The Hope College Resident Assistants (RAs) hired for the 2020- 2021 school year were announced at the end of January after a long application process beginning in November. For most students, the RA in the hall is the person who is supposed to be there for you. They welcome students at the beginning of the school year and their job is to cheer students on and support them as the year progresses. But how did these people get to be RAs? Whether you’re thinking about applying next year or simply curious about the process RAs go through, here are the particulars of the application process and how applicants are chosen. Starting in November, students who are interested in applying to be an RA have the opportunity to attend several Q&A sessions. These sessions give information to students about what residential life is like from a panel of current cottage, apartment and residence hall RAs. Individual dorms also host meetings for those who are interested so that they can come and learn about what the process is like. Applications open in January and involve answering essay questions as well as submitting a resume. In the essay questions applicants describe why they want to become an RA and what skills they bring to the table.
Before being interviewed, each applicant is sent a list of specific skills that the interviewers will be looking for, such as crisis management and teamwork skills. Applicants can then use this list to prepare for the interview and to understand what kinds of things they will be evaluated on. Furthermore, the Boerigter Career Center offers mock interviews to prepare anyone who might feel unprepared for that stage of the process. Each RA applicant then goes through two interviews: a group interview and an individual interview. The group interviews focus on how applicants interacte with each other in an effort to analyze how they might act on an RA team. The applicants have to solve puzzles or build things as a group. For the individual interviews, the applicants meet with the Resident Directors and one or two current RAs. During the individual interview, the RD asks questions about the list RAs have received, such as how they have dealt with a crisis in the past or supported someone who needed help. They might ask how a prospective RA would respond to different situations. After RAs are chosen, those who stand out but are not selected are put onto a waitlist in case others don’t accept the position. How does the Selection Committee choose the people who become RAs from the pool of applicants? There’s really no one answer. According to Camryn Hawes (‘22), a current RA for Voorhees Hall (2019-2020), there’s not a specific type of person that the Selection Committee looks for. She felt like the most important thing for the Selection Committee was how a group of RAs would interact as a team. Hawes never felt like the selection was looking for a specific type of person or personality.
She felt that they were open minded and able to appreciate both extroverted and introverted personalities and even angled for a team with different kinds of personalities on it. She said that she “felt very supported” by the Selection Committee all throughout the application process. They were encouraging and tried to let the candidates know that they were appreciated even if they didn’t get the job. The candidates who become RAs are assigned to a dorm, although they are given the chance first to request a dorm of their choice. Hawes appreciated the fact that she was also allowed to describe why she wanted the dorm she had requested. Sometimes if the interviewers like an applicant but don’t think that the applicant fits in with the team they have been building, they will communicate with other dorms who might have more of a need for that student within their team. This is part of the reason RAs don’t always end up in the dorms they request. In Hawes’ dorm about half the RAs had lived there before, and the rest had transferred from different dorms. She said she appreciated the diversity, saying that it was nice to have a balance of people familiar with the dorm and others who brought fresh ideas. Aside from building a team diverse in personalities and in dorm experiences, the Selection Committee tries to avoid having two or more people on the team who are already in a close relationship, especially people who are dating.
Hawes assumes the reason for this is that a breakup or a fight between two friends could affect how the RA team interacts overall. It is nice to know that Residential Life thinks about these things and is looking out for residents in this way. Some disappointment arose this year due to the fact that only about a third of the people who applied ended up receiving an RA position. This was because of the unusually large application pool and the limited number of positions to be filled. One drawback of the RA process at Hope is that there are simply less opportunities to find an RA position at a smaller college. However, Hope’s RA process is very transparent compared to several other schools. At some colleges, it can be confusing as an applicant to know what the Selection Committee is looking for. An editorial for the newspaper at the University of Michigan by Jillian Berman and Amy Munslow expressed frustration at the fact that RAs didn’t find out whether they got the job until well after housing applications were due, creating uncertainty for candidates who might not have a place to live if they didn’t get the job. At Hope, those selecting RAs make an effort to be as open and helpful as possible about the process. Additionally, they do a good job of acknowledging the needs of the applicants and making sure everyone feels supported. If you are interested in a position, do not hesitate to reach to Residential Life next November.