Hey there. It’s an RA here. Your RA? No (well, probably not), just one of the many employed at college dorms trying to make freshman year a good experience for you. A lot more goes into the job than enforcing rules and helping people out of lockouts: Sometimes residents don’t see the work and intentions that go on behind the scenes, and it’s easy to see your RA as someone who doesn’t care about you unless you’re breaking the rules. Rest assured, they think about you even if you’re not a troublemaker and, ultimately, want you to survive and thrive at college.
While it’s a daunting task to speak on behalf of all RAs, here are a couple of things that I think your RA would want you to know and would tell you if there was an easy way to say it. Next time you see them in the hall, keep them in mind and see if it helps you understand just why they care so much about quiet hours.
1. We’re More than the Buzzkill Police
Yes, part of the job involves enforcing campus rules. So if you break those rules, even if they seem a little silly, it’s their job to remind you of them. But your RA is not doing it because they enjoy writing incident reports. Because their job is to make your dorm a safe and uplifting environment, if it is no longer an positive environment for whatever reason, they will restore that safety. And, well, sometimes that involves reminding residents of dorm rules.
For example: Quiet hours may seem like they exist to target you, specifically, but they have a purpose. Some residents need to get to bed early: Maybe they have an important test tomorrow, maybe they work a morning job on campus or maybe they are one of the brave souls who enlisted in 8am classes. If another resident decides that four in the morning is a great time for tuba practice, your RA may remind you that while they are so happy you made it into marching band, it would be great if you could go practice in the music room downstairs or resume tuba playing at a reasonable hour.
Because they hate you? Because they enjoy being a buzzkill? No. Because balance is important, and campus rules help keep the dorm in balance, even if they seem a little silly sometimes.
2. We’re on Your Side
Dorms are not founded on “us” versus “them” mentalities: While sometimes you and your RA may have conflicting opinions, their job is not to punish you for every little thing. On the contrary: RAs are here to offer support, guidance and friendship. What they do revolves around making sure that you and everyone else in the dorm are safe and surviving freshman year. What does this mean? They’re not going to write you up for every little mistake you make. But they’re also not going to take your side in a roommate argument (nor will they take any side).
If anyone’s 100 percent on your side in your hall, count your RA as that person. Just know that what they do, they do for the benefit of the hall.
3. We Walk a Delicate Line
Sometimes, it’s hard for RAs to manage their roles. On one hand, they want to be your friend. They are happy when you do well, and they want to help you when you’re not doing so well. On the other hand, friends don’t usually mediate hall arguments or let you into your room after you’ve been locked out.
RAs want to make a meaningful connection with you. Just like you worry that they’re just talking to you because they have to, they worry that you will hate them when they have to enforce the rules or use your relationship to break them. Your RA has a lot on their plate and many roles to balance.
4. Use Us as Your Resource
College students get stressed. We get scared, we get frustrated and sometimes, we get a little depressed. This is normal: While freshman year can be an amazing experience, it can also be a challenging one.
Whether you’re homesick or nervous about your grades, talk to your RA and they will help you.
RAs go through intensive training where they learn about campus resources and how to help students utilize these resources. From the advisement center to the counseling center, from club nights to career fairs, they know and are trained to refer you to resources that can help you through first-year hurdles. Talk to your RA if you need help: Not only will they be able to offer you support, but they can help you find the services you need.
5. We’re Human Too
Your RA is a student, too. Sometimes people forget that. They can empathize with you about midterms, dating and time management because they are going through all of the same things. This is exactly why they hire undergraduates. Nobody else in residence life knows quite so well how daunting a research paper is because, odds are, they’re writing one alongside you.
At the same time, though, this means that your RA is also human. They have flaws. They make mistakes. If you find adulthood a little scary and wish you could just figure everything out now, trust me, your RA wishes that, too. Your RA may not have all the answers. But they do have one key they use to help you: Experience. Once upon a time, your RA was a freshman and, despite all of their flaws and insecurities, they survived their first year. Even though they’re not perfect, they can help you get through it, too.
6. We Care about You
Your RA, by nature, cares about you and wants you to do well. Yes, it is their job to think that. But people who become RAs are attracted to the job because they want to help people. They love the job because they love you; if they didn’t, there’s no way they could survive an entire year of unlocking your room door at three in the morning or acting as a mediator in roommate drama.
Does your RA get frustrated sometimes? Yes, of course. As I said, they are human. But even when tired or overwhelmed, at the end of the day, they chose the job because they do care about you and want to help you however they can. They are proud of you when you succeed. They hope you’re doing okay.
7. It’s a Stressful Job
In fact, being an RA is stressful because they care about you so much. If they didn’t care, the job would be a cake walk: They would never be there to let you back into your room, they wouldn’t plan programs in your best interest, and when a crisis happens, they would run away as quickly as possible.
But your RA does care: When you’re going through a crisis, they want to help and will do everything they can to mediate the situation. Sometimes, it can leave them a bit drained and occasionally, your RA may feel a little stressed.
8. It’s Incredibly Worthwhile
Being an RA can be tough work, especially when they need to enforce the rules or help a resident through a hard time. But if it was easy, it wouldn’t be important.
Keeping the hall running takes effort, and that effort pays off when you do well and enjoy college life.
When the end of the year comes and you realize you made it through, even when you thought you couldn’t, that makes it all meaningful. Your RA didn’t take the job because they thought it would be simple. They knew it was time consuming when they signed on. But they also knew that it was sometimes exciting, often fun and one of the most worthwhile things that they will ever do.
So next time you see your RA on their evening rove, know that they are more than a set of fingers to wave at you. They care about you. They understand your concerns. They want you to do well and hope that you’re doing okay. And they are here for you.