Alumni Perspective: Megan Foster

Degree and graduation year: Master of Education in Higher Education, May 2016

Current hometown: Bellefonte, Pennsylvania

Current career and workplace: Academic Adviser with Penn State

What does a typical workday look like for you?
A typical workday is hard to describe, since it depends on what time of the semester we are in! In the fall and spring, most of my day is spent meeting with students one-on-one to discuss any questions they may have about their degree and their classes. I also talk to them about internship experiences, studying abroad, and life after graduation — which could include graduate school or looking for a job. My schedule is a bit of a roller coaster; it picks up when students are able to schedule classes, and it slows down when they’re working on their midterms and finals. In the summer when the students aren’t on campus, I am heavily involved in helping with New Student Orientation. I present sessions to both parents and students about what life is going to be like at Penn State University Park and how to adjust to college. We also discuss picking classes with the new students and help them navigate through the many systems they will use. I’m basically a go-to person for any academic problems or concerns!

How did you get into the field you currently work in?
I have other experience in higher education that helped me work my way into Academic Advising. My initial experience in the field was with Admissions, so I worked to help prospective students decide what degree is right for them, which is very similar to advising. My experience of working with students to discover their passions and how to academically prepare them for college also helped me to move into advising. I’ve also worked in Career Services, New Student Orientation, and Student Housing and Food Services. So, understanding how such major parts of a university work definitely help me every day to be an advocate and a point person for student questions!

How has Penn State World Campus impacted your career?
Penn State World Campus is one of the biggest reasons why I was able to pursue my passion of becoming an academic adviser. I knew that this career required a graduate degree, but I wasn’t able to stop working to attend a residential program. So being able to complete this program online, while working, was a lifesaver! I was also able to build connections within Penn State, through my classmates and the student support services offered to World Campus students, and I used those connections when I was job searching. It’s also a community that forever stays with you, even after graduation, to support your academic and professional goals!

What were some of the challenges you faced when you were a World Campus student? How did you overcome these challenges?
I think the biggest challenge I had was learning to add schoolwork back into my schedule. I started my graduate program not long after graduating with my undergraduate degree, but I was used to going to class in person every day and having a reminder of what work I needed to do. So, for the first few weeks of my first semester, I had to constantly remind myself to sign into my classes and review assignments. The thing that helped me the most was getting an academic planner so that I had a space to write down everything in advance. This way, I could plan any vacations or work trips around assignments, or I knew when I needed to pack textbooks with my luggage! It also helped to do little things like signing up to receive emails about discussion posts in my class and make the learning platforms my home page every time I opened the internet. Once those few weeks passed, I was much better at keeping up with my classes. If there were any other problems with the individual classes, I could easily handle them between the professor and me. They were always so open to emailing about an issue or chatting on the phone even when it was late at night or a weekend. They really made the program even better and more flexible than it already was!

How do you stay connected with Penn State?
I’ve definitely stayed connected to Penn State, especially now that I work for the University. However, I also assist Penn State World Campus, specifically, whenever I can. I volunteer as an Alumni Ambassador and speak to prospective students about the Master of Education in Higher Education program to give them an honest overview of what the program is going to be like. I’m able to do this via email and phone calls. I also help at their events, such as online college fairs and in-person networking events. I love to talk to future Penn Staters and explain just how awesome the programs are! And I, of course, make sure to keep up with the football team!

What advice would you give to current Penn State World Campus students?
My most important piece of advice is to take the time to find the program that is right for you. The worst thing you can do is rush into school when you’re unprepared and you don’t enjoy the classes you’re in. You’ll end up losing interest in your classes, and that’s not good! So participate in the events that World Campus Admissions holds and talk to them about what you want to do. They’re a great resource for you to figure out how to pursue the career of your dreams and make sure you enjoy school from the start! They also know about some great resources to get you ready for going back to school, and it’s always good to have that information from the beginning. Also, continue to do the same with your academic adviser. Many programs give students some choice in what major related classes they can take, so by talking to your adviser he or she can help recommend the best class for your interest and goals. My other piece of advice — get a planner! It will be a lifesaver when you are planning your classes.