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The Pros and Cons of Being an RA

I was just hired as a Resident Assistant at the College of Charleston. I was worried about the position at first, but now I can’t imagine myself with any other college job. These are the benefits and struggles of RA life from an RAs perspective.

Pro: Reduced Housing Cost

Not only do you get a paycheck as an RA, but universities typically offer free or reduced housing—and your own room! You get the privacy of a typical apartment, while remaining on-campus, and therefore closer to classes, dining halls, and other locations – all for a much lower price.

Con: Lots of Work

While being an RA is an amazing job, it isn’t for the faint of heart; like all jobs, it is a big commitment. Resident Assistants are required to fill out paperwork, complete desk hours, be “on-call” during multiple weekdays and weekend nights, create door decorations and bulletin boards, and assist with any resident situations.

Pro: Connections!

I enjoy a job SO much more when I know that I’m making a positive impact. Being an RA gives you the opportunity to help other students when they really need it. My residents could come to me with any concern or question and I’d drop what I was doing to help them out. I didn’t want to become an RA solely for the perks: I really want to help people when I can.

Con: Late Nights

Being on-call can be challenging. Whenever the phone rings, you have to stop what you’re doing and address the situation, even when it’s 4:00 AM and you were in the middle of a pleasant dream about acing all your classes. As I said, this job isn’t for the faint of heart—but when you answer that mid-sleep call, chances are you’re helping keep a resident safe and happy, and that’s worth it.

Pro: Desk Work

One of my favorite parts of being an RA is, strangely, the desk work. Sitting behind the front desk of a residence hall and attending to the occasional needs of residents is calming in a way; it gives you a break from technology and the stress of the rest of your day. It gives me designated time to catch up on RA paperwork that I may need to complete, which aids my time management. 

Con: Difficult Situations

Resident Assistants, as you might imagine, can get caught in some complex circumstances. Whether it’s an overflowing washing machine or an intoxicated underage resident, RAs are tasked with quickly, efficiently, and safely addressing any situation at any time of day. It’s not easy.

Pro: Key Skills

That being said, hard work equates to skill development. Even though I have been an RA for just a short time, I am much more confident in my conflict resolution, crisis management, leadership, professionalism, and customer service abilities. And yes, I took these all straight from my resumé description of the job—being an RA is a great resumé booster!

Con: Being the “Bad Guy”

It’s not surprising that most residents aren’t going to be happy when you have to knock on their door to tell them to stop blasting music at midnight. Some students don’t have positive opinions of RAs, but we really are here to help! All policies ensure the safety and wellbeing of the residents. It doesn’t make you the most likable person at times, but it’s an important job. Even so, I know so many residents that have a great relationship with their RA and understand that we’re doing our jobs to keep everyone safe, so we’re rarely “the bad guy.”

Pro: Supportive Co-Workers

I can’t speak for every school, but the Residence Life community at CofC is amazingly kind and supportive. I’m now close friends with numerous other RAs in the building, and I know I can always go to one of my coworkers if I ever need help.

After starting work as a Resident Assistant, I’ve realized exactly how crucial they are to insuring the safety and well-being of residents. It’s a difficult job and requires a lot of time and effort, but it really is worth it—not just for the paycheck, but for the impact it has on students who need someone to count on.

Nicole Guernsey is a sophomore at the College of Charleston Honors College and is pursuing a degree in Political Science with a minor in International Studies. Nicole enjoys discussing social justice and equality, LGBTQ+ and women's rights, and political theory. After graduating from CofC, Nicole intends to pursue graduate school and wants to earn her Ph.D. in Political Science to work in political consulting and academia.
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