Tag Archives: Student Affairs

Move-in weekend toolkit, RA, Resident Assistant, Higher Education

RA Move-In Weekend Toolkit

Move-in weekend is one of the most stressful times of year for an RA. If this is your first one, prepare yourself now for a lot to go wrong. You’re sure to find a surprise around every corner and there’s no way to know what student disaster will be waiting around the hallway or in the next student room. So how do you keep the world from falling apart during move-in weekend? You prepare for everything! Here’s a move-in weekend toolkit list to help prepare.

Extra Name Tags

Move-in weekend toolkit, RA, Resident Assistant, Higher Education

It’s inevitable that your roster is going to change the day of move-in. Whether it is because a student doesn’t show up, there is a roommate conflict , or an unforeseen facilities issue, it’s going to happen. Just count on it.

Some of those beautiful, carefully constructed door decorations / name tags you’ve spent hours creating may need to change – and in a hurry! There’s nothing worse than a student entering their room for the first time to find they either don’t have a door tag or that it’s got someone else’s name on it. To prevent this from happening, it’s best to make a few  extras and keep them in your move-in weekend toolkit. That way, you can quickly and easily add a name tag or door decoration for a newly added resident.

Printed Roster

Move-in weekend toolkit, RA, Resident Assistant, Higher Education

Another must have for your move-in weekend toolkit is a printed roster of your current residents. You may be asking, “Wait, why do I need a printed roster if it’s just going to change?” Well, that’s actually exactly why you need it. As names are added and removed and as residents shift to different rooms, you can make the adjustments right away.

If your hall director or community coordinator has not yet provided with you a roster for your floor, make sure you ask for one at least a couple days before move-in. I also highly suggest keeping a clipboard handy. This gives you a hard surface to write on while on the move so you can keep up with changes on the go!

A Water Bottle

Move-in weekend toolkit, RA, Resident Assistant, Higher Education

Move-in always happens in August…and it’s hot in August. Another key item you should include in your move-in weekend toolkit is a reusable water bottle. I’m a big fan of nalgene bottles or the Zulu glass water bottles; both are very sturdy and easily refillable. You can also customize nalgene water bottles with stickers – I put a ton on mine! – it’s a really great way to show off your personality and the things you love. Zulu bottles are also incredibly unique and a great option if you prefer glass to plastic.

Staying hydrated is so, so, so, so, SO important because it’s going to be hot and it’s likely you’re going to be very active during move-in weekend. You don’t want to get dehydrated!

Comfortable Shoes

Move-in weekend toolkit, RA, Resident Assistant, Higher Education

A key piece of attire for your move-in weekend toolkit is a comfortable pair of shoes. You’re going to be going up and down stairs, running errands for your supervisor, going door-to-door to introduce yourself, tracking down residents for your occupancy reports, and potentially assisting residents carrying belongings to their rooms. That’s a lot of movement, so definitely don’t plan on wearing sandals or high heels!

Your Cell Phone (and a Portable Charger!)

Move-in weekend toolkit, RA, Resident Assistant, Higher Education

Something else you’ll need for your move-in weekend toolkit is your cell phone. It’s likely you were planning to have it with you anyway, but I want to mention it just in case. You need you phone readily available during move-in weekend, so make sure you don’t leave your room with it.

It’s also a good idea to have a portable charger. If you don’t have one already, these babies are absolutely fantastic! Consider picking one up, especially if you know the battery on your phone doesn’t last particularly long.  You’re going to be using your cell phone throughout the day to speak with your supervisor (and possibly your residents), so you need to have it charged. Being able to plug it in on the go makes this much easier.

A Backpack

Move-in weekend toolkit, RA, Resident Assistant, Higher Education

I’m a big backpack person. They are functional, keep your belongings secure, and allow you to carry a ton of stuff around. Because of this, backpacks are another must-have addition to your move-in weekend toolkit.

I’ve been listing a number of things you should plan to keep on hand and a backpack is the perfect way to do it! Not only will using a backpack ensure you have everything you need easily on hand, it’ll provide a good way for you to remain organized.

Don’t have one? Check out  Swiss Gear backpacks. I’ve had a number of them throughout the years (the first one being back in high school!) and they’ve always held up well.

A Good Attitude

Move-in weekend toolkit, RA, Resident Assistant, Higher Education

Lastly, the number one thing you need to have in your move-in weekend toolkit is a good attitude. Move-in day is going to be a busy, hectic, and stressful event. Don’t get discouraged or frustrated by anything you encounter. Use each experience as an opportunity to learn and grow. Start the day strong; end the day strong. And when the residence hall starts falling apart, “just keep swimming!”

A Move-In Weekend Toolkit Keeps Your Prepared for Anything!

You’re probably already familiar with Murphy’s Law? Basically, if it can happen, it will happen. This couldn’t be truer for move-in weekend. The most important thing is to stay calm and positive, and to have a well thought out and put together move-in weekend toolkit.

Have additional move-in weekend toolkit suggestions? Share them in the comment section!


Finding Your Why

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Photo Credit: gak via Compfight cc

Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, explores what it takes to be an inspired leader capable of making great change in the world.  Sinek focuses most on the importance of why we do the things that we do and how our why directly impacts the power of our message.  Ted Talks released a short video synopsis of Sinek’s theory called How Great Leaders Inspire Action and I highly recommend taking a few minutes to watch this amazing presentation.  Michael Hyatt also discusses the importance of “why” in his podcast, The Importance of the Leader’s Heart.

This is, by no means, a new concept.  We all know that passion is important.  If we don’t know why we are doing something, there is a lack of focus and a lack of personal investment.  It makes sense that if you, as the leader, are not invested, those following you will lack investment to an even greater degree.  In this post, I want to explore the idea of leading from your why and what a good “why” looks like, and the steps you can take to identify your own “why.”

As I have said before, my initial “why” for becoming an RA was a little selfish – I wanted that single room and stipend!  I did my job and earned my compensation, but I was never what I would call at “great” RA – or a great leader, for that matter.  In fact, as a supervisor, I probably would have been having some very intentional conversations with myself about being more engaged in the position.  It wasn’t until much later that I discovered my true “why” – to enhance the lives of others and do everything within my power to develop students.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Some peoples’ “whys” are financial.  There is nothing wrong with this as long as it still motivates you to do your job effectively.  If monetary benefits are your only motivator, however, it is unlikely that you will be as great a leader as someone motivated by a deeper “why.”

What “Whys” Look Like:

  • Passion-Based – Passion drives motivation.  If you are not passionate about what you are doing, your product suffers.
  • Energizing and Refreshing – When you finish a task directly related to your “why,” you should feel charged and ready to take on the world!
  • Captivating – Have you ever looked up from a task and realized it is much later than you thought?  Loss of time often occurs when you are engaged in working within your “why.”
  • Simple and Concise – “Whys” do not need to be extravagant. Simple is good.
  • In Writing – Michael Hyatt often says that putting something in writing is the only way to make it real.  I whole-heartedly agree.  Good “whys” should be written down and reviewed often.

Now that you know what a “why” looks like, it’s time to find yours!  If you have already identified your “why,” that’s great!  Make sure you write it down and keep it some place where you can easily review it every day.  If you are still searching for you “why,” consider the following questions carefully.

Questions to Consider in Finding Your “Why”

  • What do you enjoy most about your position?
  • How do you want others to see you on campus?
  • What RA tasks make you feel like time has flown by?
  • When do you feel that you have been your most productive?
  • What issues would you consider writing writing a letter to the President of your university about?
  • Who/What inspires you to get up in the morning?

The most exciting thing about identifying your “why” is that all of the other pieces then fall into place! Many leaders start with the “what,” move to the “how,” and rarely ever discuss the “why.” Great leaders, on the other hand, know that leading from “why” brings the “how” and the “what” to fruition.

Closing Thoughts

What motivated you to become an RA?  What is your WHY for becoming a student leader on campus?  How did you discover your “why” and how has knowing it made your time as an RA more productive?

The Hidden Benefits of Being an RA

There are few positions in the world that are as multifaceted as those within Housing and Residence Life.  As an RA, you have the opportunity to try many different things and gain many diverse skills.  From effectively communicating with your supervisor and residents to planning and executing a large-scale student event – these accomplishments are significant and provide you with a skill set that many others do not have.  Professionally, this makes you more marketable.

Being aware of these benefits may also help you to be more invested in the RA position and all of the opportunities for growth that it offers.  Given the right mindset, one could argue that being an RA can actually help prepare you for any job you have interest in.  In this post, I will cover some of the basic professional, personal, social, and financial skills RAs typically attain.  I will also discuss some additional benefits that we often overlook as we get caught up in the daily hustle and bustle of the job.

Hidden Baby

I have always known there were many benefits to being an RA.  This realization hit me most, however, when I began working at Methodist University.  The person in my apartment before me owned all of her own furniture and there was none in storage to use when I moved in.  There were two other new staff members also in this position.  As a result, I was tasked with pricing, comparing, and selecting the furniture for three whole apartments.  This was something completely new to me.  I am no furniture expert, but by the end of the process I was familiar enough with it to know basic furniture needs, some of the best companies to work with, who to talk to, and how to make a good deal.  This is a skill that will benefit me long down the road when it is time for me to start furnishing my own home on my own dime.

Saving money is important!  According to CNN Money, the average wedding cost couples $28,400 in the year 2012.  This number is staggering – and as someone in the process of planning a wedding, it is incredibly daunting…except, I have been planning programs now for years on a budget and what, really, is the difference between coordinating a large-scale program and planning a wedding?  The details may be a little different, but the mechanics are the same.  I already know how to plan an event, how to talk to vendors, the importance of delegating tasks, and who best to ask for help.  As a result, the wedding I am planning will cost well less than one-third of CNN Money’s average and will be just as spectacular!

These are only two examples of how the skills you gain from being an RA will benefit you.  Below are some others.


  • Resume builder – this is twofold, as it provides you work experience and it opens doors for additional work-related opportunities (i.e. committee involvement, volunteer work, ect.)
  • Networking – as an RA, you are constantly working with and meeting others (Housing professionals, campus resources, off-campus organizations, ect.) and these connections will help for a very long time
  • Experience with Diverse Populations – in the real world, there is no predicting who you will be working with, so your time spent working with people from all walks of life (various ethnicities, socio-economic statuses, sexual orientations, ect.) will come in very handy
  • Knowledge of Resources – while training may sometimes be boring, your Housing Office is providing you with a plethora of good information that has the potential to assist you for the rest of your life
  • Employers LOVE to see Housing Experience on a Resume – they too know that the skills you gained as an RA are transferrable


  • Public Speaking – a skill some people work to develop all of their lives is one that you develop on a daily basis and utilize constantly while communicating with your residents
  • Administration/Organization – it is impossible to be a good RA and NOT learn how to remain organized (especially when it comes to time management) and complete administrative tasks (RCRs, Incident Reports, Duty Logs, ect.)
  • Conflict Resolution – no matter what you end up doing in life, knowing how to resolve a conflict will be essential
  • Working with a Budget – this is something so very many people simply do not know how to do, but as an RA you are constantly thinking about how to do big things for your residents with only a little bit of money
  • Event Planning – as I mentioned already, the potential with this skill is endless
  • Improvisation – Housing staff members are always thinking on their feet and the ability to process information quickly is an incredible asset in the workforce
  • Key Management – it may seem small, but keys, no matter what stage of life you are in you will have to maintain keys (car, house, work, ect.) and replacing them can be very expensive (ask my husband!)


  • Forced Outside of Comfort Zone – while it is sometimes nice to be comfortable, being asked to try new things or consider things differently is how we grow
  • Leadership Opportunities – as an RA, you are identified as a leader on campus and you will find that many people will gravitate to you; use these opportunities to build strong relationships
  • Access to Cool Events – programming is an essential part of campus life and there are always opportunities for RAs to help plan, run, or participate in them!
  • Family Away from Home – this is no lie or gimmick, for many the Housing staff really does become a family; maybe you won’t jive with everyone on staff, but you will, without a doubt, make friendships that will last a lifetime


  • Compensation – this varies per university, but can include any variation of a free/discounted room, free parking, or monthly stipend
  • Free Swag – most offices will provide RAs with Housing shirts, name tags, and various other nick-nacks as the year progresses (especially during RA Appreciation Week!)
  • Summer Internships – as I mentioned in Wait, This Can be a Career? The Best Kept Higher Education Non-Secret, there are countless opportunities to work as an RA over the summer to make some additional money
  • Graduate School Assistance – as an RA, you are instantly qualified to apply for graduate assistantships that will help pay for your future education; I also discuss this in greater detail in my previous post

But What Really Matters?

  • You make a difference
  • You are a symbol of change
  • You learn something new everyday
  • You are a teacher
  • You change lives
  • You challenge preconceptions
  • You are a mentor
  • You are a confidant
  • You save lives

So while you may feel like the things you are doing as an RA are mundane, it’s all in the way you look at it.  Sure, filling out RCRs isn’t the most thrilling task, but it does help you learn to be observant, thorough, and complete paperwork quickly.  These things make you extremely marketable – as do all of the other skills you are gaining!

What other skills have you developed in your role as an RA and how will these skills benefit you in the future?  Please take a moment to share your thoughts so that I can expand my lists in the future for others.