By Mike Courville, Student Affairs Counseling student/Graduate Assistant Operations – Rondileau Campus Center
For many students graduate school is a great option for life after undergrad. It is also been the choice of many in this tumultuous economy. One of the debates is always where to attend. There is a simple choice one must make: going someplace new or applying where you did your undergraduate work. I had heard rumors that you should always do your graduate work at another institution for a different experience. For me I chose the place where I did undergrad. It made sense to me. I felt comfortable with my surroundings, the process of registering, and easily found locations of my classes. It eliminated a lot of the stress around applying and starting school again especially after three years out of the classroom.
What do you think about the graduate school choice? Do you have to go some place new? Does it affect your education or experience?
Starting my Student Affairs graduate career in the same location as my undergraduate proved to be quite a different experience. My mentors from undergrad were glad to have me in the Student Affairs program. It was a welcomed homecoming from the folks I made relationships with throughout my undergrad roles. These relationships were starting to change. Yes, I was a student, but I was transitioning to colleague. I would soon be looking to them for professional advice in addition to the personal advice they had given me for so many years. They were the reasons I decided to pursue this new adventure and career.
How do you welcome back alumni who begin graduate programs at the same institution?
“Growing up is never easy. You hold on to things that were. You wonder what’s to come. But that night, I think we knew it was time to let go of what had been, and look ahead to what would be. Other days. New days. Days to come.” – The Wonder Years
What challenges did you face transitioning from undergraduate to graduate?
Not only were my relationships with changing with staff, but also with students. Luckily for me, I had been out of school for three years so most of the students I had been in school with had graduated. I didn’t have the same connection with the students I worked with as I did with the people during my undergraduate. I was now a professional even as a graduate student. Throughout my few years I’ve seen other people struggle in this department whether it is still attending social functions with students or pursuing “not so ethical” relationships with students. Graduate students who begin their program right out of undergrad at the same institution still have a very distinct connection to their peers. I think it’s one of the biggest transitions as we start our student affairs work.
I believe that if you want to become an effective advisor then you must change your interactions and communication with the students. To become the Student Affairs professional that I wanted to be, I had to grow up a little bit. This doesn’t mean I had to stop having fun with students. What this means is you’re now being looked up to as a mentor, a teacher, and a trusted professional. The environment might be the same, but you’re new to campus.
What other advice would you give to a student considering a student affairs graduate program at their undergraduate institution? Please comment!