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Becoming a Resident Adviser (RA)

The Application Process Can Be Long and Complicated


Friends hanging out in college bedroom together
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You may have wanted to be an RA since the moment you first moved on campus or you may just want to explore the idea. Either way, you've ideally carefully considered the pros and cons of the position and are now looking to get your application in. What should you expect? And how can you be sure that your application stands out from the crowd?

Step One: The Actual Application

  • What you'll be asked to do: Most colleges and universities have prospective RAs fill out a several-page application, either online or in hard copy. You'll be asked about your involvement on campus, why you want to be an RA, what your leadership experience has been, and what your goals would be as an RA.

  • What they're looking for: Residence life professional staff are looking for people who come from a wide range of experiences. Be honest about what you've been involved in, where your interests are, and what you're most passionate about. Conversely, if you haven't been that involved, be honest about that -- and that you are now looking to become more involved in an RA role (and why). Your new potential boss(es) will be looking for people who are engaged with their community, who want to be a part of building a community, and who are thoughtful about their role on campus. When filling out your application, think about what you can give back and what you hope your, and your residents', experience will be if you end up getting picked.

Step Two: The Group Interview

  • What you'll be asked to do: Most campuses have something called a "group interview," where you'll be put in a small group with other applications. You'll most likely have to introduce yourself, tell a little bit about yourself and your background, and participate in team-building and problem-solving exercises -- all while being observed.

  • What they're looking for: Your potential new employers are looking for candidates who work well with others, who are self confident, who listen well, and who demonstrate leadership skills. Remember, however, that this doesn't mean you have to worry about leading your team through a possible challenge; leaders can also be quiet people in the background who see common ground, can help mediate conflict, and provide positive reinforcement for others who may be struggling. Just make sure to be yourself while doing your best to work well with those in your group -- no matter how much they may be trying to impress the people observing.

Step Three: The Individual Interview

  • What you'll be asked to do: You'll have a much smaller interview with one (or two) full-time residence life staff members where you're the only candidate present. While this may sound nerve-racking, it can actually be less stressful than the group interview process. You'll be asked questions similar to the ones you saw on the actual application you first submitted.

  • What they're looking for: This is the most important time to be yourself, as your interviewer(s) is most likely looking for someone who is a good listener and that can make other people comfortable. Make sure to be relaxed and friendly, make good eye contact, and be honest in your answers. Additionally, be prepared to think on your feet: your interviewer(s) will most likely throw you some crazy questions just to see how you think when in a new and unfamiliar situation. (What kind of kitchen utensil would you be if you could pick just one?) Keep yourself focused and do your best to communicate that you're actually a smart, friendly, helpful person that will make a great addition to next year's RAs staff. And don't forget to bring some questions of your own!

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