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It’s 1 a.m. on a Monday morning. The fire alarm goes off.  “Is this a dream?” The alarm sounds again. Not a dream at all. I get dressed. Race to the front desk and proceed to escort residents out of the building.

Becoming a resident assistant (RA) is volunteering to take on a hectic schedule and tons of responsibility in exchange for the most rewarding experience you may ever encounter as a student. My junior year in college, I was the RA of a co-ed dormitory.

It wasn’t easy balancing my school life with my dorm duties. Time took on a whole new meaning. I had to plan my schedule down to the tee.  It was as though I had an internal clock to alarm and remind me of my next appointment whenever I found myself nonchalantly roaming the campus.There were days I worked the front desk early in the morning and grave-night shift on the weekend. Still, my dorm duties didn’t halt my other extracurricular goals. I maintained leadership positions on campus, I had a part time job and interned on the hill.

The perks of being a RA vary by school but my benefits package, if you can call it that, included: FREE HOUSING, a LARGER ROOM, a MEAL STIPEND and a MONTHLY CHECK (more like middle school allowance). While I accomplished a lot and was very accessible for the residents, there were a number of things that I didn’t get a chance to do.  In fact, as a RA I learned that you have to choose your battles wisely and all you can do is do is your best.

Challenges as a RA:

  • Expect a role change At times, it was difficult managing junior residents who had lived in the dorm the prior year. I overcame this by letting them know the rules and stated that I will enforce them if need be.
  • Present a United Front. Create rules that you and other RAs agree upon and will enforce. Residents can be like kids, they will try and go to the RA who will give them the answer they want to hear.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Plan events the most cost-effective way as possible.

Recommendations for becoming a RA:

  • Get involved in your dormitory (dormitory council, dorm sponsored events,etc).
  • Talk to your current RA about his/her experience.
  • Speak to your Community Director (CD) to let him/her know that you are interested (Your CD can mentor you throughout the year and identify any openings for the next year).
  • Your resume should exhibit leadership capabilities, campus involvement and most importantly you have to be a problem-solver.

Some of the world’s most recognizable people were RAs: Wesley Snipes, Hillary Clinton, and Adam Sandler.

Other Resources:

Give H.O.P.E. Live H.O.P.E.

Jeffrey D. Chance
The H.O.P.E. Scholarship