A new school year means new dorms, new students, and new program events for resident advisors. Start getting to know your residents and keep them entertained with these fun ideas!
There’s nothing a few arts and crafts can’t help with. Whether it’s de-stressing, meeting a new friend, or sprucing up a dorm room, grab some supplies to get your residents involved!
- Coloring Night - Bring out the colored pencils and crayons to give your residents a chance to take their minds off schoolwork and relax together. Print off some fun coloring sheets and create a masterpiece.
- Plant Your Own Succulent - Spice up a typical dorm room with succulents that help filter the air and can improve the emotional state of residents. Don’t worry, succulents rarely need attention so they will be around for a while.
- Door Decorating Contest - Provide a reward for the residents who have the most creative door decorations. Students can incorporate pictures of themselves on an adventure or a cool design that describes who they are for a fun way to decorate.
- Vision Boards - Gather old magazines, construction paper and markers to help residents think about what they want to achieve during the school year or in life and lay it out on paper. They can hang their ideas in their rooms for inspiration every day.
- Letter to Myself - Encourage students to write a letter to themselves during your first meeting. They can write about anything from how they are feeling in that moment to what they hope to accomplish that year. At the end of the school year, give them their letters back so they can see how far they’ve come.
- Dream Catchers - Get some feathers, beads, yarn and other crafting supplies to start making personalized dream catchers with your residents. Nobody will have bad dreams with these crafts in their rooms.
- Canvas Creations - Purchase paint and canvas from the nearest craft store and let residents create their own masterpieces to hang in their rooms.
- TikTok Crafts - Connect with pop culture and find easy crafts on TikTok to complete with your residents. Some ideas include paper flowers, dorm disco balls and more.
- DIY Lava Lamp - Get started making dorm-approved lava lamps with your residents with a container, vegetable oil, Alka-Seltzer, food coloring and water. Residents will be hypnotized and calm in no time.
- Tie Dye - Take this activity outside or have tubs to dye white t-shirts with your residents. Provide different colors and encourage different artistic styles for cool, personalized designs.
- Decorations for Dorms - Adding personal touches to dorms can help residents feel more at home when they are at college. Host an event to make wall art, desk organizers, custom picture frames and personalized cork boards to add creative ideas to dorm rooms.
- Bob Ross Tutorial - Test your resident’s artistic skills by hosting a Bob Ross painting night. Students might surprise themselves with the exceptional pictures they are able to paint.
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Dorm facilities may have limited appliances, but with a little creativity and the right ingredients, you can cook up a great program or event with the following ideas.
- Cooking in a Cup - Hold a how-to session with a mug and a few simple ingredients to show residents easy food recipes that they can pop in the microwave for a delicious meal.
- The M&M Game - Pair your residents together randomly and provide each group with a bag of M&Ms. Depending on which color they pull out of the bag, the person has to answer a corresponding get to know you question. Residents will make new friends and get a sweet treat out of the event. Genius Tip: Try a few of these get to know you questions for college students.
- Breakfast for Dinner - Create a station in the lobby of your building so residents can stop and grab pancakes to-go for dinner during a busy week. If you want to make it a little fancy, set up a toppings bar with options like blueberries and chocolate chips.
- Picnic on the Quad - Encourage residents to grab a to-go box from the dining hall and have lunch on the grass. You can start up any sort of conversation about classes or life while enjoying a meal and the weather.
- Slip N’ Slide Sundaes - Choose a warm and sunny weekend to host a slip n’ slide afternoon with an ice cream sundae bar to end the day! This activity is a great choice for a joint event with the entire dorm to get residents outside and having fun.
- Canned Food Drive - Set aside some time to organize an event to help give back to the community during the busy school year. Students can find canned goods for a few dollars and contribute to a greater good outside the university. Make it a competition between floors to see who can donate the most goods.
- Mocktail Night - Play on the stereotypical college culture and host a cocktail night — just without the alcohol. Come up with creative concoctions like virgin watermelon margaritas and lavender lemonade for easy and delicious refreshments for your event.
- Trip to the Grocery Store - Take your residents on a trip to the nearest market or grocery store to show them how to get there and provide a list of good items to buy. Genius Tip: Take a look at these 30 Healthy College Snacks to get some inspiration about how to help residents choose healthy and energizing food options.
- Birthday Surprise - Make your residents feel appreciated on their special day by surprising them with a small treat for their birthday. Whether it is a cupcake, cookies, or even a coffee, a little bit of effort can make someone’s day.
- Food Truck Friday - Join together with other RAs and residents to host a food truck Friday for delicious meal options. There are countless options for food trucks like barbeque, seafood, and even dessert trucks. Your residents will look forward to this meal all week!
- Nacho Night - Cater your event with a build-your-own nacho station from a nearby restaurant or create your own set up with ingredients from the grocery store. Even if you are hosting an informational event, residents can sit and listen while enjoying some cheese, Pico de Gallo, guacamole and cilantro on their nachos.
'Tis the season to bring your residents together for holiday-themed activities that bring everyone together through good food and laughter.
- Valentines for Everyone - Cut out paper pouches for residents to put on their doors and host a valentine-making meeting where residents can make everyone on their floor a surprise. When they are done, residents can go around and drop their valentines into the pouches on the doors.
- Pumpkin Carving - Beware! This activity can get messy, so make sure to lay out a lot of newspapers to catch the seeds and pulp from your resident’s spooky creations.
- Ornament Making - Set up a dorm Christmas tree and host an event where residents can paint their own personalized ornaments and hang them on the tree. When Christmas is over, residents can take their ornament and save it for next year.
- Easter Egg Hunt - Find creative ways to hide Easter eggs around the dorm for a floor-wide hunt to see who can find the most eggs. Be sure to fill the eggs with candy so students are rewarded with a treat.
- Toilet Paper Mummy - Gather your residents in groups of 2-4 and give each of them a roll of toilet paper. Whichever group wraps one person up like a mummy the fastest wins.
- Microwave Thanksgiving Potluck - Create a sign up for students to claim their favorite microwaveable recipes to bring to your hall gathering and enjoy a feast fit for a dorm.
- Costume Contest - See who has the most creative Halloween costume by hosting a highly competitive costume contest for your residents. Make sure to set guidelines about appropriate costumes so students know their boundaries.
- Gingerbread House Competition - Supply the gingerbread, icing and candy for decoration to find the future architects among your residents!
- White Elephant - Assign a price limit for residents to purchase gifts for a hall-wide white elephant game. Students can find inexpensive gifts at the student store, order online, or find a gift card to a local restaurant.
- Boo! - Halloween in your dorm neighborhood wouldn’t be complete without being booed! Residents must “boo” one of their neighbors by passing along a candy package within 24 hours of finding their boo package filled with a candy surprise outside their door, and once someone has already been booed, they will tape the sign to their door.
- Clothing Drive - The holidays are the perfect time to get rid of old clothes and make room for new clothes. Place boxes in your hall to gather any old clothes that residents are willing to donate and then bring them to a donation center.
- A Toast to the New Year - Celebrate the new year off right by hosting a to-go breakfast station in the mornings during the first week back to school after winter break. Residents will be armed with a hearty breakfast of toast and jam to tackle their new classes.
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Events for Exam Preparation
When finals season arrives, you’ll be ready to help your residents succeed and tackle their exams with these ideas.
- Stress Relief with Stress Balls - Purchase balloons and flour to build your own stress balls to help residents with stress and anxiety during exams.
- Exam Care Packages - Pack each of your residents a care package with a #2 pencil, eraser, testing sheet and other essentials in case they forget anything on exam day.
- Bubble Wrapped Stress - Give residents small squares of bubble wrap to pop when they get anxious or stressed. This activity can help everyone release their worries and also have a quick entertaining break from studying. Note: Most grocery stores with plastic bag recycling bins will also take bubble wrap, so combine this stress reliever into a program about environmental care by collecting and recycling the bubble wrap.
- Study Survival Guide - Make a list of everything you wish you had known during your first exam season that helped you get through it. Include things like secret study spots, studying tricks and a reminder to stay hydrated. Genius Tip: Use these Top 10 Study Tips for College Success to guide your survival tips.
- Nature Walks - Help your students take a mental breather during exams and go on a nature walk around campus. Taking a break from studying and going outside will help students focus when they return to studying.
- Donut Stress - Residents “donut” stress over their exams when they have a good support system behind them and a full belly to help them focus. Leave donuts at the front desk in the morning for your residents to make sure no one skips the most important meal of the day.
- Study Hours at Campus Coffee Shop - Grab a table at a coffee shop and encourage residents to come study with you. Sometimes residents need a gentle push to get out of their dorm rooms and find a new study spot to help them focus.
- Take What You Need Wall - Write notes of encouragement and stick them to your bulletin board so students can take the notes to keep them positive during exam season.
- Snacks for Studies - Keep a stash of snacks on your floor study lounge or front desk so students can take snacks to keep themselves fueled during late nights at the library.
- Candy Puns - Keep a bowl of treats wrapped with encouraging puns for residents to help them get through midterms and finals. Residents will blow their tests away with Blow Pops and kiss their worries goodbye with Hershey’s Kisses.
- Small Talk Sessions - Host brief small talk sessions during finals to give residents the chance to come and unload anything that is weighing on their minds. Exams can take a lot out of students, so you can reassure them that they will make it through finals and be okay.
Keep your residents engaged and have memorable experiences through bonding over shows, movies, video games and more.
- Movie Night - Find classic favorites to put on the T.V. and enjoy a relaxed movie night with your residents. Supply snacks and pop some popcorn to truly enjoy the movie.
- Kahoot! - If you need to make sure your residents paid attention to you when you were giving them important information, try testing them with a fun game of Kahoot! The person who paid the most attention will win a prize.
- Just Dance - Rent video game consoles or find a common space on campus to release pent-up energy and Just Dance it out with choreographed dance moves.
- Karaoke Sing-off - Find your partner or go solo during this event to sing your heart out. Make sure to look the lyrics up beforehand so you can nail the chorus.
- Social Media Competition - Encourage residents to participate with a hall hashtag and post on social media about the fun they’ve had at program events.
- Super Bowl Social - Find a T.V. and pull up the big game to enjoy one of America’s top competitions. Between the commercials, the football and the food, there will be something for every resident to enjoy.
- Create a Weekly Campus Newsletter - Make sure your residents never miss out on events happening around campus throughout the week by creating a newsletter.
- Super Mario Smash - Create a tournament for your students to take part in an ultimate gaming competition and face-off in all things Super Mario. Whether the competition is in Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros, the night will be filled with fun competition and challenges.
- Know your Memes - Communicate with your residents through memes every time you send an email. You will connect with and make them laugh all in one message.
- Friends Fridays - Grab your blankets, bring your pillow and sneak in some snacks for a “Friends” episode every Friday! You can also swap in any other shows about young people living together — from “Living Single” to “Grown-ish,” see what might be popular with your hall. Residents can come and go as they please to watch some of their favorite clips.
- Poll Everywhere, but Fun! - There’s no need for students to dread this Poll Everywhere. Create fun trivia questions to ask on Poll Everywhere and reward the winner with a prize.
Turn off the phones and laptops to have some good old-fashioned fun with unplugged entertainment.
- Ping Pong Tournament - Host a floor-wide ping pong tournament to compete to see who will hold the championship title. To incentivize students, allot $5-$10 of the budget for a gift card to a coffee shop on campus.
- College History Jeopardy - Test the knowledge of your residents by planning a Jeopardy night dedicated to your college history. Even if residents don’t know all the answers, they will leave knowing new fun facts and with new friends.
- Board Game Bash - Bring your residents back to their childhood fun with a board game event. Guess Who, Monopoly and Life will have students bonding in no time.
- Murder Mystery - Unite your floor by setting up a murder mystery that your residents must solve in order to figure out the cause of the crime.
- Bingo - Choose different themes for Bingo nights to keep residents coming back to get five in a row and claim their prize. You can decide on holiday, sports, or even music bingo — the possibilities are endless.
- Minute to Win It - Test residents’ critical thinking and speed skills by playing minute to win it games. Simply grab a stopwatch and a few easy items and get the laughs started. Genius Tip: Get started planning your event with these Top 50 Minute to Win It Games.
- Twister - Bring out the classic game to help residents become more comfortable and share laughs with each other while trying not to fall over.
- Walk Around Campus - When the weather is nice and everyone might need a moment to mentally declutter, take “unplug” to heart and go on an electronics-free walk around campus to let nature help everyone take a deep breath.
- Squirt Gun Assassin - Put your own spin on the classic “assassin” game and let your residents run with it. Head to the dollar store to get squirt guns and then assign everyone a random resident. Each person will have to get to know their target in order to spray them with water at the perfect time, so everyone will end up with a new friend at the end of the game.
- Floor Library - Encourage taking time to read for fun by building a small bookshelf or home for different books that can be shared by the floor. Residents can take, return and add books when they are finished.
- Speed Friending - Start helping residents make new friends at the beginning of the school year by hosting a speed friending session. The process is the same as speed dating, but friendship is encouraged instead of dating! Genius Tip: Place these 100 Icebreaker Questions for College Students on tables around the room so residents never run out of questions to ask.
Education for Everyone
While you may want all your events to be game nights, make sure to provide your residents with information that will keep them safe and help them in the future.
- Financial Layout - Navigating paying for college can be tricky, especially when different students have diverse financial backgrounds. Give students your best tips and tricks on how to manage money in college (or bring in a financial expert) so they can have fun while being responsible.
- Organization How-to - Teach your residents the essentials on how to keep their living spaces organized and address roommate conflict and unsanitary conditions.
- College Health Education - Make sure your residents know the potential mental, physical and safety issues that may arise during college and which resources on campus are available to help. A great idea for a program event is to bring in a representative from campus health, security and counseling to provide information and answer questions.
- How to Compost - Go green and teach residents how to compost and its benefits. Even if they are eating at the dining hall, make sure they keep an eye out for special compost bins.
- Life 101 - Help students adjust from living with their parents to living on their own by holding a “Life 101” class to explain things like credit cards, taking out the trash, getting a job and more. Genius Tip: Use these 100 Tips for How to be Successful in College to help residents handle life when they are at school.
- Elevator Pitch - Work with residents to get started on developing their elevator pitch to help them secure jobs both during and after college.
- Wellness Wednesdays - Try to hold a session one Wednesday out of every month to discuss ideas to support wellness like meditation, exercise and healthy eating.
- Campus Health Rundown - Explain the services provided by campus health to residents so they know where they can get help when they need it. Pass out campus health pamphlets for residents to keep in their rooms for reminders of the services they have access to.
- Public Transportation - Some students may have never ridden a bus before coming to college and others might need to know the best way to get to and from the nearest airport. Provide residents with the best ways to travel around campus so nobody gets lost while trying to figure it out.
- Laundry How-to - Save your residents’ parents from having to do their child’s laundry when they come home for break by teaching students how to use the dorm laundry facilities.
- Student Discounts - Give-back to your residents what you wish you knew your first year through student discounts. Whether it’s 15% off coffee at the campus bookstore or a discount for online shopping, students are sure to thank you for saving them money.
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Tips for RAs
Take a look at the following tips and tricks to help yourself adjust to the life of being an RA.
- Start off Strong - The first few weeks of college can be the hardest for students to adjust to a new school year and new surroundings. Have a week filled with fun and informational activities to keep everyone busy and help them adjust.
- Learn Names - Before residents arrive, take a look at your list of students and spend time memorizing everyone’s name. When they arrive, this will help them feel like they already have a friend.
- Contacting the Community Director - Don’t hesitate to contact your community director if you are struggling with anything or have questions about how to handle a situation. RAs struggle with things just like residents, and your Community Director is there to help you.
- Feedback Form - Reach out to your residents to see what they like and what they don’t like. You can make adjustments throughout the year to make your programs even better.
- Bulletin Board Bling - Get creative and show your personal style with your bulletin board ideas for your hall. Mix up the board with informational content and funny content to engage with your residents. Genius Tip: Grab student’s attention with these 50 RA Bulletin Board Ideas for College Dorms.
- Conflict Resolution - Solve the stickiest of situations with an established routine for resolving conflicts. By staying calm and acting with the interest of both parties in mind, you can find a solution that diffuses the problem while compromising to keep things fair.
- Friend or Foe? - Make sure to distinguish the line between being friends with your residents and being in charge. You want your residents to be comfortable coming to you with any issues they may have, but they also need to know that you are in charge and can implement consequences.
- Mandatory Meetings - Keep in mind that not all students are going to want to attend housing events. Host a mix of required meetings and programs for fun to ensure that residents are receiving important information but aren’t being forced to go to anything they don’t want to.
- Don’t Be Discouraged - You might have residents who are not too excited to engage and participate in RA program events, but there’s no need to be disheartened. Just make sure you check in with those students once in a while, and then continue planning and hosting awesome events.
- Embrace Differences - No two residents come the same, so be sure to welcome all types of people. Use this opportunity to learn from different perspectives, personalities and backgrounds!
- Keep it Low Key - Expectations can be pretty daunting for new students, so keep your events relaxed and open for people to come and go as they please.
- Office Hours - Host your own office hours so residents can have a designated time that they know where to find you if they need to talk.
- Provide Resources - Always keep pamphlets and information concerning campus resources available for your residents. Whether it is the number for campus dining or a map of bus routes, you never know when you might help someone out.
- Essential Oils - Every RA knows that even though candles are frowned-upon in dorm living, residents are still going to try to sneak some in. Encourage the use of air diffusers and essential oils to prevent fire hazards.
- When in Doubt, Pun it Out - One of the best ways to communicate with your residents is to make them laugh, and what better way to do that than with puns? Whether you are designing your next bulletin board or sending an email out to residents, put in some puns here and there to keep everyone smiling.
- Beware of Budget - Consider your budget when planning and designing events. Some events are great activities when working with limited funds, while others are good events to host with other floors in your building so you can combine funds.
- Just be You - Make sure to always be yourself around residents and at events. Your residents will respect you and feel more comfortable talking to you.
- Respect Confidentiality - Maintain the trust of your residents by keeping all information confidential. Only report incidents to the appropriate people as required in order to keep a positive and honest relationship with your community.
- Time Management - Managing your time will be essential for your success throughout the year. Being an RA can be a daunting task and will keep you very busy, but if you allot your time correctly and learn from mistakes, you can balance your academic and extracurricular obligations.
- Create Connections - The stronger your connections are with your residents, the more likely they are to come to you with an issue they have. So, start getting to know residents on day one because you never know how much it may actually help later on!
- Live by Your Planner - Build your schedule in a planner and write everything down so you don’t forget anything. Whether it’s a meeting or an assignment, this will help you stay on track and keep deadlines in order.
With all these program possibilities, you’ll have endless ideas to start planning events for the best laughs and experiences with your residents.
Celine Ives is a college student who enjoys playing field hockey, cuddling with her dog and cheering on her Carolina Tar Heels.