Here are some common mistakes RAs make compiled by experienced RAs and res life professionals. Read and learn from others’ mistakes so you don’t make them yourself!

  1. Inconsistency
  2. Starting strong, finishing weak and also vice versa, starting weak thereby making future enforcement difficult
  3. Lack of social life… becoming too overwhelmed in the job
  4. Trying to do too much early in the semester thereby negatively affecting their academic progress
  5. RAs creating a floor dependency on themselves rather than challenging the floor to become autonomous and self-governing.
  6. Violating a confidence even when it seemed like it would be helpful to do so at the time
  7. Thinking they have to be perfect and therefore being defensive or evasive about a situation in which they realize they erred
  8. Trying to appear too cool to residents in an attempt to be
  9. respected
  10. Not being able to say no…they realize mid-semester just how
  11. overcommitted they’ve become and have to then start begging off of things
  12. Underestimating the time commitment
  13. Not taking advantage of early semester down time
  14. Being overly aggressive towards enforcement
  15. Not spending enough time those first few weeks getting to know the residents
  16. Not studying the roster to aid in the name/face recognition
  17. Being unprepared for the first hall meeting (too nervous, not planned out well, inappropriate ice breaker, etc.)
  18. Not giving concrete examples of what it means to be in a community (acceptable noise levels, use of public bathroom, saying “hi”, not leaving doors open/propped, etc)
  19. Reflecting the message “I’m here to be your friend” without the foresight of how difficult that will make confrontations
  20. Not realizing how drastically they go from Jane or Joe Nobody to Jane or Joe the RA everywhere they go…living in a fishbowl brings about other mistakes like participating in gossip, drinking with friends, etc, and they don’t realize just how those things can come back and bite them later on
  21. Not planning programs well in advance
  22. Poor time management
  23. They should avoid comparisons to their predecessor
  24. Not willing to ask questions
  25. Confrontation style….letting things slide “just this once” or being RA Robo-commander
  26. Lack of late in the year community building
  27. Not being available or accesible early on
  28. Not setting expectations early enough in semester
  29. Not clearly explaining the RA role, especially to first year residents
  30. Doesn’t program early enough
  31. Residents seeing poor organization style
  32. Friend/mentor/disciplinarian role mixed up
  33. Personalizing the behavior of residents…ie: interpreting student misconduct as a personal affront when in fact the behavior is not focused on the RA at all
  34. Being in for a rude awakening if they think that student misconduct can be eliminated simply by being friends with everyone…ie: assuming that RAs friends “won’t put them in that situation”
  35. Not taking enough personal time
  36. Not realizing that behavioral changes do not happen overnight
  37. Forgetting that you have to gain respect, it’s not granted to you just because of the title
  38. Thinking everyone does see things from the same perspective
  39. Not thinking that its ok to ask for help
  40. The willingness to work hard waning too soon, meaning, they do a great job bonding in training, getting the halls ready for opening and welcoming the students, however, as soon as the initial “welcome to college” programs are done, they relax
  41. Trying to do everything themself without asking for help or delegating
  42. Being reactive instead of proactive
  43. Avoiding residents—try to spend just 5 minutes a week with each resident at a minimum to inspire confidence in using the RA as a resource
  44. Thinking, “Oh, I have a whole semeseter to get this stuff done.” They forget how quickly those 15-17 weeks go
  45. Trying to accommodate everyone’s needs and not being able to set up appropriate boundaries
  46. Not reporting incidents
  47. Not establishing an open door policy
  48. Using gossip, rumors or second hand information for the basis of their opinion of someone
  49. Not developing a support system on staff
  50. Not learning from other people’s mistakes. 🙂
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