Dealing with Your Dorm's Resident Adviser (R.A.)

Whether R.A. stands for resident adviser or resident assistant on your campus, the R.A.'s role is pretty much the same for college dorms across the country: to help new students adjust to life on campus, to act as a resource for all that the college offers, and to foster a sense of community among students living on a dorm floor.

While some students will no doubt look upon R.A.s as meddlesome substitute parents, it's better to think of them as older, wiser brothers and sisters. They're there to offer help and guidance — and to lay down the law if it's necessary. More often than not, you'll be glad they're around.

Here are some of the many areas where R.A.s can help you:

  • Questions about college life, procedures, or people

  • How to effectively use your college's unique meal plan

  • How to cope with homesickness

  • Where to find buildings on campus, and the best ways to get to them

  • How to deal with roommate problems

  • Options for on- and off-campus activities

  • How to get involved in clubs and groups

  • Where to get help if you're sick or depressed

That last point is the most important. While R.A.s receive plenty of training, they don't pretend to be experts on every subject. One of their specialties is referring students to the right source for help if the situation is beyond their grasp. That's why you can go to your R.A. with any problem — at the very least, you'll get pointed in the right direction.

R.A.s are usually juniors or seniors, but sometimes sophomores are selected. Competition is intense for the positions because the compensation is so good — free room and board at most schools. That competition usually results in a group of mature, knowledgeable R.A.s in each dorm.

Perhaps the best thing to keep in mind about R.A.s is that they're students, too. In other words, they've been through what you're going through, and it's their job to make college life easier for you.

Although R.A.s possess varying levels of tolerance for student transgressions, the best way to stay on good terms is to follow the rules — especially those that involve safety, alcohol and drugs, university property, and excessive noise. Keep your nose clean in those areas, and you should expect smooth sailing.