An RA is a Residential Assistant; some schools use the term RM which stands for Resident Mentor, but the roles are the same. Different schools require different things from their RA’s and the jobs can be very demanding.
*Disclaimer: Every school has a different RA program, expectations, and rules. These are generalizations and observations from my experiences as an RA*
What Is An RA?
An RA is a fellow student, typically an upperclassman who lives in dorms amongst freshman students to aid their transition to college. These students are employed by the school to serve as mentors, aids, and yes, sometimes tattle-tails.
What Do RA’s Do?
RA’s do anything and everything in a dorm building. RA’s decorate hallways and doors to make the floor feel more homey. They also plan floor and building wide events to help build community and allow new students to meet other people. The name tags on your door and any cute decor you see around the hall is mainly provided (and created) by your RA.
RA’s gauge the way the incoming freshman are adjusting to college. They collect data for upper division housing officials to see what programs are beneficial to students and where the university is lacking in support of their students. Data is complied to help with future housing decisions and programs for upcoming years.
They are also in charge of maintaining a bit of order. Handling noise complaints, roommate disagreements, and damage to the building all falls under the jurisdiction of the RA. In addition to professional level housing officials, RA’s often work closely with campus police for situations in which they feel unsafe or involving drugs, so be aware that there are deeper consequences to some actions.
Where Do RA’s Live?
The RA situation changes a bit depending on the university and the dorm. Most of the time each building has one or two RA’s per floor. Meaning, in an eleven floor building, there could be 11 or 22 RA’s, depending on the number of students per floor. In cases of two RA’s per floor, most of the time one RA will have the left and the other the right or something similar to split the floor. This means that each resident one primary RA to turn to in case of roommate disagreements or advice.
Is My RA Going to Be Mean?
This one is impossible to tell. In my experience, 98% of RA’s are absolutely amazing and they do NOT want you to get in trouble. Trust me, it’s a lot of paperwork. Most RA’s don’t go looking to get you in trouble, however, if your trouble is a bottle of booze on your desk that is visible from the hallway, not a whole lot can be done to save you.
RA’s have to get you in trouble for illegal drugs, underage drinking, and vandalism. Everything else, is more of just a warning. But, don’t piss your RA off because they can find almost anything to write you up for.
That being said, some individuals love a power trip and being an RA can give them that. Some people are also just a sucker for the rules. If you (unfortunately) get an un-cool RA, try to befriend RA’s on other floors and stay out of trouble as much as possible. Familiarize yourself with the campus rules and just attempt to stay out of their way.
RA’s are also mandated reporters. That means if you tell your RA something about abuse, neglect, or rape, they are required by law to tell someone. Keep that in mind if you wish to share something about a traumatic experience with your RA.
Why Would Anyone Want to Be an RA?
It’s fun! Being an RA has it’s ups and downs FOR SURE, but overall it’s a great way to meet new people, positively impact the first-year experience for freshman, and be involved on campus. RA’s are also given discounted (or free) housing, meals, and parking at some campuses. In addition to the discounts, most RA’s are also given a stipend check that varies greatly between universities–but it’s still a paycheck! Finally, most RA’s are given their own room. That is such a blessing, and living with a roommate in one small square room will convince anyone that living alone is a great thing.
How Can I Get My RA to Like Me?
Getting your RA to like you can make or break your freshman year. Befriending your RA can mean getting away with warnings instead of write ups and lenience about rules. Getting on your RA’s good side is pretty easy. First, go to the events they plan, most of the time they have food and can end up being fun. Fill out any forms/survey’s they send in the group-chat. Often, RA’s jobs depend on getting answers on these forms, so them not having to harass you to get it done automatically makes them like you more. Finally, be nice to them. Your RA does not want to do half of the stuff your RA wants to do I promise. Lastly, just be nice to them, understand that they don’t want to search your room but they have to, and be an overall decent human being towards our resident advisor.
Comment below any other advice for freshman about RA’s!