I have finished all of my interviews, follow-up interviews, and final-round interviews for an RA position next year. Whew! Each dorm has their own process and their own style for picking an RA, but in general most dorms have two or three rounds of cuts - the shuffling through of applications nets the first round of interviews, then if you make it past the first interview you meet the entire student population of the hall, and then if you make it through the students you meet the housemasters. I have made it through all three rounds at three different places, so I am confident I will get an offer from somewhere out of all that.
The way the next part works is that the dorms all turn in their top picks for RAs to a central body, which runs through an algorithm and matches people up. I inquired about whether I get to put in my preferences - which of the three short lists I am on I would prefer.
And I got back the rather surprising answer that there is no system for that - these positions are so competitive that it is highly unusual more than one or maybe two places would want any particular RA. They do ask the potential RAs if there is anywhere they would NOT want to work, but in my case I would take any offer - I liked all the places I interviewed.
And it's tough because at the last-round interviews I would be asked, basically, "How serious are you about this job?" or some variant thereof. They wanted to suss out if they were my top pick. That's a tough one to answer, because I don't want to rule out any possibility, but of course not every dorm can be your first choice in your head. I settled on some variant of "Well, I have really enjoyed getting to know your students, I am excited about the possibility, and I wouldn't be here at the last round if I wasn't interested in the position."
But then I got to thinking - if I had the choice, where would I go? Only considering the three I am most confident I would get an offer from, to make it easier. One of the dorms has an absolutely gorgeous apartment for the RA, with a kitchen, living room, study/guest room, and bedroom with attached bathroom. After living in my one-room dorm for the past two years, that's my definition of luxury. I already know one of the other RAs, who put in a good word for me with the housemasters, and I would love working with him. But at this dorm, I barely squeaked by into the last round of interviews, and I just felt uncomfortable with the housemasters. It just didn't feel like as good a fit with the students, either. They play lots of videogames, which I know nothing about, they have a higher percentage of greek frat/sorority students, which I also know nothing about.
At the second dorm, I had a fantastic time with the housemasters. We bonded over similar research interests, talked about the art in their apartment that I recognized, were on the same page about how to approach student life. The apartments for RAs were lovely, with a bedroom, living room, and kitchenette. And I enjoyed the students - a bit odd, but then I like quirky kids.
And at the third dorm, I absolutely loved the students. They are all hands-on, they build projects all the time, they were friendly and laughed at all my jokes and stories. They are known for a high percentage of mental problems, but hey - I have mental problems too. That just means we're brilliant. :) But the building is crappy. It's one of the oldest buildings on campus. The asbestos has been cleaned out of the RA rooms, thankfully, but still you get what you get. However at this dorm you can modify your room however you want - ability to customize helps offset crappy room a little bit.
So the question is - keeping in mind the fact that the student population changes every year, and this would be at least a three year job - would I rather go with a fantastic apartment? Or a crappy room, and current students I love? Or the middle road on both counts?
Thank goodness I'll only get one job offer - it would be hard to choose...