04/18/2012 05:05 pm ET | Updated Jun 18, 2012

The Perks & Pitfalls of Life as a Resident Assistant

As spring semester draws to a close, you realize it's time to figure out where you'll live for the upcoming school year. Some of you smart cookies might snap your fingers as you realize -- wait a minute! -- RAs get free room and board! That settles it. You'll become an RA, and your housing woes will be no more.

But hold your horses, because there's a lot more to being an RA than just a free single room. Being a Resident Assistant is seriously time-consuming, and has the potential to be extremely difficult if you're not in it for the right reasons (i.e., if you're just doing it to get the free housing). However, there are also a lot of things about being an RA that make the job an amazing experience. Before you sign up, make sure you know exactly what the position will involve:

You're expected to be in your room pretty much all the time. Excluding the time you're at classes and extracurricular activities, your responsibility as a Resident Assistant is supposed to be your principal out-of-class activity. Any activity that could take you away from your residents needs to be approved by the RA coordinator before you sign up. Besides that, you can't take any impromptu road trips when you're supposed to be on shift, and any vacation time needs to be pre-approved by the RA coordinator way in advance.

You're responsible for dealing with any issues your residents face. Any time anyone in the hall needs something they come to the RA and it's his or her job to help them sort it out. If you're not used to this sort of thing, it might be a bit uncomfortable and emotionally draining. RAs are expected to handle any and every physical or mental crisis thrown their way -- depression, drug addiction, eating disorders, alcohol poisoning, whatever it may be, the RA is supposed to be there to help. 

You'll go through a pretty long training process. 
Potential RAs are trained on how to handle conflicts, briefed on campus services like psychological counseling and tutoring in case their students need them, instructed in emergency procedures, and more. That's a hefty chunk of the summer spent learning things to help you handle dorm room drama, instead of soaking up the summer sun.

Sometimes you have to be the bad guy. 
These kids are fresh out of high school, and they're ready to show it by partying as hard as their tolerance-free freshman bodies will allow them to. It's your job to stop it! As tempting as it could be to be the "nice RA" and pretend not to see the handle of cheap vodka those girls are sneaking into their room, you have to write them up. Even if it's not something as bad as possession or underage drinking, you'll have to ensure that everyone is following the rules.

At times, you will be hated. No matter how sugary-sweet you were at the beginning of the year, no matter how patiently you've answered every question from "Where's the laundry room?" to "Which classes should I take?" they're still going to write you off after you write them up for breaking the rules. No one wants to be the one raining on everyone's parade, and even though they know that you don't enjoy having to punish them for partying, they'll still shoot you dirty looks for a few weeks. They'll respect you in the end, though, and that's how you know that you're doing the right thing!

Now, of course, that's not to say that becoming an RA is all bad! To read about the glamorous perks associated with this coveted on-campus job, along with advice from collegiettes who were RAs, check out the full article at Her Campus. To read more from Her Campus, including how to deal with roommate arguments on your own, click here.

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