Advice from a former RA
I spent two years as a resident assistant in Canada Hall, and each year I had around 40 students on my floor who needed my mentoring and support at all hours of the day. It was a role I took on for several reasons—to get free room and board was a huge perk, but I also wanted to help my peers have positive experiences in school and life. After getting to know eighty very different students in those two years, many of the issues new students face are common—stress, loneliness, uncertainty. Here are some tips I used to share with my residents on a regular basis.
Ask for help
UNR has many resources available to help students, including tutoring services, counselors, career advisors, and more. So I was always surprised when a student came to me upset about his or her grades or choice of major. Talk to your professors often to let them know where you are with the course material. Stop by the counseling center every now and then to vent if you’re worried about the future. Find a writing consultant to help you get through that paper you’ve been dreading. College is hard and often stressful, but if you don’t ask for help, you’re left to deal with things on your own, which can quickly get overwhelming.
Participate in your hall
Much of an RA’s job includes planning programs and events in the dorms, and in my hall, an event was considered successful if there was a turnout of ten students. Which is pretty sad, because it takes hours to plan programs. RAs put on programs with their residents’ needs in mind—we know who our students are, what their majors are, what they like and don’t like. Take advantage of these programs hosted in your building. They’re for you. Sometimes they’re educational or career-oriented; other times, they’re a way to blow off some steam during a stressful semester. These events are always free, and there’s likely to be food or other goodies. And you’re welcome to come in your pajamas.
Branch outside of your social circle
UNR draws students from all over the world, and resident halls house a diverse group of people from different backgrounds. It’s daunting to find yourself living in a place with complete strangers, but you learn a lot about yourself and how you deal with uncertain situations when you’re forced to experience confrontation, cultural differences and often unpredictable personalities. But you might make some friends you would have never made before if you stick to only hanging out with the same crew you’ve known since high school.
Learn how to balance your life and your checkbook
I was an RA in the upper class hall, and most of my residents had been in college for a couple of years and knew most of the ropes. But even seniors seemed to have a hard time sticking to their responsibilities, like paying bills or going to class on time. If you’re one of the lucky ones whose parents help foot the bill for school, consider getting a part-time campus job to help out with your tuition or living expenses. If you’re already financially independent, make sure that working doesn’t take too much of your time away from school. Working and going to school is hard, but it’s doable, and you’ll learn a lot about balancing responsibilities.
Focus on school
Going to college is not just about what you learn in a classroom, but at the end of the day, you’re there to become a smarter person and work toward your career plans. Extracurricular activities are valuable learning experiences, but they shouldn’t take presidence over studying. The same goes for friendships and relationships. Speaking from my own experience, if a friend encourages you to ditch class often, they probably aren’t a very good friend.
Keep things in perspective
I can’t count the number of times I had a resident come to my door at 3 a.m. crying about a failed test or a bad date. Sometimes school, and life, just sucks. But college is part of a big picture. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Remember that you’re lucky to be able to go to college, and that you’re working hard toward building a life for yourself.