Prepare yourself: Aspiring RAs are about to learn their fate. RA’s enjoy the convenience of living on campus while getting paid, living where they work and gaining a network of connections through their residents and fellow RA staff. However, RA life doesn’t always involve painting your toenails with the girls down the hall and peaceful nights of sleep in your single room. After all, your main job description deals with this miniature adults, just recently set free from the talons of their parents: freshmen. Before you commit yourself to a rehash of freshman year, you might want to consider a few things. RA life is not for the faint of heart.
Embrace your inner social butterfly
Even though you’re not always working, residents can and will knock on your door at any time of the night. This, combined with the fact that dorm walls are paper thin, means you’ll need to suppress your inner social anxiety and prepare for around the clock socializing.
“There have been multiple times late at night where I’ll just be chilling in my robe and a resident will knock on my door because they’re sick or need my help, and I have to jump up and help them,” Florida State University RA Jennifer Ketchum said. “It’s part of the job.” Sometimes, your alone time to binge-watch Netflix late into the night will be interrupted, and you have to be okay with that.
Clear Your Calendar
Between two hall programs a month for your residents, bulletin boards, door decorations, roommate agreements, working the front desk and weekly staff meetings, the hours of a Resident Assistant add up really fast. If you’re tackling a physics degree, a Greek life enthusiast or a talented member of your school’s band, consider the time commitment that goes into being a (good) RA.
“When I was a nursing major, the time management was really hard. I struggled a lot at the beginning because I was so busy,” Ketchum said. “Now that I’ve gotten into a routine with my job and schoolwork, I’m enjoying it a lot more.”
Tackle Conflict Confidently
For incoming freshmen, resident assistants not only represent the university, but they’re also the first people freshmen can rely on for help “whenever they need it.” Because of this, you’ll need to put on your leadership hat, and quickly. Brace yourself to be in charge when things go wrong and remain comfortable mediating conflict.
When a fire alarm goes off at 3 a.m., you can’t just run out of your dorm and down the street in your Pikachu snuggie; you have to stay and make sure all of your residents are safe and sound, not trapped inside a burning building. “An RA needs to maintain balance in their life, genuinely care about others and work well with others,” FSU RA Hannah Batholomew said.
Be The Peacekeeper
Resident Assistants mediate problems between their residents, attempting to keep peace on their floors. When a pair of suitemates lock the other half of the suite out of the bathroom and leave for the day, you’re there to mediate the inevitable battle between your residents that will ensue. When a set of roommates think it’s okay to host anime movie nights every single night, it’s you who has to be there to negotiate appropriate anime viewing times.
The conflicts will never stop coming to you. “I once had a resident running up and down the hallway at 3 a.m. screaming ‘TITS’,” Ketchum said. As an RA you must face conflict confidently, even when it’s not easy to confront your resident screaming profanities in the wee hours of the morning.
Love Your School
Know everything there is to know about your university. Freshmen look to you to answer questions about their majors, where things are on campus and even about food options at the dining halls. Not only know these facts, but also come off excited to relay them. Welcome these new freshmen into your school eagerly, and be ready to present the campus you love.
When asked what the best part of being an RA is, Hannah Bartholomew responded, “Being able to spread positive feelings about FSU to the incoming freshman. It is important to make FSU like a home because they’ll be living here for the next four-ish years.” Even if it means holding a resident’s hair back at 3 a.m. because they drank too many Yeager bombs or breaking up a fist fight in a hallway, the perks of being an RA often outweigh the challenges. If you’re full of school pride, consider taking an RA position—it might just be the best decision you make in college.