What is a Resident Adviser (RA), what do they do, and how do I become one?
It’s move-in day. You arrive on campus, nervous, lugging your heavy suitcases, unsure where to go. Somehow you navigate your way to your dorm to check in, and a bright, bubbly person greets you and gives you your keys and an information packet and welcomes you to the dorm. This person is most likely your RA.
RA’s are upperclassmen whose job it is to help take care of the students on their floor (or sometimes multiple floors, or an entire dorm.) They live in the residence hall that they are assigned to work at, and usually have the hours that they are available posted on their door. They are like den mothers or den fathers and create a fun and safe environment for students to live, socialize, and study. RA’s help with move-in and move-out, coordinate dorm events, hold information sessions and meetings, and are the point-person for handling emergencies, like if someone on the floor gets sick in the middle of the night. RA’s can also help with conflict resolution if you’re having a problem with a roommate. Or, if you’re just having a hard time adjusting, your RA is a great person to talk to because he or she is a student, just like you, and can relate to what you are going through.
Because being an RA is a job with a great deal of responsibility, it’s a competitive position. Different colleges have their own processes for selecting RA’s. But in general, you first apply by filling out an application form through the residence hall or residence life office detailing your leadership experience, why you want to be an RA, and what activities you’ve been involved with on campus. Often the next step is a small group interview during which you participate in group teambuilding and cooperation exercises—they want to see how you get along with others. The last step is usually an individual interview with permanent residence hall or residence life staff. Excellent time management skills, leadership experience, community involvement, good grades, and a friendly demeanor are all major advantages. If you think you might want to become an RA, start early on by building good relationships with clubs, try to become a club officer, and just be involved in campus activities in general. You don’t have to be Mr. or Ms. Popular—just be reliable, positive, and engaged.