The First Step Towards Being an #SAGrad

The First Step Towards Being an #SAGrad

I’m pursuing a career in student affairs and university administration. Many student affairs professionals use blogging as a way to share their ideas on the field, share their professional experiences and critically look at issues globally, locally and in their own life.

As a future #SApro, I want to get a head-start on blogging my way through my career by starting right at the beginning: looking for a job and looking for grad programs. I still have a year left in my undergrad, so looking for a job can be put on the back-burner for now, I have made a big decision…

I REALLY want to do graduate studies in the USA.


The career and academic discipline of student affairs/university administration is more developed in the United States. There are only a handful of programs in Canada that deal with this field, which while I’m sure they’re amazing, the US has what seems like, and very well may be 100s of programs.

The university system is much different in the United States too. I’ve been collecting contact information for university staff across North America for my internship for a couple weeks, and I think I finally understand the difference between private and public universities.

The prevalence of greek life, a higher emphasis on athletics in some regions and just functioning in a different political and social sphere mean that the experience would be quite different! Just read this article from the Ottawa Citizen that says that American professors are sometimes “terrified” of their students, while their Canadian colleagues don’t experience the same “fear” to see how the culture differs.

I’m lucky because I work with the EducationUSA Canadian advisor. EducationUSA has international advising centres across the world to assist students who want to study in the United States. The Canadian advisor, Jenika, meets with students in person (if you’re in Ottawa) or by phone to help make the process a little clearer. So naturally, I met with her one day and she helped point me in the right direction for what I want to study.

If you are considering pursuing education in the United States, I highly recommend meeting with Jenika!

So after meeting with Jenika, we decided on a plan of attack for me to get started on the hunt this summer.

1. Narrow The Field. Should I focus on counselling or maybe pursue a joint MBA-MA program? Will a degree in “College Student Personnel” be lost in translation with Canadian higher education pros? What’s the difference between an MA, an MS and an MEd?!

2. Determine a list of must-haves. A report said 1 in 5 US colleges and universities never responded to questions from international students. Obviously, I want to have EXCELLENT support for international students. That includes financial support. Obviously it will be expensive for me to go get an American degree, but ensuring the programs I look at have funding opportunities, internships and practicums. I’ll also be looking into scholarships (like Fulbright).

3. Start creating a preliminary list of favourite schools + dream schools. This will allow me to spend the next little bit asking questions, deciding if I want to go do any campus visits and start weeding through the vast number of programs.

4. Buy a GRE prep book and take a sample test. Many programs require the GRE, I’m definitely going to be taking it. I want to take at least one year off after my undergrad before I apply to programs, but taking a sample test without studying will allow me to have a starting point on how much I need to study and prepare.

This an exciting journey to embark on but I’m more focused and have a plan. Now if you excuse me, I’m going to go do some research.

Josie Ahlquist, Brian D. Proffer, Craig Bidiman & Paul Gordon Brown have been some of my favourite student affairs bloggers and definitely inspired me to start this blog.

Know of some killer #SAgrad programs in the states?  Have an awesome blog you think I should start reading? Got any tips on hunting for grad schools? Leave them in the comments below!

Youtube: Authentic Leadership in the 21st Century

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