Top 5 Tips to Conquer Fall Orientation


Orientation is approaching very quickly! We are a little over a week away from first year students moving in and things couldn’t be crazier in the office. Whether it is dealing with last minute panics from both first year and upperclass students or working on training our Peer Advising Leaders (PALs) for the upcoming year the office has been exciting to say the least. A couple years ago when I was an Orientation Leader and Peer Advising Leader I did a blog post on a guide to orientation and I thought it would be fitting to update that guide now that I have become an academic advisor.

Orientation can be a nerve-wracking wonderful experience. One of the greatest parts of orientation is that everyone is having the same feelings whether that is constant excitement or a mixture of excitement and extreme nervousness for what the next four years will bring. Due to the fact that everyone is going through same or similar circumstances this might be the only time in your life where you have the same thing in common with over 1,000 people. Take advantage of it! Orientation is specifically designed to welcome new students and spark potentially lifelong friendships. Here are my top five tips to get the most out of Orientation.

  1. Go to all of the events!

Whether you realize it or not your tuition is paying for all of the different orientation activities and festivities. Based solely on monetary investment you should attend all of the events to get your moneys worth. Attending all of the events though stems much farther than getting your moneys worth. The people I met at orientation I was friends with throughout my entire college experience and beyond. The events are also usually pretty awesome! Watching people getting hypnotized or seeing a new magician or movie on the lawn are events that do not happen everyday so take advantage. 

   2. Make friends with your Orientation Leader

Your Orientation Leader (OL) can be an extremely valuable resources for things ranging from best professors to when to go to the cafe to avoid the long lines. OL’s truly enjoy helping first year students and love answering incoming student questions. That is what they are paid to do after all! Most OL’s are upperclassmen and can provide small tips that will go a long way in helping to get adjusted to college. My OL highly recommended us all to leave our doors open when we were in our room. As a result of this I met everyone on my floor and we all actually went to dinner together most nights. OL’s are trained on all of the services available on campus and can share personal experience from their personal use of the services. For example when I was an OL I encouraged everyone to use walk-in tutoring on campus even if you didn’t think you needed it. My freshmen year I was worried about doing well in math so I went to the Learning Center to do my homework. I did not always need help but if I did there was a fellow student there to help walk me through the problem. 

  3. Get everything involving lines done first

What inevitably comes with orientation is lines at places such as Financial Aid or the Bookstore. Getting these things done early can save you a lot of time. While most students rush to check out their room and spend countless hours decorating and rearranging furniture there is the opportunity to complete everything on your checklist. Picking up your books and getting your ID picture taken can take minutes if done earlier in the day before the mad rush and then you will have tons of time to debate the furniture arrangement and feng shui of your dorm room. 

  4. Follow the directions!

Universities have been through numerous iterations of move in day and orientation and most have perfected their method. In order for the well oiled machine that is move in day to work directions need to be followed for a smooth transition. If you are told to move in at 10AM then plan to be there at 10AM. Most schools have people to help move in such as athletes or OL’s and may give you a set amount of time to move in. For example SNHU only allows people to park in front of the dorms for 15 minutes while countless athletes, OL’s and PALs help to move all of your belongings into your new home. For me the whole process of physically moving things in look less than ten minutes. 

  5. Don’t Panic!

While the day can be stressful there are hundreds of people on campus to help make the transition as smooth as possible. It is not easy saying goodbye to your parents or maybe it is but keep in mind it is not easy for them. It will be weird when your parents and whoever brought you leaves but realize again that there are thousands of people feeling the same way. Get to know your floor mates and stay up late talking with your roommate. In the end panicking will be a waste of time and there are plenty of things to do on move in day besides panic! 

Happy move in and remember to see your academic advisor!




Happy Challenge

In the past month there have been many challenges via social media including the #ALSicebucketchallenge, which I did today!

In the last three weeks though I have taken the #Happyin21 challenge. It takes 21 days to build a habit. This past spring semester a group of social media students created a social media campaign titled #Happyin21 in which they challenged everyone to be say nice things about others and themselves for 21 days to make it a habit. For the past 21 days I have been thanking people in my life that have made a significant impact in my life in the last month or so. It has been refreshing and in the end I believe made me a better challenge. Now I have made the same challenge with going to the gym hoping to make that a habit! The Happy in 21 challenge was inspired by a Ted Talk in which Shawn Achor shows that random acts of kindness, writing positive things about yourself, and reliving your happiest moment from the past 24 hours can truly change your behavior.

Here are the people that have made a significant impact on me in the last 21 days.

July 27th-Thank you to Jess for helping me figure out that I actually like advising enough to become an academic advisor

July 28th-Thank you to Kim for having the faith in me to handle the Di3 program

July 29th-Thank you to Corri for thinking of me for the Di3 advisor position

July 30th-Thank you to the academic advising team for being so excited to welcome me to the team

July 31st-Thank you to Carney for always having the best conversations

August 1st-Thank you to Rob for being so down to earth and a great friend

August 2nd-Thank you to Matt for helping to improve the Sport Management Club

August 3rd-Thank you to SNHU for being so awesome

August 4th-Thank you to Carey for swapping places with me in the office so I could get acclimated quicker

August 5th-Thank you to Twitter for being such a great professional development site

August 6th-Thank you to the SNHU community for participating in the Whiteboard Tip photo campaign

August 7th-Thank you to the entire PAL team for being so welcoming and excited for my new position and also for the best year in the PAL program I have had this past year.

August 8th-Thank you to everyone who helped me move into my new apartment

August 9th-Thank you to Nicole for being such a cool neighbor

August 10th-Thank you to Jared at Planet Fitness for remembering my name and number every time

August 11th-Thank you to Kristina for allowing us to stay at your place for the weekend

August 12th-Thank you to my camp mom, Denise for dinner and wine and the experience of Irish Wolf Hounds

August 13th-Thank you to my mom for being so supportive of my new apartment and helping with the move in and room setup

August 14th-Thank you to Linds for being awesome and bring back our Pot Luck Lunches

August 15th-Thank you to Stearnsy for sharing the same obsession of Guster and Scrubs

August 16th-Thank you to Jess for organizing the entire camping trip

August 17th-Thank you to everyone who went on the camping trip for a great weekend

I highly encourage everyone to accept the challenge and full heatedly commit to the challenge. Hold a door for someone or pay their toll on the highway random acts of kindness truly do go a long way! Also selfish plug here for SNHU but follow @happyin21 on Twitter for some inspiration.

The perils of FOMO


Ever had that moment when you are too connected? Or the fear of missing out (FOMO) because you are not connected wherever you are? This is truly a modern day challenge for almost everyone; balancing technology overload versus complete solitude. There are several different movies out there with themes of either solitude or technology overload. Some of the most recent are Life of Pi and The Internship. Life of Pi takes us through a ship wreck where a young boy and a tiger are the only survivors. Pi has to make friends with the Bengal tiger in order to survive and not be in complete solitude. The Internship on the other hand is about these salesmen (Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson) whose careers have been ruined by the age of technology. Vaughn and Wilson then decide to apply for an internship at Google and experience how connected the younger generation really is.

There is supposedly a fair balance between technology overload and solitude but let me know when you discover that. I feel like I am constantly connected whether I am at work, home or anywhere else in the world with my phone. There are times when being disconnected is extremely difficult and other times where technology makes life more difficult. Going from being constantly connected to nothing at all is like going cold turkey and FOMO really starts to kick in quickly. Whether that person liked the status or to live vicariously through other peoples news feeds has become a habit throughout the day. I am not saying technology is bad as I am not one to talk with being constantly connected. Technology can just at times prevent us from enjoying the moment at hand. I did a post on the struggle of going without technology while I was in Boston a couple months ago. I truly understand the struggle.

I recently deleted my work email from my phone. It has been two weeks and I am still struggling with the habit of wanting to check my email constantly. I figured though that there was no need to bring my work home with me and if I really did have to I can easily access the email via my laptop. Also receiving several emails from advisees a day my phone would constantly be going off no matter where I was. This simple task of taking email off of my phone has forced me not to take work home with me and feel like I need to be constantly connected. While technology is great being constantly connected can be extremely stressful. I implore you to step away from technology even if it is just as minor as deleting one app from your phone and take a look at the newfound time you have. It will not be easy but it will be worth it!


You’re Hired! How did we get here?


This has been a crazy summer! We have nearly doubled the size of our office by hiring 3 new academic advisors including me, a graduate assistant, an intern, and currently hiring for a new administrative assistant. Add to that we hired over 20 new Peer Advisors back in February for a record number of 38 Peer Advisors this has been a pretty crazy summer. Throughout the many different hiring process I was able to have a role and learned a lot from the process.

One of the main lessons I took out of the interview process was that higher education interviews are much different than business interviews. Sure they ask you the same sort of cliche questions such as tell me about yourself or what are your largest strengths and weaknesses. The main difference I noticed is that higher education interviews are a whole day event! Candidates go through several different interviews asking the same question in different ways. Our candidates met with the advising team, student affairs staff, admissions representatives, and then with students. After that or somewhere tucked in there candidates would get a tour usually from a student noticing their every move and taking note of the questions asked along the tour. I was told that this was a much lighter interview process than other schools where dinner and many other mini interviews are included in the day.

I was shocked! But then after reading Job One 2.0 I started to realize how important “fit” is within the higher education community. The interview process is just as important for the candidate as it is for the office looking to hire.

Another lesson was the importance of cover letters. Cover letters allow candidates to display their personalities and show different experiences that may not be listed on their resume. Do not retell your resume through a cover letter! There is no need for a hiring committee to see your resume both in bulleted and paragraph format. Use the cover letter to show your personality and talk about why you would be a great fit for the team and why the team would be a great fit for you! Also do your research! If you are applying for a position you should be able to find a hiring manager or the director of the office to address the cover letter to. This simple addition shows that you did your research and did not take the lazy way out of “to who it may concern”. While we are on the subject of cover letters it is very easy to notice a general cover letter that was sent to numerous schools. Again, do your research and personalize the cover letter for each school that you apply to! If you are saying you’re a good fit because you are a hard worker what does that really tell the hiring committee? Lastly, spell check! I could not begin to count the number of cover letters we received that had spelling or grammatical errors throughout. Get someone else to read the cover letter and provide feedback. The easiest way for an application to reach the trash bin is spelling mistakes!

There are several sites out there that show how to “properly” format a resume. I am now expert but what made me look twice at the resumes was formatting constancy as well again no spelling or grammatical errors. Just keep it consistent no matter how you want to format it and accurately and specifically list your job responsibilities. One thing I noticed was a definite no-no was listing job descriptions in paragraph format. There is the cliche saying that hiring managers only spend a couple of seconds on your resume. This is true! A hiring committee pouring through hundred and hundred of applicants is not going to take the time to read paragraphs about your position. That is what the cover letter is for!

The most successful candidates came prepared with questions. There are many powerful tools to find out who you may be interviewing with such as Google and LinkedIn. Once you find someone of Google you can learn a lot about their professional background through LinkedIn including what you have in common with a person. Knowing this going into the interview will make your more prepared and more comfortable while showing you did your research. Asking questions also should not be looked as an optional part of the interview. Come prepared with questions for each different office you are meeting with and be able to strike up conversation.

Remember it is just as important that you are a good fit for the organization and also that you believe the organization is a good fit for you.

Happy job hunting!

Impostor Syndrome: Learning a brand new job

impostorMouseHaving a full time job is still so surreal. Every time I walk in in the morning I still doubt that I have an office and this is not real life. Having an ID and parking decal that says staff helps to make it all a reality. Side note: if anyone has any ideas for decorating an office I am all ears!

As I have mentioned I had no plans of becoming an academic advisor. One of the greatest things about working in higher education is there is no traditional path. For me I have the sport business background while my colleagues have varying backgrounds ranging from a French teacher to the traditional Resident Director role within higher education. What I love most about my job is that every day is different. I am now two weeks into the job and though there are times that are overwhelming the on the job learning is both frustrating and extremely rewarding. I am working with a brand new program at SNHU that is still being fully developed and having the privilege to be a part of the program and a voice in the building of the program is amazing.

Going from a student worker to Graduate Assistant to Academic Advisor in the last three years has been pretty surreal. I am now the youngest in the office and as I mentioned in my post for Student Affairs Collective have been feeling a sort of impostor syndrome at times. Due to the fact that a large part of becoming a great academic advisor is actually doing the job it can be intimidating for someone new to the field. I have felt at times that I only know slightly more than my students but than I realize that I learn as much from them as they do from me. The impostor syndrome tends to rear its head more when working with faculty members. I know coming in that working with faculty in a professional role that I had during my undergraduate career is going to be tough. This is not because I don’t have a great relationship with them but because it can be difficult separating the roles of student and professional. This is a challenge I am more than up to as most of the faculty I am working with I was sad to say goodbye to at graduation.

I have felt at times that I only know slightly more than my students but then I realize that I learn as much from them as they do from me.

While these first couple weeks have included a lot of adjustment ranging from figuring out health insurance to figuring out how to be an academic advisor I know I am going to like this job a lot. Having the background of the office and the SNHU community has made the transition significantly easier. My go with the flow attitude has allowed me to learn on the job and make mistakes comfortably. I actually have started writing almost exclusively in pencil at work to limit some of my mistakes. Through all of this I can’t stress enough the importance of being comfortable within your work environment and seeking out help when needed. I called the director of the program three times today with questions and am better prepared as a result. It can be tough to learn on the job, but remember you have support!

Life Lessons Through Summer Orientation



Our Stellar Orientation Leaders giving tours of campus resources


I am officially an academic advisor….The past three weeks have been a whirlwind as I got offered an advising position and went right into orientation mode. As a result of being hired without a replacement graduate assistant due to the craziness of orientation I played a dual role. I managed the Peer Advisors throughout the three weeks as well as embraced my role as the academic advisor for the Degree in Three program on campus. This was a great opportunity to get to know my advisees and get a good look of what my position will look like.

My favorite part of orientation is the excitement and anxiousness of the incoming class. Each time I work orientation it brings me back to when I started college and all of the nervous energy that built up prior to and throughout the day. Here are three observations I took from the past three weeks of Orientation.



During the overnight Orientation students and campus leaders came together to help stop hunger by creating food packets.

1) Dance Floor Theory works!

If you are not familiar with Dance Floor Theory I highly recommend checking it out! Throughout the Peer Advising and Orientation Leader summer training we incorporated the theory and the students ran with it. Dance Floor Theory compares a campus to a dance floor where the more connections that are made the better the dance experience. Through this the Peer Advising Leaders and Orientation Leaders were challenged to not only introduce themselves to the incoming students but also introduce those students to others.

2) Embracing the Awkwardness in as Acquired Skill

I have no problem walking up to random strangers and starting conversation. I found that throughout training I have to realize that everyone is not like that and it takes a lot more effort for students and staff to approach a group of strangers than it does for me. Being mindful of the challenges and helping students and staff to embrace the awkwardness and start conversations was a key lesson from the past three weeks.

3) I am a True Extrovert

As exhausting as Orientation is I found myself at the end of the day energized and ready to tackle the world. On the Myers Briggs scale I am an ESFJ and that really showed throughout the past three weeks. My favorite part of Orientation is talking with the students and parents about their college experience. This passion carries over into my everyday job of working with students throughout their first year of college. Orientation made me incredibly excited for my new position and truly made me realize that I have a passion for working with college students.

What did you learn from working your Orientation? What is the best thing about Orientation in your opinion? Love to hear yours thoughts via the comments section or Twitter @Zach_Richards.

My Crazy Path to Working in Higher Ed

Me presenting the Peer Advising Leader of the Year Award  at the most recent Leadership Banquet
Me presenting the Peer Advising Leader of the Year Award
at the most recent Leadership Banquet
I am switching subjects a bit from my traditional posts but I recently took a position as an Academic Advisor for business students at Southern New Hampshire University. This is the story of how hard work and networking lead to a job essentially landing in my lap. Apply this to your own career how you want, but in the end remember the importance of networking should not be undervalued.
If there is a traditional path to working in higher education I have been far off the beaten path. During my undergraduate career I was a Sport Management major and loved every second of it. I did projects with professors, went on trips with the Sport Management Club and interned with different sport organizations such as the New Hampshire Fisher CatsLowell Spinners and Boston College Athletics. Outside of my love for sport management slowly grew a passion for higher education. My sophomore year I was hired as a work-study student within the Academic Advising Office and then from there became a Peer Advising Leader (PAL) within in the office as well as an Orientation Leader. I worked in all three capacities for three years and without me knowing an interest in working in higher education slowly was growing.
Fast forward to my senior year of college and I was lucky enough to be offered two assistantship positions at my soon to be alma mater Southern New Hampshire University. The two positions could not have been more opposite with both of the positions being of great interest. One of the assistantships was with the Sport Management Department as a Research Assistant. This position would have allowed me to work more with developing the Sport Management Club as well as working with an amazing group of professors. The other assistantship was with the Academic Advising Office managing the Peer Advising program that I was a part of for three years. The decision was not easy to say the least. Both had been homes for me during my undergraduate career and I had equal attachment and affiliations to both areas on campus. I would always joke with my roommates that if I was not at the apartment I was most likely down in the Sport Management suite or in the Academic Advising Office. In the end after a lot of sleepless nights I chose to accept the position as the Academic Advising Graduate Assistant.
It was through this experience that I had the opportunity to truly see what working in higher education was all about. I was able to be a part of a growing Peer Advising program and work with an amazing group of advisors. Three months into my assistantship I got asked if I would be interested in attending the National Academic Advising Conference (NACADA) in Salt Lake City. Now to be honest when I was asked if I was interested in attending it was a no brainer mainly for the free trip and less for the professional development experience. After all I was a graduate student pursuing a marketing degree and did not have much of an interest in working in higher education let alone advising. Though what I got out of the conference was an idea of what it would be like to work in higher education as well as ways to improve the Peer Advising program back home. From there I was also able to most recently attending the NACADA Region 1 Conference in Newport, Rhode Island where I was nearly convinced that this was certainly a field of interest. My boss and I submitted a presentation about our Peer Advising program that got accepted. Presenting at the conference was one of the coolest experiences as I truly love talking about Peer Advising and as a first year grad student having the opportunity to present was amazing! Through the conference I was able to network and find other peoples career paths. In the future I will be blogging about NACADA Conferences but I can’t stress how important they are in professional development.
So to recap, I accepted a position as a graduate assistant within the Academic Advising Office, attended the national and regional NACADA conferences, and presented at the regional conference. What came next was completely unexpected. In the last month the office got approval to hire three new advisors, two transfer advisors and an advisor for the new Degree in Three program (Di3) for business majors. The Degree in Three program was now run by two of my former sport management professors who now served as the Associate Dean of the School of Business and the Director of the Degree in Three program. As you may expect they had a significant role in the hiring process for the first professional staff advisor for the Di3 program. To my surprise both of them suggested me for the position. I happily accepted the position and officially start at the end of this month.
It has truly been a whirlwind of a year. I can’t stress how important networking is as without it as I wouldn’t have any of the positions I talked about. My goal for this blog is to write about my experience as a first time academic advisor as well as try to provide insight into the academic advising career. I will try and walk you through both my failures and successes within the position as advising is a career that a lot of the learning is done on the job.

Intersection of Technology & Higher Education