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Frequently Asked Questions for Resident Advisor (RA) Position

Who can apply?

Full-time students who will be at least a sophomore in the 2019-20 academic year but have not yet received an undergraduate degree are eligible for undergraduate Resident Advisor (RA) positions. In addition, they must be currently enrolled in classes with a GPA of at least 2.50 and must maintain this minimum GPA for the duration of appointment. 

As a Sub-Matriculation Program student, should I apply for a GA or RA position?

Students enrolled in sub-matriculation programs are only eligible to hold the GA (Graduate Associate) position once the student's school has verified that the student has successfully completed all academic work required for their bachelor's degree.  Therefore, students who will not have completed all undergraduate work required for their bachelor's degree by the end of the spring semester of 2019 should apply for the RA (Residential Advisor) position.

How many positions are available?

In total, 90 RA positions are in the system; however, the number of openings varies from year to year depending upon how many returning staff are selected in each House.

When is the deadline to apply?

All RA applications are due by Thursday, January 17, 2019.

RA applications open on November 27, 2018.  Completed applications are due by noon on January 17, 2019, although submitting an application does not guarantee an interview. Interviews for RAs will be conducted beginning November 27, 2018. Typically, interviews in December are mainly conducted for those students who will be away from campus in the spring semester.  Most interviews are conducted in January.  Notifications about hiring will occur on January 28, 2019.

What should my letter of application consist of?

Your letter should highlight your academic interests, skills, and experience pertinent to the position and should specify your preferences for certain Houses and Residential Programs, if applicable. On the application itself, you may opt to be a "general candidate", which means you are willing to be an RA in any House that makes you an offer.  Your cover letter might expand either on your eagerness to be a part of the College Houses in a general sense, or specify why you are a good fit for a specific House or Residential Program.

Can I apply to be an RA if I'm going abroad during the interview period? How and when?

You should apply before departing or at any point before the application deadline. If you apply early enough and a House is interested in interviewing you, they may be able to do so before you leave the country. Otherwise, they will contact you and conduct your interview by telephone or Skype, etc. (Please do apply early; most Houses prefer to conduct interviews in person. For suggestions about making the most of a Skype interview, see this video.)

Can I get help with my résumé, letter of application, or advice about interviewing?

Absolutely! Career Services is available for appointments and walk-ins and provides information and assistance with resume writing, samples and critique services as well as cover letter guides, samples and checklists.  Contact Career Services through their website at www.vpul.upenn.edu or contact them at 215-898-7531.  It is very important to utilize this resource in a timely manner so that they have the appropriate amount of time to assist you.

Penn Career Services also offers interview advice on their website.

How do I make a change to my application if I need to?

Once submitted online, changes may not be made to your application or materials so it is very important to know in advance what your interests are and how you want to present yourself to the Houses.

How do I check the status of my application?

Once your application has been submitted for review, it will be made available to the House Deans who are responsible for hiring. You will receive an email at the address you entered in your application confirming this.

You can easily check the status of your recommendation letters online by visiting www.collegehouses.upenn.edu/ra and revisiting the RA application link. Once you log in with your PennKey, your application summary will appear and you can see if both of your recommendation letters have been received.

Houses will begin reviewing RA applications upon submission. It is important to note that applicants will only be contacted if a House is interested in offering an opportunity for an interview. Notification of hiring decisions for RA candidates will commence on Friday, January 26, 2018.

What is the time commitment for being an RA?

Both RAs and GAs are required to spend approximately 15-20 hours per week on average in the performance of their duties. It is important to understand that due to the nature of this work there will be weeks when the time commitment will be greater than this average. For instance, during the month of August, staff should expect to be very busy participating in fall Staff Orientation, New Student Orientation and opening activities.

How often will I need to be on duty?

Both RAs and GAs serve as contacts for House emergencies whenever University offices are closed. Duty schedules vary depending on staff size and individual House policies.

What will the RA interview be like?

Each House Dean utilizes an interview strategy unique to each House.  As a result, candidates should expect a different experience depending upon where they are offered an opportunity to interview. For instance, candidates may interview with only the House Dean or interview with others including current RA/GAs, Faculty, House Coordinator, House Council members, etc.  Some Houses will invite candidates to meet together in groups to complete group activities as a part of the interview process. Some Houses will conduct only formal interviews while others may invite candidates to a less formal gathering with interviewers.  

How long does an RA appointment last?

An RA appointment lasts one year. It commences on the first day of RA/GA Orientation (in August 2019) and continues through the second day after Commencement in May.

When is RA/GA training and orientation and is it mandatory?

New and returning RAs (and GAs) must attend all sessions of RA/GA Fall Training & Orientation (August 11 through August 27, 2018), Winter Training on January 14, 2019, and in-service training meetings throughout the year as designated by the House Dean and the Office of College Houses & Academic Services.  RAs may move into their rooms no earlier than Friday, August 10, 2018.

Will I be able to hold another job in addition to being an RA?

The House Dean must approve all on- or off-campus employment in addition to the RA appointment. An RA may not hold full-time employment and serve in the Resident Advisor position.  If additional employment impacts your ability to perform the duties of an RA, you may be required to resign from the additional position or from the RA position.

What impact will being an RA have on my financial aid?

College Houses and Academic Services is required to report all positions to Student Financial Services. The value of the RA appointment is considered as a resource in evaluating financial need. Be advised that appointments can have a significant impact on an individual's financial aid package (i.e., grant and work study allocation, if eligible). As a result applicants are highly encouraged to consult with Student Financial Services before applying for a position and certainly prior to accepting the RA position. Student Financial Services can be contacted through their website at www.sfs.upenn.edu, and via email at sfsmail@exchange.upenn.edu, or by calling their office at (215) 898-1988.

How can I get housing if I apply to be an RA and am not appointed?

Candidates should apply for desired on- or off-campus housing by the housing deadline dates. See www.upenn.edu/housing for details.

If you are not selected to be an RA, you will have adequate time to make an informed decision about your housing for the 2018–2019 academic year. RA offers will be communicated on January 26, 2018.  In-House housing applications will be open from January 30–February 1, and inter-House applications will be accepted from February 12–14.

Applications to live in Residential Programs will be open from January 17–January 22. Please note that you can, if you wish, apply to both a Residential Program AND to be an RA.  If you get selected for the Residential Program, but then later receive an offer to be an RA that you accept, you can and must cancel the Residential Program assignment and will be assessed no penalty.

NOTE: You are responsible for all arrangements regarding off-campus housing. While the central College Houses office will make every effort to notify you of the status of your application in a timely manner, we are not responsible for any housing expenditures or commitments that candidates have made.

Can I apply mid-year to become an RA in case someone has left his or her position?

No; mid-year hiring rarely occurs. When it does, applicants are taken from the standing applicant pool.

Can I re-apply this year if I applied last year and was not hired?

Yes, but you must be academically eligible and must submit a new application online, and you will need new letters of recommendation and an updated cover letter and rèsumè.

What are my chances of getting an interview or a position?

Submitting an application does not guarantee an interview and while it is impossible to determine a candidate's odds at the outset of the process, there are several factors to consider. First, the Houses must determine how many of the 80+ current RAs will be seeking the position for a second year.  Second, we cannot know in advance how many applicants there will be, but it is not unusual to get 200-300 submissions.  It is a very competitive process.  (Meeting the deadline is always in a candidate's favor.)  In all cases, the House Deans are the hiring agents and they make the final decisions that lead to the best teams possible. (Note: Du Bois and Stouffer do not have RAs).  

How do I apply to work in Sansom Place? I would like to include Sansom as one of my application preferences, but I don't see it listed among the options.  

Sansom is not part of the College House system and is staffed via a different process.  For more information, go to http://cms.business-services.upenn.edu/sansom-place/apply/apply-to-be-an-information-center-specialist.html​.

Are there summer staff opportunities?

CHAS does not offer any positions during the summer.  Conference and Hospitality Services is responsible for managing the summer use of College Houses.  They generally do have summer positions available for which any student may apply.  The application process begins with an on-line application that is available in late January or early February on the Conference and Hospitality website.    

Several positions exist to work with summer term students and are similar to the RA or GA position. For more detailed information regarding the positions that work with summer term students please contact the Department of Residential Services at living@upenn.edu.

More questions? Email askraga@lists.upenn.edu.