My College Crate Presents: Q&A With a Former RA

Get the Inside Scoop on Dorm Living from an Expert

There’s nothing quite like living in a dorm in college. The new sense of freedom, the camaraderie … those walls have seen some things. To give parents a look at the inside operations of dorms, My College Crate’s team of care package builders sat down with a former resident assistant, commonly known as an RA. Jamie* shared her experience with us. 

MCC: What was it like being an RA?

Jamie: It was really rewarding to be an RA at my liberal arts university, actually. As a resident assistant, it’s our goal to help your student adjust to college life and have a resource available to them in the residence hall. RAs tend to be minimally paid and receive only a small stipend or discounted room and board, so they take on this job because they want to make a difference.

MCC: What kinds of things were you responsible for doing?

Jamie: Mostly just being there for my residents! I worked in a predominantly freshman building, so I was mostly a source of information about campus and a mediator for roommate conflicts. My university also required RAs to plan four special programs for the residence call every semester, so I also put on an event planner cap and came up with educational and entertaining things to do.

MCC: What is the most important thing for parents to know about their students living in a dorm?

Jamie: While you might not want to embrace it, your college student is officially an adult and capable of living in co-ed dorms without issues. And I promise you that the movie shenanigans college students get into are few and far between. Like, really few. There are some outliers, sure, but I would say the vast majority of students spend a lot of time studying.

MCC: What was the weirdest thing you saw happen in a dorm?

Jamie: If my former residents read this, they’re going to know who I am… I was coming back from class one day and walked through the dorm courtyard when I heard someone yell, “Pool Party!” from the upper floor – my floor. So I went upstairs to check it out.

Five of my residents had purchased a kiddie pool and tropical decor and set it all up in their room. They were in bathing suits, playing music, hanging out. I wish I could have let them keep it because it’s hilarious and fun, but water damage is a thing. We took lots of photos together, and then I helped them empty the pool in the shower. 

MCC: How can I set my student up for success living away from home for the first time?

Jamie: When you call them, text them, email them, write them letters, et cetera, never talk about how much their pets or younger siblings or whoever miss them, or are sad without them. It seems like a nice sentiment, but it only worsens homesickness and makes them feel guilty for not being there.

I also think that sending snail mail or fun college care packages is a great way to make them feel special and loved while they’re far from home. It’s always a rush to open your mailbox and find a letter or package slip inside.

MCC: Tell us the truth about cafeteria food!

Jamie: It isn’t mom’s home-cooking, but it isn’t bad! There are so many options, there’s no reason to go without eating. My go-to was always a big salad, or a bowl of cereal with a couple kinds and a sliced banana! My university also let us take one item out as a snack, and provided reusable mugs we could fill, too. 

There were always those days when nothing really sounded good, or when you were still hungry after a meal, or when you had to study or write a paper for hours and hours, and that’s when snacks would play a key role in nutrition (I say that cheekily, of course). Ramen noodles, soup mixes, hot cocoa, chips, nuts, crackers, cookies, candy, and all kinds of stuff were perfect for those times. Snacks for college kids are vitally important!

*name changed for anonymity

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