I am currently a junior in college and have lived on campus for all three years. My freshman year I applied to be an RA, and I got it! I have been a Resident Advisor for two years and thought about how I was confused whether or not I should be an RA. I interviewed two current Saint Louis University (SLU) Resident Advisors on their personal experiences being a first year RA. They opted to remain anonymous for this interview.
What parts of being an RA do you believe you will take with you after you graduate?
RA 1: I think there’s a lot of skills I can take with me in my future career and even in my personal life. The biggest skill for me would have to be the leadership skills that I have gained in this position. I have to lead presentations and meetings with my residents and really have a take charge attitude. [Being a Resident Advisor] also has pushed me to be stronger and more perseverant in general.
RA 2: There are a lot of parts that go into being an RA that I will take with me after I graduate. One of the biggest [skills] that I have learned so far is work and life balance. I learned it is okay to delegate things and not be everyone’s go-to all the time. This is a really big step for me as I am a helper and saying no to helping someone even if it will be disadvantageous to me is a really hard thing to do. Without this job I would never have learned that.
What are the downfalls of being an RA?
RA 1: You do feel a constant weight on your shoulders, which can really hurt your mental health. As a RA you encounter difficult situations that you are not necessarily trained for yet are expected to handle perfectly, but you feel like you can’t fail. It can definitely be a difficult position to take on as a student. Lastly, it truly feels as if being a Resident Advisor is prioritized in comparison to your needs as a human or a student.
RA 2: There is not a lot of room for error. You are dealing with people’s lives and sometimes are placed in really serious situations and feel like there is no room for any type of mistake. It can also be draining as I feel, as well as a lot of other RA’s feel, as if our jobs as Resident Advisors are more important than our mental health. While some supervisors are more attentive, some are not and focus on you only as a RA and devalue any other commitments you have outside the role. Lastly, your schedule is not your own. It is definitely a big time commitment!
What are your favorite parts of being an RA?
RA 1: There is definitely a feeling of accomplishment that comes with the role, whether it be someone commenting on how fun my program was or how I handled a tense situation well. I also love the feeling of helping my residents through their situations. I believe a lot of them truly look up to me and ask me for advice on their personal and academic school life, and that makes me feel extremely useful.
RA 2: I would be lying if I did not mention the free housing as being one of my favorite parts about being an RA, but I also do love the connections I can make with residents. I personally work with freshmen residents and they are always asking me questions to help them out and I love it. Additionally, the people I have met through being a Resident Advisor are people I would have never met if I was not a RA. The friendships I have made is definitely one of my favorite parts about being a RA.
Are you going to be an RA next year? Why or why not?
RA 1: I am planning on being an RA next year because I believe it pushes me to become a better version of myself. I had a great staff this year as an RA and would love to continue my journey with them.
RA 2: I am currently planning on not being a Resident Advisor next year. For me, the time commitment is too much, and I would like the freedom to be able to go wherever I want any given weekend and have longer breaks. While I cherish my friends and the experiences that this position has given me it is time for me to move on.
Overall, being an RA can definitely help develop intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. It can also be great if you want to live on campus but cannot afford it. However, it can be a time consuming and draining experience as well. You know what is best for you, and this position is something that you take lightly.