Reasons To Be (and not to be) a Resident Assistant

by Samantha Plotner

It’s that time of the year again, when Barnard Residential Life is looking for new Resident Assistants. For many, this can be a great opportunity, both financially and in terms of skills and benefits. However, being an RA can also be time consuming, and a huge personal commitment besides. Here we’ve listed a few of the reasons why the position might be good for you, as well as other things you should keep in mind before applying. If you have more questions, take a look at our FAQs about RAs article.

Reasons To Be an RA

You Want to Build Community

There are two sides to being an RA.
The good…

Building community in your residence hall is one of the primary roles of a Resident Assistant. You’ll plan events ranging from pumpkin carving to resumé workshops. Since the vast majority of Barnard students live in Barnard residence halls, RAs reach an incredibly wide number of students.

Certain RAs also work with specific student communities. First Year Focus (or FYF) RAs work with first-years to ease their transition into the Barnard community. Senior Experience (aka, SX) RAs plan events for the entire senior class to ease the transition to post-college life. RAs in upperclassmen halls also frequently work with transfer students and make sure they’re comfortable at Barnard.

You’re Comfortable Always Being an RA
Once you become an RA, you’re always an RA. When your residents and friends see you on campus they’ll ask you questions like how to deal with roommate conflicts or navigate the housing lottery. ResLife wants RAs to set an example for other students—which means, being an RA might bleed into your personal life. This becomes especially evident with drinking. ResLife rules state that RAs may not condone underage drinking “by their presence or lack of action,” so really, as an RA, you’re not supposed to be in the room when anyone under 21, is drinking even if they’re not your residents. Rules also require RAs to disclose relationships with residents or fellow RAs to ResLife staff.

You Want to Meet More People
My circle of friends and acquaintances expanded exponentially once I became an RA. During August training you bond with your fellow RAs, especially those on your building staff. You will also get to know more of the people in your building than you probably would have otherwise (especially in suite-style buildings). Befriending so many wonderful RAs and residents is one of the most rewarding parts of the position.

Reasons Not To Be an RA

…and the not-so-good.

You Want to Get People in Trouble
Yes, enforcing Barnard College policy is an important part of the RA position. However, it is not the only, or even the biggest part. Ideally, you would spend more of your time building community than enforcing the rules. If your residents see you only as the person who breaks up their parties you’ll have a much harder time doing the rest of your job. Your residents need to feel they can come to you with suitemate conflicts or wellness concerns, which can be very personal. At the end of the day making someone’s day with a spa lobby hour or helping them through a tough time can be incredibly rewarding. Having to document a policy violation isn’t fun for anyone.

You Want Free Housing
Barnard RAs are not paid, but they do receive a free single in their Residence Hall. RAs also get to pull in their friends, either to fill up their suite or a have a set number of friends in a hall-style building. However, being an RA is a significant time commitment. If you can’t or won’t put in the effort the position requires, you are going to have a hard time.

You Want A Line on Your Resume
Yes, being an RA looks good on a resume. From working in teams to planning events you will get a wide variety of transferable skills. If you are involved in many activities, being an RA is certainly possible, but it can be a difficult balance. Only you know if being an RA can into your life.

Check here for dates and times for information sessions for being an RA, as well as important deadlines for applying.

Samantha is a junior at Barnard and Senior Editor of The Nine Ways of Knowing. She is also a Resident Assistant in Plimpton.

Images of “RAs” courtesy of Dreams Time and Lady Impress.


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