Resident assistants or RAs are paraprofessionals who build community through programming, act as mentors for students, are the first resources available to students to answer questions about academics and other things and enforce residential policies. When applying for the position of resident assistant in February of my freshman year, I did not know what to expect. Now that I am almost done with my first semester on the job, I can confidently say that it is well worth it, and here’s why!
First and foremost, the RA job helped me learn a myriad of skills that will be helpful for my future such as problem-solving and communication. A big part of our job is to help with roommate mediation. First-year students tend to have a good amount of conflict when it comes to who they are living with. We are tasked to talk with the student and thereafter set up a mediation with both students so they can talk it out in a healthy and effective way. Being that third party strengthens both your problem-solving and communication skills because you have to learn to guide the conversation in a productive way toward a solution while being unbiased to both parties.
In addition, when doing rounds of the building you have to learn to think quickly on your feet especially when there is an emergency situation or you have to enforce residential policies. Of course, there are other people like the resident director and security to help you with bigger issues, but often times we are the first to be there so it is important to make quick decisions to solve the problem at hand.
2. you develop friendships
When I began the job I only knew one person going it so I was a little nervous. However, after two weeks of training over the summer with no one else on campus, I made some really great friends. In addition to all the hard work we did over those two weeks, we did a lot of team bonding as a staff like making a pirate ship out of match sticks, painting, playing dodgeball and late-night fires.
I have also become really close to my co-RA, Emily. We both live on the same floor in different wings. During training, we spent many late nights making posters and door tags in the lounge blasting Disney music. She is an education major so naturally, she is very good at arts and crafts. Therefore, our floor is a vibe. Emily is the first I go to when I need advice about an RA situation, or when I simply need to vent. The RA friendships you make are different than other college friendships because you get to connect over this unique job and what it entails. There is nothing that bonds you more than writing reports in the RA office until 4:30 in the morning, let me tell you.
3. It Helps pay for school
College is expensive. Even after scholarships and financial aid it can be overwhelming to think about how to pay it off. With the RA job, the pay for most schools will cover your room and board. Some schools even provide you with an additional stipend on top of room and board. That is a sizable portion of your school bill, and it can help relieve some of your stress when it comes to paying for school.
4. It looks good on a resume
When it comes to the next steps after graduation, having this experience can put you ahead when applying to grad school or looking for a job. The skills that are gained such as leadership, communication, time management, and crisis management look good on a resume and can also help you in the actual interviewing process. You can talk about how you know how to work effectively in teams and lead others and how you have confidence in new or unusual situations (and believe me you encounter many unusual situations). Employers look for college students with previous work experience and working in residence life definitely counts. Not only do these skills help enhance your resume or the content of your interview but they provide you with the ability to navigate your career.
5. The gift of helping others
When I applied for the position I knew I wanted to work in the freshman dorms. The college transition is difficult, so I wanted to help with that transition as I have been helped in the past. It is a rewarding experience to help others or simply listen to them when they are going through a difficult time. Although we are not here to fix every problem we do know about the resources to direct them to. Asking for help is a challenge for many young adults so it is good to be a relatable figure that they can come to when they have any questions or issues.
If you are on the fence about applying to join the residence life team here is your push to do so! Although it requires a large time commitment, it teaches you many invaluable skills, allows you to meet new people, and it helps develop friendships that last a lifetime.