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Campus Dining Ins and OutsDavid Tuttle
From the outside looking in, becoming a Resident Assistant or Advisor (RA) in a college residence hall may seem like a cushy job. A student gets free room and board (a substantial value) and maybe even the additional benefit of a stipend. They walk around the building, create bulletin boards, and interact with their fellow students. Easy peasy, right?
Being an RA is a terrific campus job, resume builder and life experience. However, it comes with duties and responsibilities that students (and their parents) may not have considered.
Here's the lowdown on what's really involved with being an RA. Share this with your student!
RAs are peer leaders hired to enforce policies. RA training goes over the many policies and procedures your student needs to understand in order to do their job well.
Training is typically done over the course of the week before orientation and move-in in conjunction with building prep and can range from 4–6 hours for 3–5 days of the week. Training may take place throughout the school year based on arising issues which may may cause the need for policy changes or refresher training.
RA staff are required to return to campus early to prepare for residents’ arrival. Late departures happen due to break inspections and semester closings. This means personal breaks are cut short, which is something students will need to take into consideration when planning summer employment, family vacations, etc.
Some situations for RA staff can be very stressful. I call my RA staff “Res Life First Responders” because RAs are the first staff to encounter a resident amid a tough situation. Staff encounter mental health crises, drug issues, roommate conflicts, theft, homesickness, poor cleaning habits…if you can imagine it, they'll be witnessing it.
RAs cannot run from these situations; they must put their training into action until a higher level of staff arrives to help them mediate the situation.
It can be difficult for RAs to balance the obligation to hold peers accountable for policy violations with being a student themselves. Holding peers accountable might might include: meeting to discuss behavior, restorative justice consequences such as writing a letter of apology, reimbursement for a broken or stolen item, etc. When a resident is held accountable, it can damage friendships or give the RA a reputation as someone who can’t be trusted. People can be hard on each other, and an RA must have a tough skin to do the job.
The RA position is rewarding and full of opportunities to develop leadership skills. There will be plenty of fun times, too. However, it's essential that your student learn about all aspects of the Resident Assistant/Advisor job before applying.
Interested students can talk to current RAs, search videos on YouTube or TikTok to hear from current and former RAs, and even watch training videos. Research before applying will give a full picture and help your student decide if they're ready to become an RA.
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