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Summer Check List; It’s Never too Early to Start Preparing for the Next Year

By Tim Johnson, Director of Housing & Residence Life
Rutgers The State University of New Jersey- Newark

Congratulations! If you are reading this article, I am hoping that means that you have either been recently selected to be a new or returning Resident Assistant or some similar position in the Residence Life Program at your institution. As you may already know, it’s never too early to start planning for next year. This checklist may assist you with some ideas of things that you might do over the Summer break to prepare for being a Resident Assistant next Fall.

  • Themes - Many residence halls develop a theme for their opening or for the whole year. Be sure you know what next year’s theme for your building is, and write it down. Themes are helpful for putting on a coordinated welcome for students during fall move-in. They can be used to create floor bulletin boards as well as door decorations.

  • Door Decorations – Those crazy coordinated name tags on the doors go a long way towards getting folks to know one another early on and beginning the building of community. Unfortunately during fall training, you do not always have the time to put them together as well as you would like to. So, get a head start, and begin making them at home during the summer. Try to come up with something that is easy to just add a name to, and remember to make extras, because we all know there are last minute changes.

  • Bulletin Boards – Just like the Door Decorations, these are things you can prepare over the summer. If you don’t know the measurements of the bulletin boards on your floor, find them out! Keep in mind that the bulletin board is your means to communicate current information about campus events and opportunities to your residents. Just like everything else, it is a tool to help you build community on your floor. If it is attractive and entertaining, your residents will use it more.

  • Message Board – It is a good idea to create your own message board for your own door so that your residents will be able to leave you messages when you are out and you will be able to leave them some sense of where you are and when you will return. There are lots of creative ways to do this. One of the best is to have some type of paper wheel or pointer that you can move to communicate messages like: "At Class", "Sleeping", "Home, Come In", etc…

  • Contact Information – Confirm that your supervisor has all of your summer contact information. There are lots of things that happen over the summer that your supervisor may need to communicate to you. Get the phone number of your supervisor as well, in case you need to contact them. I’m sure that they would appreciate hearing from you at least once over the summer. Send us post cards. We love to get postcards!

  • Know the date and time you are due back for training – It may seem like a long way off right now, but it will sneak up on you so make sure you mark your calendar for when you are due back for training. Being on time for training is very important and in many cases if you are late, your position might be in jeopardy.

  • Read any information you receive from your supervisor as soon as it arrives – Many times this information is time sensitive and requires some type of response. If you are going to be away from the address where your summer mail is being sent for a period of time, be sure there is someone that is checking your mail regularly that has a way to communicate with you wherever you are.

  • Plan your welcome back program and your first floor meeting - Take the time over the summer to begin to plan for your first program in the fall. This will give you a good headstart and allow you to bring extra items that you might want to acquire over the summer for your program. It is also a good idea to begin to put together an outline of what you might cover at your first floor meeting.

  • Study the policies and procedures and campus resources – Remember that you are a primary resource for your residents and you are expected to learn and know campus polices and procedures as well as general campus resources. Call your supervisor and ask them to send you this information at home, so you can read and study about your individual campus resources. You can also surf your own campuses web pages to find out lots of information and become more aware of campus resources. This will also give you a good headstart on all those campus resource scavenger hunts and policy trivia games that we love to pull on you during training.

  • Stay Safe and Have a Fun Summer – This is the most important item on the list. You will be working very hard from the moment you return in the fall, so take time to relax a little over the summer and while you are doing so, stay safe. We want to see all of you back in the fall.

About the Author

Tim Johnson is one of the founding members of Reslife.Net. Tim has served as the Eastern District Representative to the ACUHO-I Board, and he is also a Past President of MACUHO. He has served as a Graduate RA, Resident Director, Area Coordinator, Assistant Director of Housing, and is now a Director of Housing & Residence Life.