I know what you’re thinking. You’re sitting in that small dorm, looking at your small space, thinking about your roommate–whom you’ve never met before–and wondering what it would be like to have your own room. Then the lightbulb goes off, you’ll become a resident’s assistant! Except it’s not that easy, and the rooms are not the only perks. Plus, there is a great deal of responsibility involved. This is a job after all. If this is a job that you are truly considering, know that it is an important one and that it does not come easy. Also, if you are thinking that you do not have the “right personality” for it, know that RA’s are people of every type, from every major, and all personalities. Think of your resident’s assistant right now. They probably aren’t the typical straight-A, all-business, professional type. They are most likely quirky and interesting, and that is what makes them great. Allow me to walk you through the process, the perks, and the responsibilities of becoming a resident’s assistant:
1. Interest meeting
The interest meeting is the first step where you will be able to find out the requirements for becoming a resident’s assistant as well as what the job entails for you. A resident’s assistant is required to maintain a 2.75 GPA, be in good standing with FSU, and have lived on campus for at least two semesters in the past. Throughout your time as a resident assistant, you are expected to learn your residents, remain in contact, complete roommate and suitemate contracts, and host events for them. This is in addition to maintaining the hallways and decorations; you will have to decorate your mainboard with new information a few different times throughout the semester. There are, of course, other responsibilities such as loud residents, residents having issues with their roommate, or, in severe cases, residents going through extreme circumstances (suicidal thoughts will be something you are trained to handle).
You may be wondering what you get out of this. Well, in addition to a room to yourself you get extra flex bucks ($300) to use with your residents to grab some coffee and hang out, and your room and board for the cheapest dorm cut in half (FSU pays the rest). You are paid as well; FSU pays you consistently for 20 hours a week at $9 an hour, you may work more or less but this will stay the same.
For more information on duties and compensation follow this link: https://housing.fsu.edu/employment
After you attend the required meeting, you will be able to fill out the application. This is fairly simple as it generally asks for your current academic standing and a résumé. Here, they are looking to see if you are in good academic standing and that you are an involved, well-rounded individual. Even after this process, there is still a large portion of students in the running for the positions. You do not get to pick the dorm you live in; however, you do get to choose if would prefer to live in a 9-month or 12-month dorm.
3. Group interviews
Once you have made it through this initial selection process, there will be a two or three-day event in which there will be an initial meeting and a day or two of group interviews followed by individual interviews which can be scheduled throughout the following week. However, these group interviews are not quite what you would think. Here, you will be given a few activities in which several current resident assistants and university housing employees will be watching and taking notes on you. Some examples include problem-solving activities such as an escape room, or pretending that you are choosing RAs to work for you, who would you choose? Your responses to these situations show your personality, your problem-solving skills, and your communication skills.
4. Individual interviews
The individual interviews that follow typically last approximately thirty minutes and are designed to further get to know you and your opinions. The dress is business casual; try to be early. You will be called back to an office space in which two current university housing employees will be taking notes and conducting the interview. Questions will be about your priorities as far as school, work, your residents, and your extracurriculars; other questions could be what your definition of a community is, what you would do if you had a resident in a specific situation, and so on. There are no right answers, simply be yourself, and they will decide what hall and situation you fit in best.
Choosing typically takes place over the next month or two and answers arrive around spring break. Recently, they have structured this process as an email that tells you you were chosen but does not tell you which dorm you will live in. If you agree to work with them, you will be invited to a ceremony. If you are not chosen, do not be discouraged, it was simply not meant to be, but you can always try again. In some cases, they choose alternates who can step in if a resident assistant leaves their position early. You can choose to remain in this position or give up your spot. The odds of eventually being chosen depends on people graduating early or disliking the position.
6. Ceremony for those chosen
Assuming you are chosen and that you agree to take the position, again, you will not know your assigned hall. You will be invited to a ceremony in which you will be able to celebrate, find your assigned hall, and see who else will be a resident’s assistant in your hall. This takes place in a format similar to when Harry Potter and his friends are assigned their houses in the first movie. So, if you have ever dreamed of a moment like that, they definitely recreate it for you.
Now that you know your hall, you will have to be back before the students return to set up your hallway in your chosen theme, get to know your fellow staff, and also learn the paperwork process you will be doing throughout the semester. They will teach you how to handle certain situations, how to design your boards, and how to set up events for your residents. Now you’re ready to meet your residents.
8. Helping students move in
Your first task as an official resident’s assistant will be assisting in the move-in process, the best part. Not really. However, this is a great time to learn who will be in your hallway and make your first impressions. While the entire process can be chaotic, it is fun to get to meet everyone and play your role in helping these students, new or returning, adjust to their new environment.
9. Meeting your students and decorating your area
Once everyone is moved in, it is safe to have your first-floor meeting. These are mandatory, which you will likely be familiar with if you have lived in a dorm in the past. Here you can explain your theme, introduce a little bit about yourself, go over the dorm rules, and relate to your residents. First impressions are important, so try to really relate to them and their situations; but also be yourself, they will appreciate a genuine person and feel more inclined to come to you. This is also a great opportunity to get ideas from what they would like to see for your upcoming events throughout the semester.
10. Start thinking of events
Now it begins, you are officially moved in, introduced, and ready to start a wonderful year with these new residents whom you will come to know. Speaking of which, getting to know them and connect is easiest when you host events, which will be required of you. However, do not think of this as a job or an assignment, think about when you were in their shoes. What would you have liked your resident’s assistant to do for you? What kinds of activities do you wish they would have had? What kinds of foods did you want? Once you have it figured out, get to planning. Some ideas could be cookies and beverages for a study break, or a volleyball tournament even. Get going, I know you’ll be great.