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

The following are frequently asked questions (FAQ) about HESA. It includes information about the student affairs profession, career opportunities, the admissions process, cost of attendance, graduate assistantships (GA), professional development and more.


HESA alumni, current students and faculty attending 2024 ACPA-MI at Wayne State University in Detroit.

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. WMU HESA considers the application process an educational one and we 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. 

  • Consider some of these questions: Do you enjoy the college or university campus environment? Do you have the movitation to pursue more education? Do you believe in the value of higher education? Do you have a passion for increasing access and opportunity to higher education? Do you want to help make a difference in the lives' of others? 
  • Conduct an informational interview or job shadow with someone already in the profession of student affairs.

Resources to learn more about pursuing a careers in student affairs:

Once you decide you want to apply to graduate school

You can further explore the profession through these great opportunities


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

2023 HESA graduates.

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?

WMU HESA graduates hold student affairs positions all over the country; graduates hold some of the following positions immediately upon graduation:

  • Student development coordinator, New Mexico Highlands University
  • Financial aid specialist, Grand Rapids Community College
  • TRiO student support services, Grand Valley State University
  • Academic advisor, Purdue University
  • 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 leadership coordinator, Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership
  • Career services specialist, Purdue University Northwest
  • Program advisor, Indiana University
  • Admissions counselor, Lake Michigan College
  • Coordinator of pre-college programs, Ferris State University
  • Residence hall director, University of Wisconsin Stevens Point
  • Student success coach and academic advisors at Purdue University

When should I apply to the 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 (GA), scholarships and other financial opportunities. In order to participate in the HESA Info and Interview Days program a student must be accepted into the HESA concentration by the priority deadline each year (Jan 15). Applications received after the priority deadline will be considered on a space available basis. To apply, visit the admissions portion of the higher education and student affairs website. Applications are for each Fall admissions cycle. 

What exams are required for admission into the HESA program?

WMU HESA does not require the exams (i.e., GRE) for admission into the master’s program for domestic students. International students will need to meet the requirements identified by WMU, the Graduate College, and in the Admissions section of the website.

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, typically those who are working full-time in positions in higher education work closely with their faculty advisor to arrange options that fit their needs. HESA courses are offered in the evenings, between 5:30 - 9:00 p.m. so that students can work during the day and attend classes at night.


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.

  • Typically, full-time students complete the program in two years by taking nine credits each fall and spring semester and three credits in the summer.  Some students choose to slow down a bit and complete the program in three years (still as a full-time student but with six 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.

How much does it cost to attend graduate school?

Graduate student cost depends residency status (in-state, out of state, international). Residency status is determined at the time of application; the residency policy is available online https://wmich.edu/policies/residency-policy. Tuition is per credit hour, the HESA program is 39 credit hours and there are additional fees. More information can be found here: https://wmich.edu/registrar/tuition.

  • An approximate cost for resident students for 2023-24 for a graduate degree of 39 credit hours is approximately $29,385 tuition (a full-GA position will typically cover all of the tuition during the academic year, not summer) + $2,300 fess (fess are not covered by GA). Non-resident and international student tuition and fees are higher and are detailed here https://wmich.edu/registrar/tuition
  • Students who have a GA position will have their tuition covered proportionate to the GA position (a full GA is 20 hours per week and includes tuition full coverage); however fees are not covered by GA positions (see section on GA compensation below).

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 positions or work part- or full-time in higher education. The HESA Info and Interview Days program, held each spring semester, provides an opportunity for admitted students to become familiar with the HESA program as well as interview for GA positions. In order to participate in HESA Info & Interview Days a student must be accepted into the HESA concentration by the priority deadline.

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.

Graduate assistant (GA) are hired by the individual units/departments and are monitored by the unit and by the Graduate College. GA's will complete required training and orientation as outlined by both units in addition to any academic requirements for the HESA program. Information about stipends, dates of work, onboarding, and parking can be directed to the hiring unit.

Students in HESA hold graduate assistantships (GA) across campus and at other nearby colleges in a variety of student service or higher education administration related positions. Student GAs are typically at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College or Lake Michigan 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, Athletics Academic Services, Merze Tate College - Student Success, Office of Student Engagement--fraternity and sorority life and student organizations, WMU Student Center,  Residence Life, Seita Scholars, Health Promotion and Education, Office of the President, Career and Student Employment Services, Financial Aid, Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Lee Honors College, Multicultural Affairs, Upward Bound, Office of Pre-College Programs, Office of Student Transitions, Recreation Center/IM.

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.  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. Generally, GA positions are offered for a year at a time with most students serving at least two years in a position based on performance and good standing; the details and specific offering is arranged with the individual department. GA positions are generally full-time (though some may be 1/2, 1/3, 1/4).  A full-time GA offer will offer a stipend, and cover fall and spring tuition as well as some additional benefits such as parking, library, and more. Some GA positions will summer tuition, but that is negotiated and determined with the individual office.   Typically a full-time, fall/spring GA will cover 30-36 of the 39 credit hours. Students may view all  tuition information at https://wmich.edu/registrar/tuition and GA compensation rates at https://wmich.edu/grad/faculty-staffGA positions do not cover student fees.

Are there scholarships available for my education?

There are  opportunities available through the College of Education and Human Development, the Graduate College and Student Financial Aid to help with the cost of your education. Generally, it is recommended that students who will seek scholarships plan to complete a FAFSA application.

Will I have to write a thesis?

A thesis is not required; however, all students are required to develop an electronic portfolio highlighting growth and experience throughout the program. The ePortfolio emphasizes the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators.

What about practical field work or internships?

Two distinct site-based field experiences are required for students.  The HESA concentration meets the CAS 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, supervised 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 experiences are in addition to any full-time, part-time, or GA work. In alignment with the HESA program mission, we encourage students to complete field experience that will offer the opportunity to work in diverse settings and with diverse populations.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in international practicum opportunities, which have included Switzerland, Canada, Malaysia and Europe. 

Here is a sample list of past HESA 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.