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Should You Be an RA?

August 4, 2011

Should You Be an RA?

by Shari Williams

If you have lived on campus, hung out in the dorms or simply attended classes, you have encountered a resident assistant or resident advisor, perhaps better known as an RA. I was an RA during my junior year while I was participating in the National Student Exchange at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and loved it! It was a great opportunity to save money, meet people and gain personal knowledge.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the perks of being an RA – free housing, a single room, etc. – but not everyone will meet the qualifications. RAs must be very responsible; for example, if someone decides to trash the hallway or throw a noisy party, it’s the RA's responsibility to report the incident and think of ways to prevent it from happening again, even if some decisions they make are unpopular with their advisees. I enjoyed my time as an RA but this position isn’t for everyone. It’s not about the money or free housing – your heart really has to be in it!

During my time at CSUN, I found the housing staff and all RAs to be very supportive, family-oriented, and genuinely care about the students. If that sounds like you, you could be a great RA candidate but here are a few more things you should know before applying:

The Pros

The Cons

RA positions vary from school to school, as do their responsibilities. If you want to be an RA, do your research at your college by asking some current or past RAs about their experiences. To be or not to be an RA depends on you and, if you do decide to take on this role, your advisees will depend on you, too!

Shari Williams is a junior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.


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College Challenges and How to Overcome Them

by Thomas Lee

The practical hassles of everyday life can become a problem for college students used to living at home. I learned this the hard way my freshman year when simple tasks like doing the laundry became a chore.

My freshman dorm only had two washers and dryers per hallway. A week’s worth of laundry quickly became an insurmountable pile because I couldn’t find a free washer. My parents suggested using a Laundromat but that costs extra money which a student may or may not have. The trick was for me to pick a specific time of the week where the laundry room would be mostly free and stick to it. Washing on Sunday afternoon when most students were not in the dorm became my weekly ritual.

The most difficult part of day-to-day college life for me was car trouble. Throughout all four years, gasoline prices were roughly around $3 a gallon and today show no signs of dropping. If you have a car on campus, the best thing you can do is hope to get a decent paying job and minimize your driving to only what is necessary. Another option is establishing a good network of friends and carpooling to save both time and money. Another major cost for me was car repair. I shelled out hundreds of dollars for a single repair, as well as an incident in which I was towed after having a flat tire. One rule of thumb (although this may differ by region) is to hook a white t-shirt or plastic bag to your window if your car breaks down as a distress signal to avoid towing for two days.

The best general advice I can give for college life is make smart, rational, common sense decisions. And don’t give in to peer pressure. But perhaps that is a story for another time.

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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What Are My Housing Options?

by Thomas Lee

There are many options for living on or off campus but what’s the best housing option for you?

The most common housing option for a full-time day college student is an on-campus dormitory. As a freshman, I was permitted to join a program called “First Year Experience” or FYE. FYE was for incoming freshmen who had a 3.0 or above grade point average and filled out an application in advance. I stayed in a nice suite-style, co-ed dorm called Pearce Hall but not all on-campus accommodations are this cushy: The following year, I stayed in an all-male dorm where the conditions weren’t all that great but it was less expensive. As an upperclassman, you may have access to on-campus apartments. Here, you could have your own bedroom and restroom and a shared kitchen and living space but this option is usually the most expensive on-campus choice. You just need to decide what’s more important: paying more for a newer dormitory or saving by living in an older residence hall or living with both sexes versus just one.

Off-campus housing is another option, which, like on-campus apartments, is popular among upperclassmen. I rented a room for three months at a house leased by one of my fraternity brothers during a summer semester and can tell you this option isn’t for everybody. Before deciding to live off-campus, make sure you have an agreed upon price with a signed and printed contract so that you aren’t cheated out of any money; this is especially important if you are paying rent to a friend if you want to preserve your relationship. More than a few college students fall prey to rent gouging or don’t carefully read their apartment contract – don’t be one of them!

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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Learning to Live Off Campus

by Thomas Lee

Sometimes on-campus living is not an option. Dorms are too expensive or overfilled, or housing may not be provided to transfer students. Well, off-campus housing it is!

One of most efficient ways to live off campus is to find a friend, relative or even a parent’s friend who lives near the campus to see if they would allow you to stay with them. If you choose this option, make sure the person you’re renting from writes up a signed agreement that lists the duration of your stay, the set fee per week or month and the conditions to stay. A verbal agreement isn’t set in stone and may leave you without housing if something should go wrong.

Another option is finding an apartment but this may be even more expensive than a dorm. Apartment and condominium rates vary wildly, as so do their living conditions. If you find an apartment that fits your budget, make sure it’s in a reasonably safe part of town and read your lease or contract so you won’t be cheated by the landlord.

Off-campus living also may have stipulations not necessarily found in an on-campus dormitory. Make sure you fully understand the terms and agreements your friend or landlord and don’t assume you can do things you may have normally done at home. Loud music, wild parties and maybe even leaving the toilet seat up are grounds for eviction. If you’re living with a friend, he or she may also expect you to help out with buying groceries or cooking.

One way to cut down on the costs of off-campus living is find a group of friends or roommates and share rent in a large apartment or leased house. Again, a written contract signed by all members is the best way to protect your and your friends’ interests. Be sure to keep your dreams of finally being away from your parents from turning into nightmares!

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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Interning During the Semester: It's a Balancing Act

by Thomas Lee

I first was involved in an internship my junior year. I heard about positions open in the Special Operations department at Fort Bragg and since much of the base was near my campus in Fayetteville, I applied and did a series of interviews. After a lengthy security clearance, I was hired at USASOC Public Affairs. I was assigned to post news footage relevant to Army Special Operations on the Public Affairs web database as well as answer phones and set up equipment.

At first, I was highly disciplined and could easily balance arriving at work and class on time but as the weeks went on, my classwork became more difficult and I started coming to class late. It was a nearly 30-minute drive from campus to work and back and my grades did suffer that semester due to a lack of balance.

My internship went on into the summer so I stayed at a house with some of friends. I also began drinking, which negatively affected my performance. My internship ended in March after a full year and I graduated in May.

I did learn about the day-to-day operations and inner workings of the military but I regret some of the decisions I made, like failing to plan properly. I give this advice to any student seeking an internship: Make sure you don’t overwork yourself and neglect academics and don’t slack off because it will reflect poorly on your future career.

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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Should You Go Greek?

June 16, 2011

Should You Go Greek?

by Thomas Lee

When I first arrived at college, joining a fraternity – or getting involved with anything remotely connected with Greek life – was the furthest thing from my mind. Little did I know that by the end of 2007, I would be one of the founding pledge members of the Methodist University chapter of Kappa Sigma. The first members at a new school are known as Founding Fathers, of which I was one, and our training is known as pledging. My new fraternity brothers and I were pledges for a full academic year until our induction in 2008.

If you are considering joining a Greek organization, fraternity or sorority, there are multiple things you must consider. First is how much being involved will affect your schoolwork. I was able to maintain a high GPA while still being scholarship coordinator for the chapter until the summer I lived with some of my brothers.

Second, determine how much Greek life will affect your personal life. I didn’t really start partying until that summer and it negatively impacted my academics and social life. You should determine whether or not joining a Greek society will subject you to peer pressure or negatively influence your values.

Third, price is a major factor and you should not rush if you cannot afford to pay dues. My fees became more expensive with each year and I could only afford them with the money I made doing a paid internship.

Going Greek does have many benefits, such as gaining friends and valuable networking contacts that you might not have encountered otherwise. I spent time with golf students and athletes that I would have otherwise never met. Greek life may also help you overcome personal biases. All in all, while fraternity life was both a blessing and a curse, I do not regret my decision to join and have made some lifelong friends and brothers along the way.

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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In College, It’s Out With the Old and In With the New...

Except for My Teddy Bear and My Blanky and My...

July 22, 2013

In College, It’s Out With the Old and In With the New...

by Abby Egan

"I need to take all of my stuffed animals with me!"

"Why?"

"'Cause I’ll need them!

This was an actual conversation I had with my friend when I was packing for my freshman year of college. I was absolutely convinced that I would decorate my bed with the stuffed animals I had collected since childhood; after my first few days at school, however, they were shoved in bins under my bed to make room for my new friends to hang out.

Dorm rooms are always smaller than you anticipate. Your storage space is tiny, especially when you’re sharing one room with two to three other students, and bringing unnecessary knickknacks along becomes a hassle. Entering college can be frightening because you’re leaving so much behind and starting a whole new chapter of your life but remember, you’re going to be making memories along the way.

When packing memorabilia, keep it simple and sweet: one or two things you absolutely can’t leave home without. Most students don’t move out of their family homes permanently when leaving for college so leave the family scrapbooks and little league trophies at home. Look forward to the stuff you’re likely to collect along your journey through college. Look forward to the change of lifestyle when you move away from home. But mainly look forward to the change you’ll grow into as you become a better version of yourself.

Nowadays, my bed at school is decorated with one stuffed animal: my school mascot. As for the rest of my cuddly companions? They’re at home whenever I need to visit them.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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Your Guide to On-Campus Living

September 4, 2013

Your Guide to On-Campus Living

by Abby Egan

As an incoming college student, you’ve probably heard the term “freshman experience” a million times by now. Well, think of residence halls as feeding grounds for memories and experiences you can gain outside of the college classrooms: The social atmosphere of residence halls is the most basic way to build college connections and relationships and staying on campus during freshman year is essential to receiving that crash course to how life really is on a college campus.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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Making the Most of Your College’s Resources

by Abby Egan

Navigating college can be difficult, especially when you’re just starting out. Every school runs a little differently but most have many common resources available to all students, new and seasoned.

  • In the Residence Halls: Ever wonder who puts those pretty name tags on your door? That’s your residence advisor (RA)! They’re your immediate resource in the residence halls if you lock yourself out of your room or want to get involved in your building’s community. A step up from the RAs are the residence directors (RDs), who are the head honchos of each residence building. If your RA doesn’t know the answers to your questions, it’s likely that the RD will. Make sure you know these people and how to get in contact with them because they are always available to help.
  • In the Classrooms: In your classes, your resources are a little more obvious. Your teachers are there to guide you through the courses you’re taking with them but since many professors believe in student independence, sometimes you’ve got to figure it out on your own. Connect with your peers to help each other out with homework, group projects and other assignments – it will give you a chance to make new friends and find a study partner for finals as well. Some professors have teaching assistants (TAs) who can help you in class or out of class for tutoring if you make appointments with them. It’s important to remember that you have connections in every college situation you’re in, even the hardest of classes.
  • Outside of the Classrooms: There is an abundance of resources available to students outside of the classroom that are just waiting to be utilized, such as academic advisors, librarians, info booth attendees, peer advisors, tutors, admissions tour guides and even the registrar workers. Colleges are full of helpful people who are there to make sure you have the best experience and achieve your goals while you’re enrolled. The best part about these resources is that if they can’t help you or answer your questions, then 9 times out of 10 they know who to connect you with so that you can get the help and answers you need.
  • Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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What Do You Mean I Can’t Live Off Ramen Noodles and Netflix?

Maintaining Your Physical and Mental Health in College

October 3, 2013

What Do You Mean I Can’t Live Off Ramen Noodles and Netflix?

by Abby Egan

College is a time of stimulating classes, new friendships and terrible eating habits. Many students gain weight when they enter college but what no one tells you is that if you don’t change your eating and exercising habits, that weight gain doesn’t end freshman year – it’s up to you to make sure you’re remaining healthy, physically and mentally. Here are some tips on how:

  • In the cafeteria: You may be sick of the cafeteria food but I promise there are ways to mix it up and remain healthy. As a rule of thumb, make sure your plate has an array of colors and try something new at every meal if you can. Fill up one plate with everything you want instead of using multiple plates – your eyes will see more food in one place and your stomach will feel full on less – and drink plenty of water with your meals because cafeteria food contains lots of sodium.
  • In the gym: Access to campus fitness facilities is often included in your fees so take advantage of the gym. Start out slow by doing some simple walking on the treadmill or track and work yourself up to more difficult workouts. Sweating can help you avoid germs, relieve stress and boost your energy. Most schools have clubs that involve exercising as well such as yoga, Zumba or swimming. Sometimes they even offered exercise classes for credits!
  • In your head: Getting enough sleep can improve your mood, your attention span and the quality of your work so listen to your body and always take time for yourself. Hang out with friends, create long lasting memories and make sure you’re having fun but don’t be afraid to close your door, put in your headphones and enjoy some alone time every once in a while. Make to-do lists and feel accomplished when you cross everything off...or just take a nap. Go somewhere new. Challenge yourself. And always, remember to ask for help when you need it.

What are your tips for maintaining physical and mental health in college?

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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