15 Things No One Told Me About Becoming an RA

Resident Assistants truly have the toughest on-campus job. They’re on the clock virtually 24/7 and they’re constantly working to ensure the safety and happiness of their many residents. RAs are the first to show up and the last to leave campus, and commit many hours a week to their job. But of course, administrators forgot to mention all of that information when I signed up for the job.

These are 15 things I wish someone had told me before signing my life away to be an RA.

Going Out to Parties Becomes a Covert Affair

Whether you like it or not, your social life is about to change rapidly. Instead of pre-gaming with your friends, suddenly going out requires espionage and sneaking around. After all, your residents can’t see you coming home still tipsy from a party. What kind of example would that set?

The On-Call Phone is Your Worst Enemy

Taking a shower? Mid-study session? Chances are, once in a while, the on-call will ring at a terribly inconvenient time. You’ll have to drop what you’re doing and rush to whatever emergency that is.

…But Sometimes the On-Call Phone is Your Best Friend

Not really feeling the movie night with your friends? Looking for a way out of social plans? Ring ring, it’s the on-call phone calling to bail you out.

On-Call Weekends Cause Some Serious FOMO

Whether it’s going to that mixer this weekend, or getting brunch at your favorite spot with your friends, sometimes being on duty for the weekends can leave you feeling trapped and isolated. Juggling work life with school life can be overwhelming sometimes.

No One Will Come to Your Hall Meetings (Unless There’s Free Food)

At the beginning of the year, particularly with freshman, you might have a high turnout to your hall meetings. However, as the year goes on, attendance will dwindle, unless you promise free food for those coming to the meetings.

When People Disrespect Your Door Decs, You Take it Personally

Door decorations, or door decs, are what you spend your school breaks slaving over for new residents to feel welcome in your hallway. When rezzies stumble home drunk and rip one off the door, it’s hard not to take personal offense to the destruction of the little penguins you worked so hard over.

Your Staff Will Become Your (Slightly Dysfunctional) Family

Through the thick and thin of it, the support you receive from your staff is unparalleled to any on-campus position. When you are stressed with room check-outs and finals, no one understands the pressure you’re under better then your staff. However, all this together time can cause some tension. Your best friendships and your worst enemies can come from people you work with.

Room Checks Will Teach You About Your Residents

At the mid-semester or end of term break, your supervisor will probably assign room inspections for all your residents. You’ll learn what they drink, their cleanliness habits, and even what kind of teddy bear they sleep with. This information is all confidential, of course.

Your Time Management Skills Become Impeccable

Between balancing, roommate conflict resolution, schoolwork, and your own personal life, being an RA teaches you incredibly useful time management skills in order to keep your head on straight. After all, you need to juggle your busy workload.

Training Sessions Will Leave You Exhausted, But Fulfilled

Sometimes training can leave you drained, such as the difficult Title IX training, or training that teaches you how to help residents feeling depressed and isolated. This can be emotionally draining on a new RA. But the knowledge that you are making your campus a more accepting and friendly place will keep you feeling fulfilled and proud of your job.

You’ll Become a Pro at Fake Smiling

Particularly with move ins, you’ll have to be so enthusiastic your face starts to hurt. For many RAs, this enthusiasm is genuine! Be excited to welcome your new residents into their new homes, and make sure you’re having fun with it too.

Midnight Lockouts Will Make You Question Your Life Choices

Just when you’re about to fall asleep, the on-call phone rings, and it’s one of your residents calling because they’re locked out of their room. In the midst of the frustration and exhaustion, this might make you question why you became an RA.

Parents Can Be Your Worst Customers

Over-involved parents can be the hardest part of the job. Say you haven’t checked your resident out yet on move-out day, or they’re not getting enough sleep from the hallway’s noise, and parents are calling. Be sure to remain calm and collected when dealing with their parents. After all, you’re doing your best at a very difficult on campus job.

Writing People Up Never Gets Easier

The concept of college students being in charge of the disciplinary record of other college students never becomes less weird. If your resident is drinking underage or doing some other behavior against school policy, you have no choice but to write them up. Doing so takes practice and authority, and it never becomes less weird.

Kindness From Residents Will Make Your Day

Residents can seem ungrateful and unappreciative of all the hard work you do keeping them safe and happy. But when a resident asks how you are, or takes the time to talk to you, it’s one of the greatest feelings out there. Unexpected kindness from your resident has the ability to make your day.

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