If you’ve ever lived in on-campus housing, your resident assistant was probably someone that you got to know pretty well. They are there to help you get your bearings in a new environment and deal with ups and downs of college life. For some, the RA is more than the mere mortal, an amazing individual that seems to do no wrong and a person that you are naturally drawn to. I’m still good friends with my freshman RA three years later. For others, the RA resembles something more like a villain out of a Disney movie, determined to make sure that no one in their dorm can enjoy college the way that it’s meant to be enjoyed.
The fact of the matter is that in the same way your perception of an RA has its ups and downs, being an RA comes with its own pros and cons. If you see an opening for a resident assistant on your university job board, here are some things to consider before you apply.
Pros of Being an RA
1. Free Room and Board
As an RA you enjoy at the very least a semi-private room free of charge. You may have to share your space with a couple roommates, but more often than not, you get your own place. On top of that, RAs are normally given a salary or living stipend, which makes being an RA one of the most affordable ways to live on campus.
2. Great Leadership Experience
A dormitory’s RA is in charge of not only keeping the peace between roommates when disputes boil over, but also planning and executing fun activities designed to bring people together. This offers diverse experiences trying to organize and lead a group of people. You will learn and hone skills that will serve you for the rest of your life, and it looks great on a resume.
3. Teams of RAs are Like Family
No family is perfect, but often your fellow RAs become some of your closest friends and confidants. They can help you through your own difficult experiences in college and provide for you what you provide for your residents. They are a support group like no other, and a special group to be a part of.
4. Hours can be Nice
One of the hardest parts about juggling a job and all your classes is the time management struggle. Can you afford to commute to an off-campus job? Is there an on-campus job that works with your class schedule? Being an RA takes care of that issue. There’s no need to commute, your office sometimes is the same room that you sleep in, and you don’t have to worry about fitting things around your schedule, as this happens naturally. You will often need to spend a certain number of hours a week in the main building helping residents get their mail, rent out equipment, etc., but those hours are few and far between considering that you spend a majority of your time in your dorm already.
Cons of Being an RA
1. Major Time Commitment
While the hours can be nice when things are running smoothly in your dorm, there isn’t really a time of day when you can tell your residents that you are off the clock. When a problem arises, you have to take care of it. Time management is key to being a successful RA. You need to be able to complete all your homework and keep the peace along with any other extracurriculars that you enjoy.
2. High Standards
As the RA you are an example to all your residents. You don’t get to slack off or rebel just because you don’t agree with the rules. You are in a position of influence and leadership, so you are held to a higher standard that often has no wiggle room.
3. Privacy Isn’t the Greatest
If you are someone who needs their alone time, and needs it often, then being an RA might not be for you. As mentioned earlier, you don’t get to “clock out” in the conventional sense. When you’re in your dorm, your door is open for anyone to enter and interact with you. When duty calls, you must answer, even when all you want to do is just get away from it all.
4. You Need to be the Bad Guy Sometimes
It can be fun being an RA. Your residents can form special bonds with you as you help them navigate the rough waters of being away from home and on their own, but this comes with the need to disappoint people sometimes. It’s impossible to satisfy everyone, especially when you’re in charge of settling arguments or enforcing housing policies that are less than popular with the residents. These are just lumps that you have to swallow.
A resident assistant can play a huge role in a college student’s development, and if you have the opportunity, you can be that person. Being an RA is no cakewalk, but it is something that can be extremely satisfying. It’s just up to you to decide if it’s worth it.
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