Freshmen entering their first year of college have quite a few adjustments they encounter. Adapting to the close quarters of dorm lifestyle living where they are surrounded by other people 24/7, realizing exactly what a rigorous academic standard means, and trying to reach their own high expectations can be overwhelming. A helping hand in the form of a Resident Assistant (RA) can be the support overwhelmed freshman students need.
An RA is part comforter, advisor, supporter, friend, and even enforcer to all students living on their hall. They are required to enforce the rules and guidelines set by Grove City College so that the students are not abusing their freedom and rights of others while living on campus. Needless to say, the job of an RA is not an “easy,” but rather a full-time investment of time and attention. RAs are required to have at least three to four programs they provide for their students to build hall unity. Another example of their hard work is the requirement to cover shifts throughout the week or weekend where they have to patrol the halls and inspect bathrooms and lounges – a job most college students probably prefer not to do on a Saturday night.
Despite the hard work and responsibilities that are affiliated with being a RA and the rigorous hours that pile on top of being a full-time college student, the impact they have on the students who live on their hall and the investment they make in the lives of others make it all the more worth it. Being a RA provides a unique opportunity where he or she can witness the growth of students from the uncertain and emotional freshmen entering the start of the school year, watch them adapt, grow, and persevere through two semesters, and then realize the maturation by the school year’s end.
Certainly, Freshman RAs see this on a more emphasized spectrum because they see the new freshmen, who have not adapted to college life as sophomore or junior GCC students, start off timid and then grow into themselves. The amount of effort and energy that is required of a freshman RA is much higher than compared to other RAs simply because freshmen residents are going to be going to their RAs room all times of the day and night asking questions like, “Where do I print my eight-page paper for Bib Rev?” or “What do I wear for Fitwell?” while upper classmen already know the answers. Freshman RAs need to be sacrificial with their time because they will have their freshmen residents knocking on their doors, needing an ear that is willing to listen or arms ready to hug. However, the job is so much more than that of an enforcer and provides more than a check every month; it is a relationship with their students. RAs of upperclassmen are not has occupied with their residents, because upperclassmen are already established and rooted on campus. They already have their friends, mentors, and groups so they are not worried about “fitting in” or finding their new best friend. In fact, many Upperclassmen RAs wish their residents talked to them more and spent more time with them.
Each hall has its own personality and character with no two being the same. For instance, North MAP ground floor may be very quiet and reserved, whereas North MAP third floor may be very loud and energetic. That’s what makes life as a freshman RA more unique, because each hall is different and requires their RAs to be adaptable and flexible. The RAs learn very quickly that they cannot have set expectations and assumptions about what their hall will be like. The reliance freshmen have on their RA is very strong, especially in the beginning months of college. North MAP Freshman RA, Emily Barker, shares how she has learned through her experience. “Freshmen in college are a rare breed of student. They come in and they don’t have any friends, they don’t know the people they are living with, some of them have never been in a Christian environment before, some of them miss home, some of them have never talked to a boy who wasn’t their brother, the list goes on,” says Barker, “but they all are being thrown into a brand new environment alone and they only person they kind of recognize is their RA.”
Despite the unpredictability that comes with the job, life as a Freshman RA is never boring or dull. There is always something to do, or someone to be with, and calls for a lot of involvement. Barker continues, “I love freshmen! They have so much energy, enthusiasm and such a fresh perspective that makes each day a brand new adventure.”