The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Successful journeys, even short ones, require good company.

– Marcia Baxter Magolda

My name is Danielle and I am living my dream as an academic advisor. No, I mean it! Ever since I sat in a coffee shop during my junior year in college, helping my best friend create her resume from scratch, I wanted to work with college students. Up until that point, I didn’t even know that working with students was an actual job. My undergraduate institution had faculty advisors at the time and so I was never directly exposed to an academic advisor whose sole job was, well, advising. So to get my feet wet, I became a peer advisor, helping incoming freshman with the course registration process. I then reached out to a local community college and asked if they could use some free labor in the form of an intern. Much to my surprise, they replied and so my journey in higher education officially began.

I completed my undergraduate degree at the College of William and Mary in 2016 with a major in psychology. A few months later, I started my graduate program, also at William and Mary. Two years later, I graduated with my master’s in Educational Policy, Planning and Leadership with a concentration in Higher Education. Throughout my graduate program, I completed an assistantship in the Student Accessibility Services Office, providing accommodations to students with disabilities, and two internships involving social media relations and marketing in two separate offices. I learned more about student development, unique challenges and the incredible diversity of today’s college students than I could have ever hoped for. I believe that those experiences are what prepared me for my current position, which I began just a month after graduating with my graduate degree in 2018.

I currently advise pre-health students at Virginia Commonwealth University (students interested in pursuing a baccalaureate degree in either nursing, dental hygiene, clinical lab sciences or radiation sciences). To say that the student population at VCU is vastly different from that of W&M is an understatement. VCU is one of the most diverse institutions in the state of Virginia. Underrepresented minorities make up 30% of the student population. Furthermore, one third of enrolled students are Pell eligible¹.

I meet with around 30 students each week and have similar conversations with them all. The irony is that each student comes in thinking they are the only ones struggling. Most don’t believe me when I say that that’s not the case.

Working with VCU students is what inspired this blog. I am constantly having conversations with students who are highly motivated and eager to do well but sometimes fall short due to circumstances out of their control. Some of the challenges include working up to 20 – 30 hours per week on top of being a full time student, navigating a big, urban campus and large 300 person lectures for the first time, facing rigorous courses without the necessary study skills, feelings of not being good enough to be in college (that one breaks my heart the most) and – as is the case on all college campuses – mental health struggles. I meet with around 30 students each week and have similar conversations with them all. The irony is that each student comes in thinking they are the only ones struggling. Most don’t believe me when I say that that’s not the case.

Most of the time I think to myself, “If only I could have met with my students before they even started college. That way I could have helped them prepare and assured them that they are indeed good enough to be here”. And thus, this blog was born. My aim is to provide resources and guidance to current high school students who want to go to college because I firmly believe that anyone who wants to go to college, should absolutely be able to. Not only that, they should be successful once they’re here! I also wish to reassure those already in college, who doubt themselves and their abilities, because I believe that everyone is capable of succeeding in college as long as they have the tools and the support to do so.

So here’s to the beginning of our journey!

I hope I can be good company to you.

Sincerely,

Danielle

¹ https://www.vcu.edu/about-vcu/facts-and-rankings/

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