9 Tips to Being a Great College RA

Introducing a guest post written by my sister, Cynthia! She’s an RA in college, and has been for a while. I think she brings a lot of great insight to being a great college RA. Here we go!

Check out her other post: 14 RA Event Ideas To Host For Your Residents

Hey friends! My name is Cynthia, and I’m an RA (Residential Assistant) at my university. I’ve been an RA for a year now, and recently won the Community Builder of the Year award! These are a few tips I believe will help you be a great college RA.

If you’d like, check out our staff bonding trip!

9 Tips to Being a Great College RA

1. You don’t have to be an extrovert to be an RA

Many people always think that you have to be outgoing to become an RA. I’ve had friends that were scared to take on the job because they felt that they were too quiet or not expressive enough. This is not true. People have their own ways of working in terms of their strengths and weaknesses, and leadership style. 

Many of your residents could be introverts, too. You can be a great RA as an introvert because you’ll be great in helping open up the quiet and shy residents. They are able to relate with you in terms of personality. RA teams are more balanced when there are both introverts and extroverts working together with residents.

Ice skating event with my residents!

2. It’s okay to ask for help

I used to think that being an RA meant that you had to understand and know everything (which is not true). This job is still a process of learning through trial and error. It’s a job where you figure out how you can deliver your best work on both the good days and the bad days. There is always room for improvement, and there will be people there to support you. Ask your Residential Director (RD) for help if you don’t understand something on the job and ask your team, too! They’ll be there for you!

3. Collaborate with fellow RAs

Teamwork is something that my RD stressed a lot. Being in charge of almost 200 residents (in my case) means that it’s nearly impossible to execute anything all by yourself. Be willing to collaborate with each other to find a solution that is best for your residents. This also means you should be open-minded about what other people think and be accepting of their ideas.

RA staff bonding event!

4. Make a self-care routine

Being an RA can lead to burn-out if you don’t plan time for yourself! This job basically means you’ll be “on-the-clock 24/7” with constant face-to-face interactions with residents. 

Make sure you find time to relax and do something you enjoy, whether it’s watching Netflix or taking a nap. It’s great to set some time just for yourself at least once a week.

This job is demanding in terms of helping others, but how do you expect to help others if you aren’t at your 100 percent? 

Check-in with yourself and find time to recharge before stepping out again.

5. Set a standard – know your influence

 Being an RA means that residents will be going to you for many different reasons, such as a facilities issue, questions about classes, and personal struggles. Being a leader to your peers will make you a more reliable person that they know they can go to. 

Your leadership role means that you have a lot of influence over your residents. It’s important to understand how your words will affect others. Be sure you set a good standard as an RA.

Hanging out with my residents!(:

6. Take it slow

Getting to know residents is a process, and it’s okay for them to not fully open up to you. Communicating isn’t easy, but don’t be afraid to talk about yourself either! If they know what you’re like, they’ll gain an understanding of how to approach you. Maybe you’ll find similarities between you and your resident!

Interacting with residents is an important skill to gain to be aware of what is happening around the dorms. I found small-talk as a way to understand residents better. It’s a simple and sweet conversation to have with them when passing by. 

Aside from residents, communicating within your staff is also very important. Letting the staff and my director know my schedule makes working easier on both ends.

7. Be aware of your resources

Being able to think on your toes is another important trait to improve on. Becoming an RA is not just about interacting with residents or checking around the halls for facilities issues. If there is ever an emergency, it is important to think fast and figure out what resources are required and what is best at the moment.

Make sure you know your resources, so that if anything happens, you’ll be able to point your residents in the right direction.

Doing homework with fellow RAs and residents!

8. Be flexible

Having a schedule will help keep you on track, but don’t be afraid to drift from your set schedule. Sometimes, things will come up randomly, and you’ll have to deal with them on the spot.

I used an online calendar to organize the days I would be working, the time I would be going to class, and the free time that I could spend with friends. It’s also helpful because you can move around different events and meetings based on what you’re dealing with.

9. Know your own strengths and weaknesses

I learned about my strengths and weaknesses to gain insight on how I functioned as a leader. It’s a great way for you to know what to continue doing and what to improve on. 

This is a great chance for you to ask your peers and mentors for feedback. Acknowledge what you’ve been doing well, but keep your mind open to constructive criticism. 

Once again, learn through trial and error. It’s a great experience!

Check out this post on the 9 things my sister (who already graduated) wishes she knew when she was in college.

Related: 7 Dorm Name Tag Ideas for RA’s

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