The RA Diaries - Getting to Know Residence Life

Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee
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Take a sneak peek into the life of an RA.


You're decorating your dorm room with some cool new posters you just bought at a poster sale when you hear a knock on your door. A total stranger (who probably has a basket of cookies or some kind of treat) introduces herself as your RA. Your first thought — what the heck is that? When she begins to explain you get the gist, but do you actually know what being an RA entails? As a 3-year freshman RA at my college, I'm here to explain our truths, debunk our myths, and tell you what's really going down in your residence halls. But first...

What is Residence Life?

Residence Life (or affectionately shortened to Res Life) is an on- or off-campus living resource with a primary focus on community building through programming, personal growth, academic integrity, and safety in the residence halls. See signs for an ice cream social? Most likely an event hosted by your RA!

All these acronyms! What do they mean?

There are different variations across schools, but they generally mean the same thing. The structure in some schools in the Residence Life department may differ, but I'll cover the universal ones.

DORL - Director of Residence Life

As the title suggests, a DLOR is the big cheese of the department and makes major departmental decisions from hiring to housing selections.

RD/RHD - Resident Director/Resident Hall Director

Your RD is responsible for your building(s). Though an RD is not the director, he or she has the most influence on the buildings they reside in. Should any incident occur that you are a part of, you will certainly be meeting with your RD.

RA/RHA - Resident Advisor (Assistant)/Resident Hall Advisor (Assistant)

RAs are students just like you! RAs are student leaders who get the most interpersonal time with their residents through daily interactions such as programming, roommate contracts, incidents, community building activities, or sometimes even sharing the same class! Naturally, RAs get the most face time with residents.

The Many Hats Your RA Wears

Your RA has chronic hat hair. RAs are mentors, resources, artists, conflict resolvers, peacekeepers, problem-solvers, administrators, leaders, decision-makers, event-planners, and most importantly, STUDENTS. When residents need advice, RAs are usually the go-to person.

  • They make your door tags and bulletin boards.
  • They go into each and every room to file room condition reports before and after residents move in and out.
  • They document situations that occur in the building.
  • They make periodic rounds around the halls to make sure nothing is amiss.
  • They know who enters and leaves the building.
  • They answer 3 AM lockout calls (this happens more often than you think).
  • They produce and host the events that bring students together where unlikely friendships bloom.
  • They change lives, including their own.

There is a lot that comes with being an RA but to me, being an RA meant that I was ready to face the world with a newfound confidence I would have never had without the good and the challenging days. Be nice to your RAs. They work hard to make sure you're having a comfortable, safe, and fun Residence Hall all the while finishing their 15-page psychology paper in the library alongside everyone else.

Alyssa-DelValle.pngWRITTEN BY
Alyssa Del-Valle
Macmillan Learning

With a BA in Communications and Music and a "Mouseters" in all things Disney, when not writing fabulous articles this native New Yorker is either making up songs in her head about her daily interactions, practicing voice overs for the next hair care commercial, or munching on Doritos she couldn't resist grabbing at her local bodega. The purple bag is hard to resist.