What Is an RA?

Your RA can be an excellent resource for all aspects of campus life

Group of College Students Walking Outdoors on University Campus
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If you're heading to or already in college, you've likely heard people refer to "RAs." RA stands for "resident adviser" or "resident assistant," and the people in these roles are students whose job in the residence hall is to build community and provide support for residents.

What Are the Responsibilities of RAs?

Resident advisers often have shifts where they rotate who works each night so someone is always available for students. They may walk around, chatting with people; provide support for students they see struggling or upset; or offer programs and fun things to do, like watching a movie in the lobby. Their function is to help people connect, have fun and get to know each other.

Additionally, RAs are great resources for students who have questions, need advice or need to be connected to other support systems. You can talk to your RA about nearly anything, whether it be help with homework, advice on which professors to take (or avoid) next semester or your broken heart after an unexpected break-up. They are there to support residents in whatever way possible. Additionally, they know all about what your college or university has to offer if you need more assistance, whether it be through an academic support center or the campus counseling center.

RAs go through rather extensive training for their jobs. Consequently, don't be afraid to reach out if you need anything. RAs can be a great resource and, because they're students, too, they can give you the skinny on issues in a way that you might not otherwise hear from traditional administrators.

Understand Your Relationship With Your RA

While your RA has the potential to become a great friend and trusted confidant, it's important you remember that they're school employees, as well. If they catch you — or you tell them about — breaking residence hall or university rules, they're probably required to make a record of it or report the infraction to a higher authority. Anyone would get upset if their RA writes them up, but it can be particularly devastating if you thought that RA was your friend.

At the same time, your RA probably doesn't enjoy having to write you up — it's just part of their job. Remember, you can avoid such an unpleasant situation by not breaking the rules in the first place. Beyond protecting your relationship with your RA, you're doing yourself a favor by keeping your disciplinary record clean and avoiding disciplinary probation or worse consequences, like suspension or expulsion.

Why You Might Want to Consider Becoming an RA

Schools rely on resident advisers to staff their campus housing, meaning there's a great opportunity for students to get work as RAs. In exchange, schools typically cover the cost of an RA's room fees, which can add up to thousands of dollars a semester. In addition to the money-saving perks, working as an RA gives you an opportunity to develop your leadership and interpersonal communication skills, which are highly valuable in "real life." Just remember that working as an RA isn't all fun, friendships and free housing: You have to enforce the rules and have tough conversations with residents. The job requires a certain level of discipline and maturity, so only apply if you're serious about taking on the responsibilities. 

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Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "What Is an RA?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-an-ra-793589. Lucier, Kelci Lynn. (2020, August 25). What Is an RA? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-an-ra-793589 Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "What Is an RA?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-an-ra-793589 (accessed June 1, 2023).