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Student Life

Residential Life: A Place to Live and Work

What it takes to be a Resident Assistant, one of the great part time jobs on campus.

Roxana Hadad

March 19, 2009

Residential Life: A Place to Live and Work

There’s at least one in every college dorm. From mediating arguments between clashing roommates to diffusing finals week stress, they look out for their residents. They're Resident Assistants, more commonly known as RAs, and they're an integral part of dorm life.

An Uncommon Job

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An RA is usually in charge of a floor or a wing of residents. Their responsibilities include:

  • Helping out with the personal and academic concerns of the students on their floor.

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  • Serving as a facilitator to build a community among floor residents by initiating and organizing floor activities.
  • Providing information about the campus and residence hall.
  • Making the dorm floor a fun and safe place to live.

"It's a 24-hour-a-day job," says April Jones, who was an RA for two years at the University of Georgia. Resident assistants are on call around the clock. As an RA, you can expect to hear from residents at seven o'clock in the morning because they're nervous about an upcoming test, or late at night because they got locked out of their room.

And there's nothing like an everyday routine when you're an RA. "You should always expect the unexpected," Jones says.


Serving as an RA requires responsibility and organization. To ensure candidates are up to the challenge, offices of residential life require certain criteria for selection:

  • You must have a certain grade point average or be in good academic standing.
  • You must be at least a sophomore or in your second year of college.
  • You can't be on any type of judicial probation.
  • Outside jobs usually aren't permitted.

"Above all, you should have great listening and time-management skills," Jones says.

An RA's Rewards

Resident Assistants are usually hired for the academic year (nine months). Free housing on the dorm floor and free meals in the dorm cafeteria are typical job perks.

"But you get a lot more out of it than just the free room and board," Jones says. "The personal growth and development you gain can help you in college and beyond." As an RA, you can get a lot of experiences that future employers are looking for, such as:

  • Involvement with a wide range of staff and students.
  • Experience in program presentation and event planning.
  • Training in many areas, including conflict mediation and diversity awareness.
  • Growth of leadership skills and style.
  • Development of administrative skills and time management techniques.

"I loved being an RA," Jones says. "It was a lot of work, but the payback was worth it. It allowed me to meet people, build relationships and develop myself as a person in a way no other job could have."

If you're interested in being an RA, check with your Resident Advisor or Residential Life office and find out how you can get more out of your college housing experience.

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