Frequently Asked Questions
The basics about being a Community Advisor (CA)
Becoming a CA is an amazing way to augment your overall Brandeis experience! CAs are educators and community builders in our many residence halls here at Brandeis, and they support the Department of Community Living in managing the facilities and other functions within the halls. CAs are community standards educators, connections to campus resources and other residents, and so much more!
The best place to get this information in detail would be the CA Job Description - but in short, CAs plan activities that help educate students outside of the classroom and build community and belonging, support students in their journey throughout Brandeis as a peer advisor and connector to resources, community standards enforcer, and paraprofessional within the Department of Community Living. While we do not state a hard and fast requirement of hours worked, a particularly stressful week might include 10-15 hours of work for a Community Advisor in an active hall community.
There are many, many benefits to joining the CA Program and becoming a CA! Community Advisors are assigned to a single room on campus outside of the traditional room selection process in the spring and receive a stipend that covers the entire cost of their room. Additionally, CAs have access to a strong professional network of both amazing student leaders and strong professional staff members at Brandeis and to specialized training sessions that will build leadership capabilities and transferable skills that will help you long after Brandeis.
Students who wish to serve as Community Advisors must be current Brandeis undergraduate students who have completed at minimum one full year (rising sophomores and above) and who will still be full-time undergraduate students during their tenure as CAs. Students must have lived in residence at Brandeis for at minimum one semester. Successful candidates will also be in good academic and judicial standing; students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 during the application process and must maintain a 3.0 GPA throughout their time as a Community Advisor in order to remain eligible to retain the role. Finally, students in the CA role may not serve in positions like the Roosevelt Fellow or Student Conduct Board role whose training conflicts with CA Training. Students who are interested in the Campus Center Team role or Orientation Leader role may apply for both roles- however, students MAY NOT be new in both roles concurrently.
The CA application process
The application process to join the CA Program varies depending upon what entry date you are applying for and whether or not you are new to the program or are returning. New student staff members are hired to join us both in January and in August of each year; the January cohort is usually much smaller than the August cohort and is meant to replace outgoing CAs who study abroad at the midyear. The January process (occurring in November and December) consists of both a written application and an in-person individual interview; the process for staff members entering in August adds a group interview process to the individual interview and application. Additionally, a review of each candidate’s academic and judicial status is a part of every hiring process for student staff members in DCL. Returners can look at the Returner FAQs section for more information on their process.
The application is multifaceted and will ask you for some demographic information (name, class year, residence halls you’ve lived in, etc.), for a copy of your most recent resume, and for the names and contact information of two references. The application will also include a number of short answer questions that relate to your interest in the Community Advisor role, your prior experiences, and what you would aim to do if you were selected as a Community Advisor.
The interview processes are designed to give us a sense of you both as an individual and as someone who works in groups. The individual interview is usually 30 minutes and consists of questions about your skills and interests that align with the CA role as well as some behavioral interview questions that test your ability to think through a situation and make decisions. The group interview process typically takes two hours and is held on a weekend in February - the interview consists of three or four group activities that you will participate in on a variety of levels (in pairs, small groups, large groups and individually) that are designed to tell us how well you work with others and how you would fare in working with fellow CAs and resident
We don’t usually give out hard and fast answers to this question because the numbers can change each year - every year we have a different number of vacancies, a different returning CA pool, and we see a different incoming applicant class. However, the CA position does tend to be quite selective - ¼ of applicants for new CA positions for the 2016-17 academic year were hired when both immediate hires and waitlisted candidates were taken into account. We also tend to be more selective for January hires because we usually have fewer spots and we tend to look for candidates who are able to take on the role with the abbreviated Winter training schedule in mind.
There is no magic formula that we use to determine who becomes a Community Advisor, but we do take the application process that we use very seriously and students who are selected are students who excel within that process. Additionally, we look for students who have a strong interest and motivation towards the CA role - while this does not formally factor into the process, students who take steps to show their interest in the role (talking to CAs, talking to ACs, coming to information sessions, reading and reviewing our online materials, etc.) tend to both be better prepared for the process and tend to be students that we remember and recognize when it is time to discuss selection.
In terms of best ways to stand out in the process, we recommend that you put time into your written application and that you have a friend or trusted mentor read over your answers to the short answer questions and that you make an appointment with Hiatt to have your resume reviewed and polished. Staff members place great value on your written work as a means of both figuring out your own writing skills and as a means of understanding your readiness for the role, so don’t rush your answers. Hiatt can also help with preparation for both individual and group process interviews. You should come to your individual interview ready to discuss your interest in the CA role, previous experiences that might be relevant, and how you might use your skills and talents in the CA role - talking to your current CA may help you understand how to best do this. The group interview will consist of group activities that will highlight your ability to work with others - thinking about how you want to be best represented in a group setting can help here.
We like to say in our department that our teams are ensemble casts, so no one type of person is best suited to become a CA. Highlighting your interest in working with students and in being an educator and community builder, as well as your ability to be a team player and good employee, will serve you well no matter who you are.
First and foremost, congratulations are in order! You will receive a letter welcoming you to the program and sharing more details about your assignment and what to do next. All hired candidates are expected to attend our CA Orientation meeting in early April and will be expected to sign an intent form that lists all dates for upcoming trainings, meetings, and other events that are required for participation in the program.
Students who are waitlisted should still be proud - being added to the waitlist means that we thought you were solid and had the tools to become a CA but that we simply did not have enough spots to hire you. We typically only have 20-25 new staff openings and often have many more qualified applicants than spots, so we offer a waitlist option for students to join in the event that one of the hired staff members is unable to fulfill the role for any reason. Students are brought in from the waitlist up until the first week of classes of the semester they were waitlisted for (either January or August).
Because of the large size of our applicant pools, we often have to turn a number of students away; know that if this happens, it’s because we want to make sure that the fit of the CA position works for both us and for you and that there are many reasons why you may not have been accepted. We are always impressed with everyone we meet during this process, so know that the decision is never personal and is never meant to mean anything about your ability to be a great student leader at Brandeis. The beauty of attending a school like Brandeis is that there are many, many ways to become a student leader and make a difference - whether it’s as a CA, an Orientation Leader, a member of the Campus Center Team, a Hiatt Career Advisor, Roosevelt Fellow, UDR or any of the other numerous roles on campus, we and our campus partners are always looking for students to answer the call to leadership even if it’s not with us. Take advantage of other campus opportunities and feel free to apply again during our next cycle - we’ve seen many students who may not have been ready as rising sophomores come into the program in their later years and excel.
Returning CAs & the application process
Our office is thrilled to be able to offer a reappointment process to our current Community Advisors - in the 2016-2017 year nearly 60% of our staff team had served at least one year in the CA role before and we greatly value having experienced and knowledgeable veterans on the team! As noted when students are hired initially, the CA position is a one-year appointment, but students are welcome to participate in our reappointment process in order to secure a spot for a second or third year. DCL has high standards for our returning staff, especially as we want returners to be leaders in the CA community and role models for our new staff members, so we will hold returners to a high standard in the application process. CAs reapplying for the position should not assume that they will be rehired simply because they are returners.
The process consists of attendance at a returning CA information session or HCA information session, written application and an individual reappointment interview with DCL professional staff members. In many cases, the current supervisor and another staff member will conduct the interview, which will focus on both the CAs current performance and how they will raise the bar and excel if given a second or third year as a CA.
CAs who are unsure about returning should talk to their supervisors and the other people in their personal teams of support (family, advisors, friends, etc.) to think about pros and cons of returning. Being a CA while in your junior and senior years at Brandeis can be challenging - students often have many more competing interests, are thinking about studying abroad, and especially in senior year are preparing for life after Brandeis. While the professional staff team is willing to work with students to support them through those changes, there are times where it becomes clear that a CA would have benefited from stepping away from the role and focusing on school. As much as possible, we hope to avoid unnecessarily stressful moments like these for all involved so we can focus on what’s best for our residential communities. If you decide not to return, know that no one will treat you differently and that you will always be a part of the DCL family - and that there are always other ways to be involved with our department outside of the CA role (Community Councils, NRHH, etc.). A decision to return for a second or third year should not be made lightly.
Absolutely! In Fall 2015, we started the priority returner process specifically for students who would not be present during the spring semester to participate in the regular returner process. These students complete the application by the fall priority deadline, interview with the professional staff team in December, and receive notice of whether or not they have been rehired before they leave in the fall. Final placement information and intent forms are then sent during the spring semester so staff members are not forced to accept a position without knowing where they are going. This process is solely for students who are not going to physically be on campus in the spring and who want to return in the fall; students may not use this in place of the spring process if they will be on campus.
Every year, we hire nine Head Community Advisors who support the work that Area Coordinators do and who act as part of a team of students (the Head CA Council) that functions as a permanent focus group for the senior team. Head CAs go through the same process that returning CAs go through, but will answer specialized questions related to the Head CA role. More information about the role can be found on the job description; questions can be addressed to your Area Coordinator or to the Assistant Director of Operations and Community Development.
Financial aid & the CA role
The CA stipend will not affect the amount of your need-based or merit-based scholarship, provided that the sum of your CA stipend and your other awarded scholarships does not exceed the total cost of attendance. It is possible, however,that loan and/or work may need to be reduced to remain within calculated need and/or the total cost of attendance.
The CA stipend is considered to be a scholarship. However, in accordance with the Tax Reform Act of 1986, if your aggregate scholarship and grant assistance exceeds tuition, required fees for course instruction or academic enrollment and books/supplies (for which receipts have been kept), the amount in excess must be included in your taxable income. You are responsible for determining whether the total of all of your scholarships (including the CA stipend), in whole or in part, should be included as taxable income.
Yes. If you would like to work more than 20 hours per week, you must submit a petition to Waive the 20-Hour Per-Week Work Limit form to SFS.
Feel free to reach out to the staff in Student Financial Services - they can be extremely helpful in making the decision to apply. The CA role is almost always a financial help to students rather than a hindrance, and those who leave the role prior to departing Brandeis in many cases have made note of how leaving the program and losing the stipend affected their aid - so even if you are returning to the program and have questions, feel free to reach out to SFS.