“How Grad School Changed My Life” A short reflection.

By Francisco Cordero

Twitter: F1_Cordero  https://twitter.com/F1_Cordero

It was a Wednesday. I was at my internship, in a so-called “marking firm” deleting spam, plugging away data and numbers, and making Dunkin’ Donuts dark roast coffee. You know…the typical intern stuff. On that day, I was ecstatic because (1) it was my last day of internship and (2) I was heading back to my residence hall.  On the drive back to Montclair State University, I was rushing through traffic so I could arrive on time for my RA one-one-one meeting with my supervisor. Once in the meeting my supervisor asks, “What are you doing February 23-24, 2012? With no sense of where this conversation was going, I said nothing. She said, “you are going to MAPC” (Mid-Atlantic Placement Conference). MAPC, a job/graduate assistantship placement conference, gives undergraduate students the opportunity to continue their education at the master level, while working in a Residence Life position.

I was graduating May 2012, and I still had a plan of working for a Marketing Firm. However, one thing began to change my life’s direction, the words “Career in Student Affairs & Higher Education.” If it wasn’t for my supervisor I would have never known there could be a career in Higher Education. I was tired of looking at a computer screen for hours and typing away press releases. The feeling of coming back to residents and sitting in the lounge and talk about football or classes was much more inspiring for me.

When I began my introduction graduate courses to Student Affairs, the first thing my professor bluntfuly said was, “if you have a passion for working with college students and helping them grow to stay in college, then you will fit right in. If not, I suggest for you to switch your major.” That is the exact feeling I had, and I know most of us Student Affairs paraprofessionals would agree.

Graduate courses were no amusement park. I struggled. I thought my writing and research ability were strong – that was challenged, I thought my analytical skills and textbook reading skill were good enough – that was shut down. You are telling me that I need to apply what I learned?

Graduate School = Discipline. However, with every challenge and struggle an opportunity for excellence is born. One thing graduate school creates is discipline. During the first years you are training yourself to ensure proper behavior and practicing methods of learning so the job is done right. Along with this idea, there is discipline in accepting mistakes. Whenever a mistake happens, take it all in, reflect, then look at your strategy and create positive results. I will be honest and say, my writing skills are par for what is expected. However, graduate school has changed my methods of learning by utilizing resources, such as the writing center, to make sure I provide my professors quality work. Consistently structuring your day to make sure you complete the important class readings and apply theories to your internship. Also, a discipline in taking risks (co-presenting with a professor) or asking questions (feedback on a project). Best decision of my life was taking a risk, changing my career path, and doing what I knew I had a passion for.  

So I leave you with this question: Think of the time when you decided to begin a career in Student Affairs. Who guided you? Who or what made the impact? How did you decide? Share your story, as we all know, everyone has a different journey.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/corderofrancisco

Student Affairs - the First Years

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