So, you’re interested in becoming an Resident Assistant. Great! You might have serval clues as to what they do based on general observations and conversations with your own RA. Here’s the general description:
A resident assistant (also variously known as a resident advisor, community assistant, resident mentor, residence don, peer advisor, community advisor, collegiate fellow, or senior resident), commonly shortened to RA, is a trained peer leader who supervises those living in a residence hall or group housing facility.
An RA has many roles and responsibilities, including, but not limited to, building a residential community through programming, acting as a para-counselor for students, being a familiar first resource for students with academic or institutional questions, and enforcing residence policies. Typically, but not exclusively, the RA goes through a rigorous training process. An RA must balance his/her own schedule and priorities with the needs of the students he/she is supporting. Above all, a resident assistant must be an example and uphold professional and personal accountability as outlined by the institution.
But as a former Resident Assistant, you want to sign up for the position for right reasons, not because you get free room and board. Make sure you know exactly what the position will involve before you sign up.
Aside from your classes, it’s expected to be present in the residence halls. That means any activity that would take you away from your duties will need to be approved and no impromptu trips outside the residence halls while on shift. You are a resource and guide for your students. Some RAs would include a whiteboard outside their door to notify their students where they are at and if they are gone for a vacation, include another RAs number and room number if students need assistance.
Keeping a balance homework/study/classes, extracurricular, and RA schedule is an adjustment for new RAs but the main thing residence life will tell you is that no matter what, you are a student as well, and they want you to succeed in your own academics.
Facing resident’s issues
As an RA, you will play a large role in facilitating many things from attending hall meetings, social & educational programs, and one of them is ensuring community standards are met. It’s your job to identify and solve any issues students might face throughout the semester and those issues may range from roommate conflict, academic issue, to a personal difficulty. RAs are expected to handle any and every physical or mental crisis thrown their way, which can be uncomfortable and emotionally draining.
Your summer will be cut short since training is mandatory. Even the veteran RAs still go through training, albeit just a little different from first year RAs. You will be trained on how to handle conflicts, emergency procedures, and more.
Building a community
Being an RA gives you a chance to build a community of your own, and in larger aspects, work with your team of RAs to bring the residence hall together. As a former RA, we had group dinners once a week or planned weekend events together whether it’s volunteer work, watching a movie, or grocery shopping. They become your mini family. It’s extremely exciting piece of the position and that kind of commitment will make positive waves throughout the residence hall.
Life in a fishbowl
Your life will be like living in a fishbowl. Everyone and anyone will be watching you. You will need to set an example for yourself to model appropriate behavior at all times in front of your students. Whether your students will care to admit or not, they do look up to you.
Being a resident assistant is a rewarding experience. I did it for three wonderful years (rare in the world of residence life). You get to meet new, young, and motivated individuals which gives you a bit of life, and being part of their development or at least a portion of it, feels wonderful knowing you’ve helped out in some way. Don’t do it for the free room and board. I’ve seen fellow Resident Assistants sign up exactly for that reason and they are the ones to leave the position within the first month. Do it because you believe you can help just like how your RA helped you.