A group of resident assistants posing outside of a residence hall.

Becoming a resident assistant (RA) at NYU is a long process. There are different application stages to go through and interviews to complete; you’re creating hypothetical programs, meeting other candidates, and trying to decide which placement might be best for you. Knowing you’re going for such a coveted role on campus can be scary, but the payoff is gratifying. Here is a list of tips and pieces of advice that I’ve compiled over my past year of being an RA at a first-year residence hall.

Part One: The Application Process

To become an RA, first, you need to apply. Since only upper-class students can be RAs, you can begin the process as early as the fall of your sophomore year. The process has five main stages:

  1. Information Session
  2. Application
  3. Group Interview
  4. Individual Interview
  5. Reflection

In October and November, mandatory information sessions cover the RA role with plenty of opportunities to ask questions. Here is a list of all the application stages and each information session held for the upcoming semester.

At the end of the information session, you receive a link to officially apply for the role. Resident hall assistant directors (RHADs) review each application to see if anything aligns with what they’re looking for. They’ll then invite applicants to partake in a group interview. A group interview sounds scary, but anyone can prepare for it. You’ll answer questions as a group, work together to form programs and solve problems, and face hypothetical incidents that might arise during your time as an RA. Throughout the session, the group leader takes note of each applicant and how they interact with the others to solve each problem.

After the group interview, everyone does a one-on-one interview with the person who led their group session. Here, you’ll answer questions about how you’d face conflicts in this role and have the chance to connect with your interviewer. The final stage of the process is a reflection of the entire application cycle. After that, applicants find out whether or not they’ve been chosen to be an RA. Decisions are typically made in early March.

Part Two: Training

Hall decoration with glittery letters that spell out The Great Gatsby

Though it seems like the most tedious process, training is the backbone of your experience as an RA. In August, every fall RA goes through extensive training on community development, incidents, and inclusivity/accessibility practices. To ensure that each RA can handle any circumstance, this training spans several days. It involves sessions with your team or with the entire RA cohort, depending on the day.

Additionally, you will prepare your floor and door decorations. Each hall has different expectations regarding how much decorating needs to be done. Usually, you create a personalized door decoration for each resident. This past year, my fall theme was Motown, so I made each resident little records with different Motown songs on them. In the spring, my theme was The Great Gatsby and I painted my bulletin board.

Training is the longest continuous amount of time your team will spend together. It’s a great way to get to know your coworkers, brainstorm future ideas, and most importantly, ask questions. Training is when you set your expectations for the coming semester.

A group of students smiling in front of a subway station entrance.

Part Three: Your Residents!

Students sitting in an audience row at a theatre.
Another row of students in the theatre of a Broadway show.
Every RA is different about how they choose to interact with their residents. Some have an open-door policy and like their residents to know they can knock anytime. Some make decorations for their door displaying their availability (with options like away, in class, sleeping, etc.). I drew a clear boundary while still making it clear that I would always be a resource for my residents. I said they could always contact me by email or GroupMe for anything they needed, but to only knock on my door with emergencies or urgent matters. It was a great way to ensure I could get my work done while still making sure my residents knew I was there to support them.

Additionally, RAs tend to be among the busiest people on campus, with many taking on leadership roles in other spheres. This is why our supervisors adopt the saying “person first, student second, RA third.” This saying wasn’t adopted as a reason to make sure RAs slack off. It was to make sure that each RA knew that once the job impeded their ability to exist as a person or to follow through with academics, they should reach out for support.

Part Four: Programming

Each semester, RAs are expected to put on a minimum of one program a month. These programs can be passive (involving little or no engagement from residents) or active (dependent on resident engagement). They can also take place in the hall or throughout the city. The best way to create a successful program is to find how your interests align with the needs of your residents. If you have a more introverted floor, organize passive events that don’t involve straying too far from the hall. If your floor is full of theatre kids, try to organize a Broadway excursion. Here is a list of some of the programs I put on during my first year as an RA:
  • Succulent planting
  • Chicago on Broadway
  • The Great Gatsby on Broadway
  • A trip on the Staten Island Ferry and outlet shopping spree

Again, participation depends on your residents and their interests but also uncontrollable variables like weather. In the fall semester, I tried to organize a trip to Little Island, but a terrible storm passed through that morning. After only one resident signed up, we canceled. We decided to postpone the event for the spring and go to Staten Island instead, but it rained again. This time, however, we carried on with the event instead of canceling it, despite only three residents showing up. We had a lot of fun, and it was great to connect with residents without the pressure of a large group!

The curtain for the broadway show Chicago.
A group of four smiling for the camera during the Staten Island Ferry excrusion.
Students getting food during a resident event.
A playbill and tickets for The Great Gatsby with the stage out of focus in the background.
The life of an RA isn’t easy. It can be time-consuming, stressful, and difficult. However, connecting with residents, planning fantastic programs, and bonding with your team members is incredibly rewarding. RAs are the backbone of the residential life experience at NYU, and it’s easy to understand why. The work that goes into being an unbiased resource is valuable across the board. If you’re even a little bit interested in being an RA, I encourage you to apply! Not only is it the opportunity of a lifetime, but it also offers you the chance to make invaluable connections and friendships.
A group of students smiling for the camera.

Cecily Johnson is a rising senior from the Philadelphia suburbs studying Film and TV Production, Producing, and French. While on campus she is an Admissions Ambassador, the Treasurer for Tisch-affiliated club The Collective, and a Resident Assistant in a first-year residence hall. Though Cecily loves living a busy lifestyle, she’s often making efforts to slow down a bit as she enjoys taking walks, photography, weightlifting at 404, and trying new foods. In the future, she hopes to work in the media and entertainment field, ideally as a television showrunner, and wants nothing more than to contribute to the creative sphere with her personal touch.