In college, the housing issue is complicated. Who should you room with? What if you get stuck with a bad roommate? What dorm should you try to get into? Will all your stuff fit into this third-choice room you ended up with? Sometimes one of the most complicated questions: how are you going to pay for this? Dorm life can be expensive, sometimes just as much or more than living in an apartment off-campus. Can they really charge that much when you’re already paying so much for tuition? They can and they do. So you’re considering becoming an RA to save some money. Here’s what you need to know.

A lot about being an RA is give and take: depending on your personality, your experience can be doused with positives and negatives. For starters, you get your own room, which can be nice or lonely. If you’re someone who has had trouble in the past with roommates or just really enjoys your privacy, this is perfect for you. But just because you have your own room doesn’t mean you should necessarily expect to have a lot of alone time. As someone on duty, your door has to be open for your residents basically all the time. Sometimes people will come in just to hang out because they’re lonely. Now and then you’ll have to advise someone facing an issue, like a freshman who’s homesick. So, if you’re a complete loner this may not be the job for you. You have to be helpful and caring toward your residents—even when they annoy you at 3 am.

Another aspect to consider is cutting your summer short. Generally, it is required for RA’s to move in early, possibly go through some training and helps all the newbies move in. If you have an internship that’s lined up to last right up until an average student is returning or a family vacation schedule for right before school, this can certainly put a damper on your plans. So, if you’re considering RA-dom, be prepared for compromise on time—even before the school year officially starts. This will also change your travel plans during the school year. You can’t leave every weekend or even every other weekend; depending on your school, you may get only one weekend every month to travel home…so plan wisely!

Now it’s time to think about your resume. There are positives and negatives being an RA can provide. Obviously, an RA is a leader and it will definitely present you as a take-charge kind of person who can handle difficult situations on their own. Your communication skills will improve considerably—as will your understanding of strange campus lingo. You’ll also be shown as a problem solver, someone who can truly care for another and act to find the best solution. Being an RA can also hurt your resume a bit if it cuts into time you could otherwise spend on other organizations or studying. With a lot on your plate for your RA responsibilities, something else will likely have to give. This won’t necessarily hurt you, to stop attending recreational volleyball, but it is something to consider.

Finally, think of the responsibilities you’ll have and consider if it’s something you’ll actually enjoy. RA’s often correspond activities for their hall, set up meetings, enforce the rules, and have a knowledge of the university to help guide students (especially freshmen) to the people they need to talk to. Also, consider your personality. If you generally don’t like hanging out with people regularly or listening to their problems, this probably isn’t the right choice for you. If you’re really shy and don’t think you’ll be able to come out of your shell enough to help your residents, consider other cheaper housing options.

Ultimately, the job isn’t just about you. It’s about what your residents need you to be and need your help with. Just like an internship or any other job, you have to think about whether or not you’re the best one for the position, beyond the money factor. With the job comes a lot of benefits and a lot of responsibilities, so if you decide being an RA is something you can do, be prepared to take the good with the bad.

As always, best of luck!

-Toony Toon

I’m reading Introduction to Geography