I am a resident advisor, and sometimes it sucks. Most of the time being an RA is the most fulfilling, enjoyable, worthwhile thing I have ever done. But other times, I just want to break a few rules and not feel like a traitor. Sometimes I don’t want to sit my desk shifts or go to countless meetings. Sometimes I don’t have time to listen to a girl cry because I have a test the next day. This is my second year as an RA, so I feel comfortable saying I understand the pros and cons of the job. And although my school may be very different from other universities as a small, private Christian university, I think that most of these concepts hold true wherever you go. Here are some reasons why you either should or should not apply to be an RA.
Top 4 reasons to apply
Let's start with the positives. If you're thinking about being an resident advisor, you should know all the perks and benefits that'll come with taking on the role. If these four reasons fit your personality, then being an RA would be a great fit for you.
1. You want to change lives
Some of you just read that line and are laughing, but I’m totally serious! RAs have the chance to change their residents’ lives either for better or worse. Sure, you aren’t going to transform someone struggling into a perfect person in one interaction, but you can be that person to give encouragement or even harsh love where it is desperately needed. As an RA, you set the bar. Unfortunately, that means you can set it low too. I know some girls who struggled with anorexia because their RA freshman year made them feel insecure about their eating habits. But if you feel like you are ready to positively set the tone for your floor, then the resident advisor program may be for you.
2. You love to be social
One of the RA’s primary responsibilities is building community on their floor. That means they get to be social! If you are a creative, fun, outgoing person, then being an RA will probably come more naturally to you. However, just like there are different types of people, there are also different types of floors. Quieter floors need someone who will value rest and studying but who will also make sure that the floor has a positive atmosphere. If you are ready to meet the needs of the floor, then pick up an application.
3. You aren’t afraid of confrontation
I hate confrontation. I loathe causing it even more than I dislike being on the receiving end. However, it is my job and I do it because I want the person I am confronting to walk away better. I want them to become the best version of themselves they can be, and I know that letting them get away with things that ultimately hurt them is no help at all. If you are willing to play hardball and say what needs to be said (in a kind way), then you just might be ready to become an RA.
4. You need mentorship
During my freshman year, I felt like I had no true guidance in my life. My parents were over a thousand miles away, and the main relationships in my life were all peers. However, when I became an RA that all changed. Suddenly I was accountable to a Head RA and Hall Director who actually cared about me and wanted me to succeed. They were by no means parental figures, but they provided guidance and support where it was missing. If you need more mentorship in your life, the RA program may be able to help you out.
Top 4 reasons to not apply
So now is the time to admit that being an RA just isn't for everyone. It's a great role for many students looking for on-campus employment, but for other students it may be overwhelming, unfulfilling, and downright tiring. Here are four reasons to look for another job if any of these sound like you.
1. You like sleep
I cannot count the number of hours of sleep I have lost because of the RA program. Between night desk duties, late meetings, and residents in need, I have sacrificed many hours of sleep for the job I love. Sleep is a very important part of being a student and could affect your studies if you're not getting enough of it—and your studies should always comes first. If you cannot function on low levels of sleep, you may not want to be an RA.
2. You don’t like people
This isn’t a joke. This job is heavily focused on human interaction, supporting other students in need, and coming up with fun activities to get everyone together. The only thing that gets me through the harder days is my love for the people I serve. If you don’t have a general liking of the human race, you would hate being an RA, and should definitely consider a less people-oriented campus job.
3. You hate rules
I don’t think anyone really loves rules, but one of the primary functions of being an RA is to enforce them. If you can’t even follow the rules yourself, how will you ever make others do the same? I don’t enforce rules because I think the rule is necessarily important. Sure, some of them totally are, but that isn’t why I follow through and try to make them happen. I enforce them out of respect for my university and those in leadership positions above me. If you can’t follow the rules, you're not right for the job.
4. You like to stay in the background
Becoming an RA puts you on display. You're constantly watched by anyone who knows you hold that title. Suddenly who you are and how you act says something about the program you serve. I could not stand that at first. I just wanted to be a normal resident again and not have the pressure of being perfect all the time. Eventually, I learned that perfection is unattainable and I would rather everyone know who I am than try to pretend I have my life together. If you're not ready to be a topic of conversation, then you might want to hold off on submitting your application.
Being an RA is a challenge. It pushes you and makes you become more than you thought you could be. It isn’t always fun and it won't always be easy, but in my opinion it's worth every second. The position isn't for everyone, so give it some good thought before deciding to apply. If you do take on the role, know that it'll be an incredible experience. I am so grateful for who I am becoming thanks to the RA program.
Not so sure being an RA is for you? Keep your options open with these 7 On–Campus Jobs You Really Want.