Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The number of students applying for a position as a Resident Advisor is much larger this year than it was last year, making for a highly competitive selection process.
The unusually large pool of applicants is due to high numbers of both returning RAs and new applicants. According to Associate Dean for Student Life Myrt Westphal, there are about 25 returning RA applicants this year, more than twice the number from last year. About 75 students are applying for an RA position for the first time, making for a total of approximately 100 applicants. Although this number of applicants is not unheard of, it is significantly higher than numbers from the past few years, which featured roughly 85 total applicants including 10-15 returners. 50 RAs are hired each year.
There is no clear reason for why the number of returning applicants is so high. One current senior RA who is a member of the selection committee attributes it to chance, saying that things like this “go in cycles”; there are more returning RAs this year because there just happened to be more RAs who are currently juniors.
The question on most applicants’ minds, of course, is how this will affect their chances of getting the position. As the senior RA pointed out, most returning RAs have historically been rehired. Westphal agreed that the experience of returning RAs is a great asset, stating that they can often use their prior knowledge to help train new RAs. The selection committee will thus take into account the experience offered by returning applicants, while also taking into consideration the exact number of veterans needed on next year’s team.
The RA selection committee does not just consider RAs on an individual basis, but also takes into account how well RAs will function synergistically, trying to create the most effective teams for each dorm. According to Westphal, they often try to select a “wide variety of people and personalities.”
RA applicants this year may face greater competition, but with such a large pool to choose from, selections will be made to create the best possible teams and combinations for the coming year.