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

The following are frequently asked questions about the higher education and student affairs (HESA) leadership concentration in the Master of Arts in educational leadership degree in the Department of Educational Leadership, Research and Technology at Western Michigan University.


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 have good planning, communication and leadership skills?
  • 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 the Spring 2018 course EDLD 5890 Introduction to US Higher Education and Student Affairs offered on the WMU main campus.

Considering attendin ga 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:

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 higher education and student affairs leadership interview days program, a student must be accepted into the higher education and student affairs Master of Arts in leadership concentration. To ensure full review of your higher education and student affairs application (certificate and cohort) and to be eligible for higher education and student affairs leadership interview days for the following fall, please complete and submit all parts of your application, including references, by Dec. 15 each year. 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.


The higher education and student affairs program is a 39-credit-hour program including a diversity cognate and a 300-hour internship. 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 chose 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 the 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 available?

HESA students not already working in higher education are encouraged to, but are not required to apply for and hold graduate assistantship positions. The large majority of HESA students hold graduate assistantships 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 graduate assistantship 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
  • Office of Institutional Equity
  • Lee Honors College
  • Residence Life
  • Recreation Center/IM
  • Career Services
  • Multicultural Affairs
  • Sieta Scholars
  • Office of Institutional Assessment
  • Upward Bound

Additional opportunities for campus positions are posted on WMU Bronco Jobs. 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?

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, 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. Additional opportunities for campus positions are posted on WMU Bronco Jobs.

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?

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 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.

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 student 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. Also their is other information including a program handbook available on the current students portion of the website.

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.
  • Residence hall director, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
  • Admisssions counselor, Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
  • International student advisor, University of Texas-Austin.
  • Peer advocate leader, University of Colorado, Denver.
  • Student conduct coordinator, Brown University.
  • Admisssions 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

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 that. Check out http://www.academic360.com/ or https://www.studentaffairs.com/resources/websites/professional-associati... for more information about professional associations related to areas of interest to you!

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 graduate students.