Should You Take A Position As a Resident Assistant (RA)?

The obvious reason for seeking a position as a resident assistant (RA) at college is for free housing and/or a monthly stipend.  This may be an attractive option if money is tight.  It may be better than taking on more student loans, living at home while attending school or even dropping out of college.

There may be some other advantages to being an RA.  However, keep in mind that the position also has some disadvantages.  Every college or university is different in the manner in which they hire, manage and compensate resident assistants.

Some of the responsibilities of the RA include the administrative responsibilities associated with move-in day, conducting dorm meetings, recognizing birthdays and decorating the hallways.

More serious responsibilities are related to the physical and mental health of the residents as well as their safety.  You will have keys to all rooms and can expect to be asked to open doors at inconvenient times.

There will be training for the position of an RA which will include first aid and CPR training.  Additionally, you may take training on other topics such as:

  1. Drug and alcohol awareness, laws and enforcement
  1. Date rape and sexual abuse
  1. Suicide and the warning signs
  1. Cyber-bullying
  1. Crisis management
  1. Gender, racial and religious awareness
  1. Emergency preparedness
  1. Time management and study skills

In order to qualify as a resident assistant most colleges require that you are a mature student who has completed at least the freshman year.  It is preferred that the candidate for the resident assistant position be involved in campus life such as membership on the student government or membership in the honor societies.  The candidate needs to have a clean/non-existent disciplinary or criminal record.    Experience in leadership and with diverse populations is attractive to the interviewer.  Strong communication skills and a friendly personality are minimum requirements for these positions.   You will need to participate in a live interview when applying for the position.

Being an RA can interfere with your social life on campus.  Your free time to socialize with friends will be determined by your on-duty schedule.  You may have to remain in your dorm room consoling a homesick resident while a party to which you were invited goes on without you.  You may be required to remain in the dorm during a Saturday afternoon football game, even if the dorm is empty.

Usually the RAs report to college anywhere between a few days and one month before move-in day in order to take the training required.  This can shorten the time you have for summer vacation or may hurt your ability to hold a summer.  Some RAs stay on campus during the summer and take classes and work there.

As an RA your dorm room will likely be nicer than the other residents, in fact, some RAs even have a suite.

You will develop friendships with other RAs who typically are campus leaders like yourself.  These friendships can carry over into networking opportunities after college.

Being an RA will look good on your resume for future employers or graduate school.  The experience speaks volumes about your leadership potential, communication skills and life experiences.

If you are considering a position as a resident assistant, you will need to compare the benefits and advantages of the opportunity against the drawbacks and responsibilities of the position.