Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) Leadership Concentration Frequently Asked Questions

The following are frequently asked questions (FAQ). You will find questions about exploring the profession, career opportunities, the admissions process, GRE, graduate assistantships (GA), professional development and more.


The best way to know is to do some homework by exploring the field on your own and talking to others in the profession. Graduate school may be the next step in one’s educational journey, but it’s also an entry into a profession. We consider the application process an educational one and highly encourage all prospective students to do their own homework and participate in pre-engagement activities to help insure not only a good fit, but also start themselves with the best possible grounding in the profession.  

First, explore your interests and consider some of these initial questions:

  • Do you enjoy working with students?
  • Do you enjoy the college or university campus environment?
  • Do you have the initiative and interest in pursuing further degrees?
  • Do you believe in the value of higher education and lifelong learning?
  • Do you have a passion for increasing access and opportunity to higher education?
  • Do you want to make a difference in other college students’ lives?

Seek out a mentor: Find someone on your college campus or at your alma mater who works in student affairs. Invite them to lunch or to coffee and let them know you are considering applying to graduate school. They will be a valuable resource to you in the decision making and application process.

Conduct an informational interview with a higher education professional on a college campus.

Talk to a current graduate student in a program for higher education and student affairs. Ask them about their journey, their experiences and the application process.

Do your homework: There are many programs and web resources for those considering student affairs. The resources we recommend are below. From these websites, you will find links to the Directory of Graduate Programs in Student Affairs.

At WMU, we welcome prospective students to visit one of our graduate class sessions

  • After reviewing individual graduate program websites and program materials, set up an appointment with the program coordinator.
  • And you can further explore the profession through these great opportunities:
  • Take a classLocals undergraduate or non-degree seeking students might consider enrolling in one of our Undergraduate Leadership course offered on the WMU main campus. Contact Dr.Eric Archer for more information
  • Considering attending a careers in student affairs conference. Those in the region might attend one of the following opportunities offered by professional organizations to learn about the profession and applying to graduate school.
  • Take part in a MOOC on student affairs

What type of job can I get with a degree in higher education and student affairs leadership?

Graduates can obtain employment in a variety of student services and administrative positions in higher education including:  Admissions, academic advising, residence life, student services, financial aid, career services, offices designed to support historically underrepresented student populations, pre-college outreach programs, student engagement and leadership programs, student centers and more. Graduates of the program work in a variety of settings at community colleges, public and private colleges and universities.

Visit some of the professional websites to learn more about careers in student affairs:

Where do graduates get jobs?

Graduates from the program currently hold student affairs positions all over the country. WMU recent graduates hold some of the following positions immediately upon graduation:

  • Financial aid specialist at Grand Rapids Community College
  • TRiO student support services, Grand Valley State University
  • Academic retention advisor at North Carolina A&T
  • Academic coach, University of Tennessee
  • Admissions counselor, Kalamazoo Valley Community College
  • International student advisor, University of Texas-Austin
  • Peer advocate leader, University of Colorado, Denver
  • Student conduct coordinator, Brown University
  • Admissions counselor, University of Oregon
  • Coordinator of pre-college programs, Ferris State University
  • Residence hall director, University of Wisconsin Stevens Point
  • Assistant director financial aid, Aquinas College
  • Academic advisor, Oakland University
  • Student success coach, Purdue University
  • Pre-college advisor, Port Huron High School

When should I apply to the WMU higher education and student affairs (HESA) program?

Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis until the number of available openings in the program are filled. However, there are fixed deadlines in place for graduate assistantships, scholarships and other financial opportunities. In order to participate in the HESA leadership interview days program, a student must be accepted into the HESA concentration and submit all parts of the application, including references, by Dec. 15 each year. Due to COVID-19 the Priority deadline has been pushed to Jan. 29. Applications completed or received after the deadline will be considered on a space available basis. To apply, visit the admissions portion of the higher education and student affairs website.

What exams are required for admission into the HESA program?

The higher education and student affairs leadership concentration does not require exams (i.e., GRE) for admission into the master’s program.

Which undergraduate majors are accepted into the HESA program?

Students from any academic major are encouraged to apply. Any major that helps students grow in their critical thinking, reading and writing skills will contribute to their success in graduate school.

DOES the program Work for full and part-time students?

The HESA program works for both full and part-time students. Part-time students may go through the program at a different pace and  work closely with their faculty advisor to arrange options.


The HESA program is a 39-credit-hour program, that includes the core curriculum, diversity cognate, 300-hour field experience, a 100-hour capstone experience and completion of a portfolio. The length of time to complete the program is determined by the individual, academic and personal needs of the student. Students work with a faculty advisor to select the best options for them. Students can complete the program in two years, with the summer in between the first and second year serving as time to complete the field experience internship and one additional course. Some students choose to complete the program in three years, still as full-time students but with six to seven credits per semester. Students attending part-time while working in full-time professional positions may opt to take one class at a time, or do what best fits their personal and professional life. Typically, HESA courses are offered once a year, so it is important that students follow the suggested rotation of courses. Generally, students will need to complete two courses in the summer (six credit hours) if they wish to complete the program in two years. This may be the summer prior to fall start or the summer in between.

Are there graduate assistantships (GA) available?

HESA students not already working in higher education are encouraged to, but are not required to, apply for and hold GA positions. The large majority of HESA students hold GA or work part- or full-time in higher education. The WMU HESA interview days program, held each spring semester, is designed to help newly admitted full-time HESA students obtain GA positions. The HESA interview days program provides an opportunity for incoming students to become familiar with the campus and HESA program as well as interview for GA  positions. In order to participate in the HESA interview days program, a student must be accepted into the HESA leadership concentration.

Students in HESA hold graduate assistantships (GA) across campus and at other nearby colleges, such as Kalamazoo College. The areas open for GA positions vary from year to year depending on the needs of each department. Students have held GA positions in areas such as:  

  • Academic advising, Admissions, Bernhard Center (student union), Greek life, Career and Student Employment Services, Financial aid, Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Lee Honors College, Residence Life, Recreation Center/IM, Multicultural Affairs, Seita Scholars, Officce of Student Engagement, Upward Bound, Office of Pre-College Programs, Office of Student Transitions, First-Year Experience, Health Promotion and Education, Office of the President and more!

Additional opportunities for campus positions are posted on WMU's Handshake platform. Stipend information varies by office and information can be obtained during the interview process and through the Graduate College. There are many opportunities available through the College of Education and Human Development, the Graduate College and the Office of Financial Aid to help with the cost of your education. After HESA interview days, candidates will be contacted by offices directly. Not all WMU offices or campus partners may have posted their positions by HESA Interview Days; thus, even after interview days new positions become available. We will continue to work with students to secure a GA position who are interested and committed to attending WMU for their graduate education.

Students are encouraged to notify HESA regarding their decision to attend WMU as soon as possible. We understand that many graduate candidates apply and interview for multiple programs. The Council of Graduate Schools developed a “Resolution Regarding Graduate Scholars, Fellows, Trainees and Assistants” which many graduate institutions (including WMU) have agreed to uphold. It states that students have no obligation to respond to offers prior to April 15. For the complete details of the resolution and a complete list of institutions that have agreed to uphold the resolution, review the Council of Graduate Schools Resolution. However, we encourage a response to offers as soon as possible, but not later than April 15.

What is the Compensation for graduate assistantships (GA)?

Compensation is determined by the department offering the GA. GA positions are generally full-time, but some may half time or others. Students may view all tuition and GA compensation rates at https://wmich.edu/grad/faculty-staff. A full-time GA offer will cover fall and spring tuition and include a salary stipend. Some GA positions may cover partial or full summer tuition, but that is determined by the individual office. Generally, GA positions are offered for a year at a time with most students serving at least two years in a position; the details and specific offering is arranged with the individual department. Typically a full-time, fall/spring GA will cover 30-36 of the 39 credit hours.

The HESA program works with students and offices on campus to help facilitate GA interviews, however the offices will determine who they wish to interview and will make final offers.

Are there scholarships available for my education?

There are many opportunities available through the College of Education and Human Development, the Graduate College and financial aid to help with the cost of your education.

Will I have to write a thesis?

A thesis is not required; however, all students are required to develop a portfolio highlighting growth and experience throughout the program.

What about practical field work or internships?

Two distinct site-based field experiences are required for students.  The HESA concentration meets the CAS (Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education) requirements for supervised practice by the completion of two experiential learning opportunities fulfilling the theory-to-practice emphasis in the form of field experience (EDLD 6580 – 300 clock hours) and capstone experience (EDLD 6792 – 100 clock hours). HESA field experiences are hands-on experiences emphasizing practical application of the student’s area of specialized interest within higher education and student affairs and allows students to work in a functional area of their choosing. Most full-time students will enroll in the Field Experience the summer between their first and second year. These field work experiences are in addition to any full-time, part-time, or GA work.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in international practicum opportunities, which have included Spain, New Zealand and Australia. Student affairs administrative experiences are provided in selected supervised settings so that students can apply knowledge and skills acquired during previous studies. As stated within the mission of the HESA program, we value the learning opportunities present in diverse settings and with diverse clientele or populations.

Here is a sample list of past Field Experience and Capstone Sites

How can I find Out More about courses?

Please visit the HESA courses section for more information about the curriculum. The WMU HESA program is an on-campus program designed to fit the needs of full-time or part-time students. A majority of the student affairs core courses are offered face-to-face on the main campus during weekday evenings. A few of the electives and leadership core courses may be offered at other campus sites or online. Additional information, including a program handbook, is available on the current students portion of the website.

Are there opportunities for personal and professional development?

There are numerous opportunities for professional development at WMU, in HESA and in the greater higher education and student affairs community. In collaboration with university and other institutional partners, the HESA program sponsors several networking, professional and career development events such as Job Search Jump-start, fall and spring networking events, lecture series and ongoing workshops. The Higher Education Masters Student Association (HMSA) student organization also supports professional development.

The state of Michigan is proud to have an ACPA-MI chapter where professional development opportunities, including an annual conference and annual summer workshops, are available. Each fall the HESA program makes an excellent showing at the ACPA-MI conference. The Midwest is sometimes called the heart of the student affairs profession and so we are in driving distance of a number of excellent professional development opportunities including NASPA Region IV-E.

Our university professionals attend conferences around the state and world in nearly every functional area including ACPA, NASPA, NODA, NACAC, NAFSA, NIRSA, Great Lakes College Association, ACUHO-I, NCAN and more! If you want to get connected, we can help you do so. Check out http://www.academic360.com or https://www.studentaffairs.com/resources/websites/professional-associations for more information about professional associations related to your areas of interest.

In addition to the numerous opportunities offered by the Graduate College, we also have an active and award winning Graduate Student Association (GSA). GSA offers professional, personal and academic support to all WMU graduate students.