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I’m Becoming an RA Not Just for the Free Room & Board

Do y’all remember Zoey 101 from Nickelodeon? I’m going to be honest with you, the only thing I remember is having a crush on Chase and being utterly entertained by Coco, the “dorm adviser” who always seemed to have a can of ravioli with her. I personally wanted to be Zoey. I’m pretty sure right now I’m Coco, though, but I’m going to need to step up my game if I want to be an RA next year. That’s right, I’m applying! If you’re in my same shoes, keep reading to learn the advice I was given during the first meet-and-greet. 


A ton of people have the idea that RAs only decorate cute little boards and host bonding events in exchange for free room and board, but what does it really take to be an RA? Obviously you can’t be a Coco from Zoey 101, the first thing stopping you is the fact that none of us can afford to consume canned ravioli at that rate. The second reason that it’s a bad plan is because your residents are counting on you to be a cool older cousin to show them how to college.



Winona State University has a rather long and intense application process: it spans from the first meet-and-greet event (Oct. 8, University Improvement Day) to decision letters (which are sent out March 6). For those chosen to become RAs (or CMs), there is a retreat day on April 11.


If you missed the first event, you shouldn’t sweat it. It was mostly just a preliminary Q&A session and a meet-and-greet. While it’s important to get to know the hall directors, you can still do so on your own time (an organic meeting might even give them a more genuine impression of you). 


So how do you make the decision to be an RA? Well, start by asking yourself why you want to be one. If you’re just in it for the room and board, it’s honestly probably a better idea to work at Target and live off-campus with a couple of roommates. Being an RA takes a ton of emotional energy out of you, so if you’re in it for the payday, you’re going to hate yourself the whole way through.


There are a lot of requirements that RAs have to meet. Some of these requirements you should know about include:


  • Enrolled in up to 16 credits (unless your hall director gives you the OK)
  • Have good academic standing (duh) with a minimum GPA of 2.5
  • Pass a criminal background check
  • Quit any other jobs (unless you OK it with your designated hall director beforehand)


There are some additional W.I.S.E goals you need to fulfill as well.


I asked Her Campus’s very own Gretchen Leif for some advice since she herself is an RA this year. Here’s what she said:


Megan Chaffee (MC): Which events do you recommend the applicant participate in to distinguish themselves?

Gretchen Leif (GL): Any events that have the word “diversity” in the title. Acknowledging and bringing awareness to the growing diversity of today’s society is a hot topic and any employer sees this as an experience that will set you apart from your comps.


MC: What has the time commitment been like for you so far?

GL: Technically, RAs work 20 hours per week, meaning if we were to get another on-campus job, it couldn’t be more than 10 hours a week because on-campus jobs cannot exceed 30 hours per week. For me in Kirkland-Haake Hall, we have four flex hours and six office hours of open door hours per week, meaning we have to be in our lounge or out and about doing tasks specifically for RA events or other requirements. We also have other time commitments such as weekly meetings as a staff, bi-weekly meetings with the Hall Director and even roommate meetings or individual resident conversations a few times each semester.


MC: How are you juggling RA work and your classes?

GL: Prioritize! As long as I have things written down and planned out for the week, then things usually run smoothly. Be adaptable to change, such as writing Incident Reports you didn’t plan on doing or talking to a resident who is crying right now.


MC: Any additional advice to applicants?

GL: Be confident and know yourself! Seriously, know your strengths and weaknesses, your desires and your tendencies, what relieves your stress or how others can help you. And lastly, check your intentions. Do you want to be an RA because you believe you can guide these timid freshmen into a healthy lifestyle at WSU or are you doing it for the financial benefits? Just something to think about.


Good luck to everyone applying this year! Hopefully we’ll all get to work together next year.



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Meg Chaffee is a junior at Winona State University studying History and Political Science. She hopes to teach high school social studies, because she wouldn’t be able to deal with her students eating smart glue during craft activities just because it has the word “smart” on it. She wrote a story on Watt-pad (during middle school, in an account she can no longer access) that received far too many votes for several awards, and no, she will not give you the name. In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, and watching The Good Place repeatedly on Netflix.
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