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How becoming an RA changed my life and helped me pay for college

College • September 26, 2018 • Bryana Blanco


What you’ll learn
  • Responsibilities and rewards of being a Residential Advisor
  • How one student is saving on tuition with her on-campus job

Hi! My name is Bryana Blanco, and I am a sophomore at the University of South Florida. I have absolutely loved my college experience—living on campus, making new friends, and taking classes on subjects I actually want to learn about.

The hard work doesn’t stop after you’re awarded financial aid

Before coming to college, I was told about how expensive it can be, yet it wasn’t until I began the college lifestyle that I understood the true cost of attending.

Soon after incoming freshmen get their acceptance to a college or university, they receive their financial aid award packet that summarizes the aid and scholarships they will be getting throughout the year. This amount of aid is usually what a person will receive throughout their four years of their undergraduate program and typically only adjusts if there are changes to your FAFSA, student status, or scholarship amounts.

Many students then feel like their search for financial aid has come to an end, and everyone dreads that line in the financial aid office to ask any more questions. But why would you stop putting in the hard work like you did before your college acceptance?

Here is the answer: You don’t!

What is a Residential Advisor?

There are many opportunities on campus that universities all around the country offer for some type of aid or source of income. One opportunity that is found in every university with on-campus housing is the Residential Assistant (RA) position.

If you live on campus, you’ve probably met your RA at community meetings—hopefully not by being written up by them. The RA position is summarized as a student who lives in the same environment as other residents, but who has the responsibility to enforce housing policies and write up those who break the rules. But apart from that main responsibility, RAs are trained to learn how to communicate effectively with their residents to help in their growth not only academically, but physically and mentally to ensure they are overall successful.

Because you live with the students, the job offers compensation for your housing and meal plan. This compensation can range from $3,000 – $10,000 for the year depending on the school. Yes, you read those numbers correctly: in this position, you can possibly save $10,000 on your tuition bill. To break down the numbers, I’ll use my tuition bill from my freshman year without the RA compensation compared to my sophomore year bill with the compensation.

Tuition as a non-RA vs. tuition as an RA

For my first year of college, I was charged around $10,000 per semester, about $20,000 for the year, which includes my meal plan, rent, credits taken, books, and other university fees. For my second year, I lived in the same location and signed up for the same meal plan, but it was compensated by the RA position. My tuition per semester then became around $7,000, totaling to around $14,000 for the year with the same amount of credits and fees/charges considered. I saved a little over $6,000 through this position without having to change my lifestyle or classes and without having to leave campus!

This position can be held for three years, meaning I could save about $18,000 while receiving my bachelors; that’s almost a full year of school paid completely.

The savings add up and can allow you to invest in other important factors in your life, like a car, graduate school, travel plans, and so much more. The possibilities are endless.

With great savings comes great responsibility

This opportunity is one of the highest paying university positions, and with it comes a lot of responsibility. Earlier, I mentioned the general idea of what an RA does, but that’s just the surface of the true job. As an RA, I have anywhere from 20-40 residents under my watch. Each of these residents has their own struggles, goals, and strengths that I must learn about to truly be successful at what I do.

As an RA, you will host community events, have one-on-one conversations with your residents every month, and have paperwork to fill out every week regarding the environment of your hall for your supervisors.

I saved a little over $6,000 through this position without having to change my lifestyle or classes and without having to leave campus!


Sometimes you’ll handle things you never thought you would. Life changes such as family losses, mental health struggles, and harmful behavior with drugs and alcohol can happen at any time and may affect your residents. This may sound like a lot, but you aren’t alone. You’ll have a staff and a supervisor to work with, and you will also be in contact with all on-campus resources—ranging from police to the counseling center—to help handle certain situations you may not be authorized to help in.

As an RA, you may be the first person a resident depends on and sometimes the only one they can depend on, which is why it truly takes a certain type of person for the job. But I wouldn’t trade the position for anything in the world.

I love my residents. We are a home away from home and as I am helping them, the position is helping me save money and attend college stress-free because I can afford my education.

The opportunities are unlimited

The housing department that oversees the RA position has other on-campus opportunities if the RA position doesn’t seem right for you. They have front desk, mail services, maintenance, and dining hall positions open to all students.

Overall, the search for financial aid isn’t over for students; there are tons of opportunities out there. Look in to your bill and see what is costing you the most, and I can assure you there is something on campus you can do to help cut the costs. If you’re not interested in an on-campus position, consider exploring additional scholarships and grants or student loans to help cover college costs.

College is an opportunity available to everyone. Nothing can hold you back!


Bryana is studying to become a nurse and loves her job as a Residential Advisor. She is a 2016 Bridging the Dream Scholarship winner.


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Sallie Mae does not provide financial, tax, or legal advice and the information contained in this article does not constitute tax, legal, or financial advice. Sallie Mae does not make any claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in this article. Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax advisors regarding any financial strategies mentioned in this article. These materials are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of Sallie Mae.