What are Resident Assistants?

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  • Written By: Paulla Estes
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2019
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Resident assistants (RAs) are college students, usually upperclassmen, who take on the responsibility of living in the dormitories or residence halls with students and acting as student supervisors. Resident assistants are each assigned one floor or section of a floor in a residence hall, with a set number of student residents in their charge. Resident assistants usually take their position as a part time job or to help with tuition expenses, but the job is not for everyone. Resident assistants have specific duties including, but not limited to, supervision of the residents in the dorm, overseeing activities, counseling and encouraging residents, enforcing rules and curfews, encouraging housekeeping and peacemaking, crisis management, and keeping order among the residents. Resident assistants have sometimes been given derogatory nicknames such as the “dorm police” or “tattle tales,” so the job requires a certain level of maturity and thick skin.

Resident assistants are also known as student assistants, residence hall assistants, resident advisors, community advisors, and even house fellows. Resident assistants often act as the contact between the student body and the college or university administration. While resident assistants often must enforce policies which are unpopular with the residents, they can also explain rules and regulations to students which the administration might never take the time to do.


Resident assistants are often called upon to plan activities which enhance the college experience for the residents in their charge. They might plan community service or volunteer projects around the campus or local town, or they might simply plan regular evenings for pizza and videos. Many resident assistants find that these events encourage community and friendship among the residents, which ultimately benefits everyone.

Resident assistants might also teach or arrange seminars or courses on getting along with others, finding a part time job, or even just doing laundry and budgeting. Many times, even the simplest tasks are difficult for students who are living in the dorm and away from home for the first time. Resident assistants often find that the leadership experience they learn in the residence halls greatly helps them in the job market once they graduate from college. With experience in everything from counseling a depressed student to dealing with a crime, resident assistants are future leaders who can go out into the world and use their skills in much larger circles.


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