College Dorm Life: What is an RA?

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A resident adviser or 'RA' is an upperclassman who is available to college students living in dorms and resident halls. A resident adviser is a person who those living in the dorm can go to who may be more comfortable to talk to than an older adult in a sterile on-campus housing office. This peer-to-peer guidance can be valuable for incoming freshmen for this reason.

What is a resident adviser?

Schools will have different names for their RAs.

Some use the term 'resident adviser' while others prefer 'resident assistant.' Other campuses may use the abbreviation 'CA,' meaning a 'community adviser' or 'community assistant.'

Typically, the RA will be in charge of a single floor in a dormitory, though in larger dorms RAs will often be responsible for a wing of the floor instead of all of the floor. They are often upperclassmen who live on the floor and are available in shifts to aid the other students with a variety of concerns and build a sense of community. If one RA is unavailable for an urgent matter, students can turn to others in their dorm for help.

The RA may be one of the first students a college freshman comes in contact with on move-in day. RAs offer answers to move-in day questions for anxious students and their equally concerned parents, their experience on campus invaluable to new freshmen who have many things to learn about college life.

Students apply to be RAs and go through extensive interviews and training to ensure that they are prepared to handle most situations that will come up.

What does an RA do?

Resident advisers demonstrate great leadership skills, compassion, and are trained to solve the problems of a diverse group of students.

 The job of an RA can include anything that a group of young adults needs during their first experience in the real world.

RAs oversee dorm life, plan social events and keep an eye on homesick freshmen. They can provide a sympathetic ear and practical advice for students who need help dealing with academic, social, medical or personal problems.

RAs will also mediate roommate disputes and enforce residence hall rules. This includes calling campus security for alcohol or drug-related infractions and seeking medical attention in emergencies.

Overall, the RA should be a person that college students can turn to, someone they can trust. If an RA cannot solve a problem or feel that more help is needed, they can direct students to the right campus support center where they can find help.

The job of an RA is not all about solving conflicts. They are also there to ensure college students are having fun, relieving stress in healthy ways, and simply enjoying college life. A good RA will notice when a student seems to be uncomfortable or unhappy and will reach out in an unobtrusive but supportive way to offer help.

RAs may schedule a movie or game night as a break from finals week, host holiday parties, or other fun activities to bring their residents together.

Who can be an RA?

Most colleges require that RAs be upperclassmen though some will consider well-qualified sophomores.

The application process for becoming an RA is rigorous because it is a very important job. It takes a special type of person to be understanding, flexible, and stern enough to handle the responsibilities of a resident adviser. It also requires patience and quick thinking, so the interviewers will be looking for the strongest leaders among applicants.

Many college students choose to apply for an RA position because it is a great experience that looks good on a resume. Potential employers appreciate leaders with real-world problem-solving skills and there are few better ways to get this in college than becoming an RA.

RAs are compensated for their time because it is considered a job on campus.

This often includes free room and board though some colleges may offer other benefits as well.

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Burrell, Jackie. "College Dorm Life: What is an RA?" ThoughtCo, Apr. 10, 2018, thoughtco.com/dorm-life-what-is-an-ra-3570258. Burrell, Jackie. (2018, April 10). College Dorm Life: What is an RA? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/dorm-life-what-is-an-ra-3570258 Burrell, Jackie. "College Dorm Life: What is an RA?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/dorm-life-what-is-an-ra-3570258 (accessed May 26, 2018).