourself—make sure to stay in communication with your faculty. They understand the nature of this Higher Ed/Student Affairs beast. Chances are they will understand enough to give you extensions upon extensions. However, procrastination probably isn’t the best excuse as we emerge into adulthood. So make sure you are actually making time for your studies.
9. GET OUT!
Getting your work done is important.
Getting some fresh air is also important. So get out!
This doesn’t only apply to going outside—which you obviously should do—but go on adventures. Concerts, hikes, sporting events—anything! Even if for only a day or night.
Explore—this especially applies to anyone going to grad school away from their home.
Leave your campus and be active.
Sometimes you need to just get your mind off your work and enjoy yourself for a few hours!
10. Eat well. Take care of your body.
Go to the gym. Go for walks. Pack a healthy lunch. Take care of yourself.
This is a demanding field and taking care of your body is necessary in order to avoid extra stress.
Look out for number one!
BUT WAIT! THERE’S A BONUS TIP!!
11. Get a tattoo.
End of list.