Wilf Campus Resident Advisor Applications Hit Record High in Four Years
108 students have applied to be Resident Advisors on the Wilf Campus beginning this fall, the highest number since at least 4 years ago. The previous record over this 4-year period was last year, when 87 students applied to be RAs.
The total number of RA applicants has steadily increased over the last three years, from 72 in the 2015-2016 academic year, to 87 last year, and 108 this year. Over that same period, the number of RA applicants in their first year on campus has increased by 97%, from 33 two years ago to 65 this year, while the number of first-year residents has increased around 16%, from 240 to 278. This year, nearly a quarter of first year residents applied to be an RA, the highest percentage in at least three years.
Other trends have similarly indicated a growing interest in the RA application in recent years. Of the RA applicants four years ago, 61 had never been an RA before; this number has steadily increased since then, to 63 three years ago, 78 last year, and 92 this year, for a total increase of 51% over the last four years. This is despite a 9% decrease in the total residence hall population over the same period, from 670 in the 2014-2015 academic year to 609 this year.
Resident Advisors serve several roles on the Wilf campus. Their primary job pertains to the residents living on their floors in the residence hall. RAs address issues on their floor, from broken appliances in rooms to medical or mental health emergencies, and serve a proactive role in forming a community on their floor. This is accomplished through “floor parties” that RAs run around 4 times a semester, and as of this year, a single “floor shabbaton” each year that the RAs organize.
Other than their role on their own floor, RAs form a cohesive social group themselves, meeting as a team around once a month to discuss the student body as a whole, any issues that have arisen on the Wilf Campus, and their thoughts on new programs to reach the student body. According to Jonathan Schwab, Director of University Housing and Residence Life, there is also a rotation of “RAs on duty every Shabbat to try to create even more opportunities for students to engage and try to enjoy the Shabbat experience here on campus.”
According to Schwab, one factor that may have contributed to these trends is the ease of the application. “We made the application a lot more user-friendly,” said Schwab. “We started it last year. I think this year we tweaked it a little bit to make it a little more accessible and also advertised pretty heavily for it.” He added, “When I first started [in Spring 2015], [the application was] mostly a paper application with very long essays and a requirement to submit a resume and recommendations…now, it's a fully online application.”
The advertising campaign this year was changed significantly from previous years. “This year we tried to have a lot of different flyers that hopefully were eye-catching,” said Schwab. “We hung up different signs, and tried to make them not information-heavy…in the past, I feel like we've gotten this big flyer with a ton of words on it no one wants to see.”
Floor shabbatons, introduced this year for the first time, may have also contributed to the increase in applications this year. According to Schwab, the floor shabbaton was frequently mentioned on this year’s applications as an example of a “positive experience” the RA applicants this year had.
The financial incentives of the job continue to influence some residents to apply. According to Schwab, RAs are “paid, and they get free housing, which can be a really big deal.” One first-year RA applicant who wished to remain anonymous remarked, “I've heard from friends how much money is saved on housing. Other than that…I don't have any outstanding desire to be an RA.”
Yehudah Benklifa, a Sophomore in Yeshiva College applying to be an RA, decided to apply to contribute to “a beneficial aspect of YU that I’m very grateful to.” He added, “The RAs make a great effort in creating as many ways as possible for people on the floor to meet and befriend each other.”
Current RAs, like Yeshiva College Junior Yaakov Samel, were also inspired to apply for the position by their own RAs before them. “When it came to applying and being an RA, I thought about my RAs,” he said. “They were helpful, they were open, and I wanted to be able to support my fellow students in that way.”
Samel theorized that the increase in applications this year may have been caused by the increase in total RA staff. Indeed, the total number of RAs has been increasing for three years: while three years ago there were 16 RAs, this year there are 19. “The more RAs you have, the more exposure you have and the more enthusiasm you could generate from that,” said Samel.
The applications themselves underscore the impact that RAs can have on the RA applications of their residents. “A lot of people who've applied have indicated that they see what their RAs are doing and they're inspired by it,” said Schwab. One question on the RA application this year asked students whom they admire most on campus and why. “A lot of people really admire their RAs,” said Schwab. “I was genuinely surprised at how many responses fit that category.”
Daniel Gofine, a senior in Yeshiva College and one of 3 Head RAs on the Wilf Campus this year, commented that he applied to be an RA because he “wanted to give back to the YU undergrad community in a signiﬁcant role in shaping the student life on campus.” Reflecting on his two years as RA, Gofine believes that he himself has gained much from the position. “I have…gained crucial management skills, learned how to better serve the needs of multiple students and be a part of building the camaraderie that is felt on the ﬂoor,” he said. “I picked up skills that I know will help me in any professional setting far beyond my time here.”