Being a Residential Advisor (RA) can be a pretty sweet deal. At the very least, you'll get a free single room and some colleges and universities offer even more benefits. Some RAs get stipends, free campus dining, parking benefits, and even partial scholarships. Sounds like a great deal, right?
Before you decide to become an RA, make sure it's right for you. It can look great on a resume, an indication that you're empathetic and have great leadership qualities, but it can also be a lot of work. Consider these 7 things before you apply.
1. Are you ready to be available all the time?
While you won't have to technically be available every minute of the day -- you should go to class, after all -- you will be living at the office. Most schools require RAs to be in their rooms for a certain number of hours each week. Make no mistake: Being an RA is a real job and you'll have to put in some time. The upside is that you may find yourself studying more since you won't be able to go out as often.
2. Are you planning on getting another job?
Most resident advisors are either prohibited from working another job or just find that they don't have time. You should view this position as a source of income, even if that income comes in the form of perks, like free room and board.
3. How are you on empathy?
Though being an RA may help you develop empathy, you'll need to show up with enough to spare. Students will come to you with all kinds of problems, ranging from a little homesickness to issues you could never have anticipated.
4. Are you outgoing enough to make them come to you?
Part of your job will be drawing people out of their shells. And that doesn't mean you can't be shy yourself, just that you need to be welcoming. In fact, if you were a shy freshman yourself, you may be an even better mentor a few years later. RAs have to walk the line between kindness and friendship and firmness and authority.
5. Do you like to party?
As an RA, you'll need to follow all the rules and then some. What's your school's policy on a residential advisor mingling with other students at parties? A lot of schools suggest that you leave a party if you see one of your residents there. If you've gone to your share of parties, that's probably a good thing, because you'll have an understanding of what younger students may experience. But you're in charge now, and you'll have to act like it.
6. Are you good in a crisis?
What if someone on your hall gets arrested? What will you do if you find someone using drugs? How do you feel about being a crying shoulder through a breakup? As an RA, you'll need to be calm as you manage whatever comes your way. That takes maturity.
7. Are you a team builder?
One of the most fun things about being an RA is arranging activities for the students and getting them to participate. Making sure everyone feels included can be a challenge. If you succeed, it can also be really rewarding. You'll be a big part of the students' overall experience on campus. Are you ready for the responsibility?
Being a residential advisor comes with a lot of perks and it can help you save a lot on your college education. And the more you save, the less you have to borrow. If you think it might be right for you, contact your school's residential office to learn more about how to make it happen.