What Does a College Resident Advisor (RA) Do?
- RAs help create a welcoming, inclusive environment for dorm residents.
- As peer mentors, RAs ease the transition to college for students living away from home.
- Job duties include setting rules, creating activities, and managing conflicts.
Resident advisors (RAs) — also known as resident assistants — are trained, college-aged mentors. They help create a supportive and safe environment for students living in dorms or other student housing.
RAs can be an invaluable resource to college students, especially for first-year students making the transition to living on their own. They hold many responsibilities, including facilitating dorm activities and helping resolve conflicts between roommates. RAs also help to ensure that residents follow all campus rules.
Read on to learn more about what an RA does at college.
Eases the Transition of Living Away From Home
RAs oversee several back-to-school activities. These ice-breakers can help new residents get to know each other and begin to forge relationships. These relationships can help provide an on-campus support system if students are dealing with homesickness.
RAs create a community in their residence halls. Activities may include door decorating, crafts, and team-building competitions. RAs can help first-year students transition to college by creating study groups and facilitating training on organization and time management.
Along with fostering relationships on the floor, RAs stay in contact with administrators. They may even help bridge communication between students and academic leaders on campus. As campus experts, RAs are able to identify available resources and help their residents access them.
Creates an Inclusive Housing Environment
Living in a dorm allows students to join an eclectic community of strangers. Campus residential settings can be filled with students moving in from across the country and around the world. All students bring their own unique backgrounds and experiences to a shared living space.
Experiencing new ideas and cultures is part of a well-rounded college experience, and there are many benefits to living on campus. But while living with people who have different views can be rewarding, there may be challenges at times. RAs play an important role in helping students adjust to living in a shared space that maintains inclusivity.
One way RAs facilitate an inclusive community is by conducting regular floor meetings. Floor meetings allow RAs to establish rules and expectations in the dorm and on campus. This can also be a time to address problems and concerns and give all students a voice.
RAs should work to make sure all students feel included and safe in their living environment.
Enforces the Rules of the Residence Hall
Another important duty for RAs is clearly establishing and enforcing rules. Each college has expectations for students, and rules are created to maintain safety on campus. Rules may include no alcohol or other substances in the dorms, no open flames, and no pets.
One way RAs enforce these rules is by conducting room checks. Room checks allow an RA or administrator to enter a dorm room and search for contraband or other rule violations. Each campus has specific steps to follow when on-campus students are caught breaking the rules.
That said, some rules are usually universal, such as no alcohol in a student's room. Students who are caught engaging in illegal activities may face consequences on campus, as well as legal consequences. Repetitive offenses may result in administrative action or even expulsion.
Mediates Conflicts Among Residents
Some first-year residents move in with friends or acquaintances, whereas others come to college not knowing anyone and have to find a roommate. Schools may offer surveys and attempt to match students based on interests. Regardless of whether a roommate is a friend or a stranger, conflicts can arise.
Even though colleges try to match roommates intentionally, living with others for an entire academic year can cause tension. Students may live down the hall from residents who play loud music. Roommates may quarrel over borrowed items, housekeeping roles, or different study habits.
Using techniques and strategies from RA training, RAs play an integral role in helping navigate and resolve conflicts among roommates and floormates. RAs must be able to facilitate open and productive discussions among residents in a way that doesn't escalate the conflict.
Promotes an Environment Conducive to Learning
Some of the rules RAs need to enforce are designed to help residents find academic success in college. RAs may implement quiet hours or study hours to give residents time to concentrate on class assignments. They may also share helpful study tips with new students.
RAs can serve as academic role models for their residents, while helping students navigate the demands of college courses. RAs may do this by creating an atmosphere where students can get their work done or by helping students form study groups.
However, some students may prefer to study on their own in a personal space. In these cases, RAs can share valuable resources and student services connections that students can utilize on their own. For example, RAs can help students find workshops on important life skills, like the best note-taking methods.
Leads Residential Activities
Making friends in college may seem daunting. Many students moving into the dorms don't know anyone, and some are moving in with roommates they've never met before. RAs lead many activities throughout the year to help residents make meaningful connections with their peers.
RAs may create both active and passive get-to-know-you activities, allowing residents to engage at their own comfort levels. Active events may include games and movie nights, while passive activities may include door decorating and interactive whiteboards. RAs can also offer tutoring or study sessions.
Students who are more involved in their residential halls may experience less homesickness and have a greater level of success in college. Additionally, they may feel more empowered to get involved on campus.
Creating a sense of camaraderie can further open lines of communication and create a more cohesive living space.
Frequently Asked Questions About Resident Advisors
Depending on the college, you may get paid to be an RA, or you may receive a discount on room and board. Some schools may offer additional pay to RAs who work more than their allotted time commitment.
As with most jobs, you must apply to become an RA. Some colleges require that you attend information sessions beforehand. Along with submitting a formal application, you may be asked to submit references or write an essay. After applying, you may have to participate in a formal interview. RAs typically need to maintain a minimum GPA and demonstrate leadership potential.
Being an RA can look good on a resume, as it gives you valuable work experience. An RA is a leadership role; holding this position demonstrates that you can effectively communicate with others and organize a group of people. Students who become RAs should have good interpersonal and conflict-resolution skills.
First-year students cannot become RAs. Many colleges require that applicants earn a minimum number of credits, usually at least 40.
Each college has its own requirements for applying. To be a successful RA in college, you must be able to juggle your schoolwork, organize activities, and maintain availability for your residents when they need you. RAs should also be able to resolve conflicts.
Feature Image: Maskot / Maskot / Getty Images