The Pros and Cons to Being a Resident Assistant (RA)

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I don’t know about you, but I LOVED living in the campus dorms my freshman year of college. I lived in the oldest dorm on campus, with community restrooms, the worst dining hall, on a co-ed floor, and to top it all off – my roommate and I did not get along (but that’s another story altogether). Sounds great, right? 

To say I was outside of my comfort zone would be an understatement. But I had the time of my life. Since I loved living there so much during my freshman year, and my RA’s (resident assistant) life seemed so glamorous, I thought becoming an RA would be perfect. 

Not only would it be a great way to save my parents some money, but I could stay on campus and be able to walk to my classes every day. 

Although it was a great way to save money, and I got to stay on campus, it wasn’t as glamorous as I’d initially thought. 

Here are the highs and lows of my year as an RA.

Let’s start with the pros…

Saving Money 

I was lucky enough to live in one of the nicer dorms for free! In addition to free housing, I also got a FREE parking pass. 

In my first semester, I paid $400 to park in a lot that was kind of close to my dorm. As an RA, I had a front-row parking spot and didn’t have to pay for it. No more carrying everything I possibly could to avoid making multiple trips.

Not having a roommate

During my freshman year, my roommate and I had bunk beds. Every time she got in or out of bed, I felt it. Our room was relatively small, and it was challenging to get any privacy. 

As an RA, I didn’t have that issue. I never felt truly alone because there was a building full of people around me. But I could finally get some privacy and not worry about my things being taken, misplaced, or broken.

 

Looks great on a resume

By my sophomore year of college, I was ready to apply for internships. But, at this point, my only real job experience was being a hostess. Although managing a schedule and dealing with people when they’re hangry is a good start, my resume needed some help.

Being an RA taught me A LOT, and I could use many of those skills on my resume. I learned leadership, crisis management, problem-solving, and time management.

Now for the cons…

Stress

I had no idea how stressful the position could be. I knew I had to keep an eye on my residents. I had to ensure they were safe and not drinking or doing anything illegal. I never had to go to my RA freshman year and figured it would be a cakewalk. I was wrong. 

Do you know how much trouble people get themselves into daily!?!?! I had to deal with VERY intoxicated (and underaged) students, fires (yes, one of my residents started a fire in his room), lovers’ quarrels, and the police showing up on more than one occasion. 

I was literally living in a soap opera and felt like I was surrounded by crazy people 50% of the time.

Time off

I got my first taste of freedom during freshman year, which was amazing. Well, when I became an RA, that freedom was gone. I had a curfew again. I couldn’t go on spontaneous weekend road trips. If my residents didn’t make arrangements to go home or on vacation during breaks, neither could I. 

I had to be in the dorm in case of an emergency or if they needed me for something. Yes, I could coordinate with other RAs to take time off — but we all wanted to go away for spring break, and none of us wanted to stay on campus for the winter session. 

Sometimes you have to be the bad guy 

I’m not one for confrontation, and I’m a people pleaser to a fault. So, I had a hard time with the disciplinary aspect of the position. Sometimes, it’s just annoying paperwork, and the resident will be angry with you for kicking their friends out for being too loud.

Other times, their futures literally lie in your hands. I once caught one of my residents drinking in their room. Not only was it a dry campus, but they were also underage, which made it illegal. I had to turn them in, and they faced expulsion.

 

I know it wasn’t my fault — I was doing my job. I was doing what I had to do to keep my residents safe. But, regardless of those facts, I still felt guilty and hated every second of it. 

Overall, my experience as a resident assistant was great. I was forced out of my comfort zone, and as cheesy as it sounds, I grew a lot as a person.

My whole life, I used to look to the nearest adult for help or guidance. But, as an RA, I had to be that adult. I had to make the right decisions, not only for myself but for those around me. This experience made me grow up, and I can say it helped me form into who I am today. 

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