Being a Resident Assistant may seem like a tough job that isn't worth the benefits. However, becoming an RA was one of the best decisions of my life! Of course, you have to have the personality and patience to last as an RA; however, if you need a bit of encouragement to make the decision, I have plenty of benefits for you to hear.
1. You meet a lot of fun, new people
Not only do you meet other RAs, but you also meet a lot of cool residents you more than likely would have never talked to prior to your job. An RA is a leader, but they are also a friend to many. I believe this was one of the best benefits I have received from being an RA. I have a lot of friends whom I feel I will keep even when we don't live in the same building anymore.
2. You learn how to manage your time... because you have to
An RA's schedule is typically very busy. Not only are you an RA, but you are also a student with a full course load and a social life outside of the dorm! I've always used a planner because I'm the type of person who loves being organized and getting new office supplies. For those of you who may not be as organized now as I was prior to my job, I promise you will if you do decide to become an RA. All of those meetings, assignments, programs, social events, and tasks have to be written somewhere because there is no way you can remember everything in your head! Plus, you have a reason to get cute office supplies.
3. You gain experience that looks great on a resumé!
Because being an RA is such a tough job sometimes, this experience will show how great of a leader and time manager you are. This is especially good for applying to jobs that are located on campus because these people tend to know just what an RA does. The resumé reviewer will see this job experience and think highly of you immediately, or so I have been told. It shows that you are able to be trusted with some big duties and you can handle a lot more than the other applicant who does not have this experience.
4. You learn things about yourself and how to handle situations more professionally
There may be times when individuals do not like you so much or are just in a bad mood and take it out on you. Anyone who has a leadership position may be looked at as a bad guy who simply wants to get everyone in trouble. As an RA, it is a requirement to handle these situations in a professional manner. Than means you can't let your anger get to you, making you say something you should not have said. There are training courses RAs go through prior to the start of their job to learn to handle these situations. It is a great experience that can be carried on throughout your life and can be used in any relationship, whether it be friends, family, or a significant other.
5. Your housing is close to your classes... and free!
It is not a long commute to get to your classes, so while you may have to stay up late on some nights, you have the opportunity to sleep in a little bit later than usual if you live on campus. My dorm is literally two minutes away from my second on-campus job, and I love my sleep. Plus, you don't have to worry about rent because your housing is essentially "free," thanks to all of those long hours you do crafting and putting together things for your residents.
OK, so some RAs may not be too fond of the whole crafts thing. However, if you are the type of person who loves to do crafts but can never seem to find a reason to do them, the RA position is the job for you. RAs typically do a monthly bulletin board for their floor, and they can do anything they want! The supplies are paid for by the housing department, and you get the opportunity to make a beautiful board. RAs also have the opportunity to make door decorations and other fun crafts for their residents.
7. Having your own little community
My favorite part about being an RA is the community I have grown with my hall. You are living with these people for a whole semester or even a year, so why not build a community with them? It feels great to have residents come to you for advice because they look up to you and can relate with you. Bonding with people in your building is the greatest feeling because you know you always have someone to go to when you're in need of help or simply some company. I have an all-girls floor right now, and we have done programs such as spa nights and waffle movie nights. Those are the nights I look forward to. Even though we are all different people with different interests and majors, we still seem to bond together as a whole group. That is definitely my motivation when times get hard.
So get out there and apply to be an RA! What's stopping you? If you're someone who would like to meet more people and have some fun, this is the job for you. There's nothing to lose!
What would possess any undergraduate student to want to become a Resident Assistant? If you have not taken the time to think about this question, do it now.
A Resident Assistant wears many hats. The RA is an event coordinator: planning and implementing social, emotional, and educational gatherings. The RA is a conflict mediator: helping to calm roommates ready to do battle over who took who’s laundry detergent without asking. The RA, although sometimes the least liked role, is a police officer: monitoring floor behavior and documenting offenses to the code of conduct. The RA is a tutor: often putting aside his or her own studies to help students pass that impossible mid-term exam. The RA is a caregiver: always needing a hug, but giving one away instead because someone else needs it more. The RA is a medic: almost always the first “person of authority” on a scene that would make the most seasoned professional’s heart skip a beat.
The Resident Assistant is all of these people wrapped up into one young student leader bearing down in the trenches wishing and hoping that they are making a difference in the lives of their residents. More often than not, you will never know if, when, and how you impacted your residents. A majority of the time a “thank you for doing your job and documenting me last night because I really learned a lot from this experience” rarely is heard. Obviously you are doing it for some reason, and I would think that there is more to your rationale than possibly the pay check, the single room, a free meal plan, the close parking space, or any other perk that your institution may provide.
I want to share with you my story of becoming a Resident Assistant, which has ultimately led to my profession in higher education.
When I was a child growing up, my mother worked for our family doctor as a registered nurse. I would often go into the office early in the morning and pretend that I was helping her. Watching her help others was an important part of my childhood. Her caring and compassion for others became a model I wanted to emulate. As I grew older, I knew that I, too, wanted to be in a position to help others. I began to consider a career in medicine. Throughout my adolescence, the idea of a medical career took root. When it came time to make a decision about college, I chose to pursue a career in medicine. I enrolled in Shippensburg University as a biology major and seemed set on a course that would lead to medical school. During my sophomore year, I was hired as a Resident Assistant, and I accepted the position for all of the wrong reasons: the pay check, the single room, the free meal plan, the close parking space, etc…Fate intervened, however, and an opportunity arose for me to spend a year studying abroad with the internationally known Up with People program. This experience changed my life in ways I could not have imagined. I spent a lot of my time throughout that year in classrooms, daycare centers, homes for the elderly, homeless shelters, and soup kitchens interacting with people, spending time with them, and getting to know them. My experience with Up with People made me realize that there are many ways of helping people, and for the first time, I entertained the possibility of a career outside of the medical profession.
Upon my return to Shippensburg University, I began my second year as a Resident Assistant. This year, however, proved to be different. I found the experience of working in residence life to be completely different than I had perceived it before. I realized that I had a unique opportunity to help people. There were other ways to help, heal, and make a difference in people’s lives than by becoming a doctor. This was a chance for me to affect young adults’ lives and their college experience in a positive and creative manner. I found myself being a role model, a listener, and an advisor, as well as an event coordinator, conflict mediator, police officer, tutor, caregiver, and medic.
I discovered a way to educate the minds of others outside of the traditional classroom. I was very successful in building a sense of community in my residence hall. I earned the respect of residents who felt comfortable coming to me to help with sensitive situations that they were experiencing. I worked on a healthy choice floor and became a programmer in such areas as alcohol awareness, becoming a team player, communication, gay/lesbian/bisexual issues, and building leaders of character. I soon realized that this was a profession that would give me the fulfillment and satisfaction that comes from helping others. I knew that I had found my future.
Since my time as a Resident Assistant, my primary goal in life has been to gain experiences that will make me a much stronger person in the future. Change is the only constant in life and I want to constantly grow and develop as a human being. I have been most able to grow as a person through my various positions in higher education. As I develop and enhance my skills to help those with whom I interact, I, in turn, want to be touched by them. A mutual exchange of ideas is the most effective way to communicate with one another, break down barriers of misunderstanding, and build community.
Building a strong relationship with the people I interact with is very important to me; yet another lesson I learned from being a Resident Assistant. Through perseverance and never giving up on any one individual, change can occur. Every person who is on this planet is a good person with wonderful gifts. Often times, individuals lose motivation and drive simply because they doubt a lack of interest from others. Unfortunately, many individuals are never really told that they are important or special. My goal, because of my experience as a Resident Assistant, is to simply let those individuals know how important they are. We can positively affect people’s lives with the gifts that we possess.
The action we take today dictates the life that we lead. You have a tremendous amount of responsibility as a Resident Assistant. But you have also been given a wonderful gift. Please do not take it for granted. You can affect great change in your life and the lives of your residents. Through residence life, I wanted to be a model of understanding and respect that others could follow. You may not hear it from many of your residents, but know that what you do is vital to their development and the missions of your respective institutions, and that we (professionals in higher education) appreciate you immensely. Remember, students do not simply learn by reading from a textbook. Rather, it is a process; a permanent change that goes on deep within a person.
My goal is to be part of that exciting change that goes on within each person I interact with. What’s yours?
Submitted by Matthew R. Shupp, M.S., N.C.C., Coordinator of Student Life, The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College
Category: So now you're an RA