Decked Out

First impressions matter, and that’s why college door decorations (hence forth shortened to “door decs”) are so important for new students moving into their living areas.  Though door dec designs vary from RA to RA, the idea to greet new students by name is the case for them all. The attached image is of  my own door dec designs, which are white envelopes colored with crayons and outlined differently with a coordinated grey boarded that varies from color to color. The three bullets below outline the main three uses for door decs with my own serving as examples for the outlines.


The first role door decs serve  is a greeting tool–an advanced name tag of sorts.  Most door decs have the names of the students to welcome them in by name and to confirm they are in their correct living area.  Many RAs use printed, computerized name labels to save time, though I chose to hand write my names to personalize them to their fullest extent.


Most door decs inform students indirectly, such as gauging the “creativity” of the RA or the “theme” of the floor. Messages can also be written on them to further convey information such as greeting messages or important dates. My door decs are envelopes specifically because they allowed for a nice area of designing and gives the door decs an added mailbox option. Handwritten notes are in all my door decs and allows the option to putting notes/messages in their door dec instead of sliding them under doors.


Straight up, the kooler your door decs look, the kooler your floor is. Resident Assistants are tasked with building community and door decs add a make-or-break effect to that atmosphere. The aim for my door decs was to have an aesthetic symmetry–and the early arrival students seem to like them very much!

Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.


RA Administrative Work

The entry RA = Resource Accessible outlined the resources most students can expect to get from their RA. However, various types of administrative work must be completed to allow new student access to their living areas and to ensure those areas reach maximum functionality. The five main tasks below are critical to achieving housing setup completion–done by RAs for new students.

Housing Condition Summaries (HCS)

Housing condition summaries are single sheets of papers that are subdivided by rooms (bedrooms, bathroom, kitchenettes, etc) and list specific items in those rooms to be defined as good, damaged, or not applicable/present. This allows the college facilities department to gauge what work needs to be done and gives new students the opportunity to keep on record any prior damages (and gauge new damages after their move out!) Though facilities rely on the HCS to fix any damages prior to student move in. The paperwork is detailed and each room requires an individual HCS, so taking time to fill these out by RAs assist in making sure all rooms/areas are adequately ready for new students.

Key Repairs/Replacement

Electronic key cards and brass keys are expected to be in excellent condition by the housing department of Grand Valley State University. Electronic keys allow students access to their building while brass keys allow access to their rooms. Replacing damaged keys, lock changes and pin number resets for the electronic key cards are just a few reason why RAs deal so heavily with keys and why this site is named after them. Also for duty and maintenance work, RAs have access to a master key that opens the door to every door on their floor–so trust is key when completing this type of administrative work.

Bullion Boards

Bullion Boards are the single most important aspect of a college dorm floor. This is because various resources are placed here; from programming info to other departments that could benefit the student. Many student come to college with many questions and the bullion board can instantly answer them. It can also give students new information they never considered was important and/or relevant. A single contact number or post on a bullion board can save a student confusion, time, money, and maybe even their life.

Door Decs

Door decorations, better known as ‘door decs’ are the ultimate welcome for new students just moving onto campus. It lets them know they were thought about and anticipated within the dorms. Most door decs follow a ‘floor theme’ and really create an atmosphere for the dorm. These must be created for an entire floor and could be the most time an RA spends on anything! (Not really, though it DOES take awhile)

Post Move-In Administrative Work

Even after new students move-in there are still a variety of administrative tasks that may need to be completed. An example are indecent reports, which must be filled out timely, accurately and honestly. Additionally, pre/post program (event) evaluations are another piece of the administrative puzzle that must be completed. This behind-the-scene work is critical (and mandatory) for an RA to have finished–or else there would be no scene.

Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.

GVSU Do Something Guide 2012

[Click Here >>>] GVSU Do Something Guide 2012 [<<< Click Here]

As a resident assistant, relevant and interesting programming is a must. That said, most colleges catalog events and resources in a guide for new students to easily keep with them to offer advice and provide contact information for many of their related departments. The attached GVSU Do Something Guide 2012 is a rich, detailed resource that is relevant to freshmen-seniors and written by college students for college students. The guide is self-explanatory and will definitely assist new students with answering their questions, prompt critical thinking, and understanding new concepts they may not have considered/realized were relevant. Page 7 outlines my personal advice to new students.

Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU).When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.

Mastering the ‘Text’ in Textbooks

Textbooks are an almost necessary part of most college classes, and there is a huge difference between reading them and reading them. That said, below are five helpful ways to better understand the nouns, verbs, adjectives, graphs and photos placed together in most college textbooks.

Find Key Terms & Content 

It’s 2012, and many college textbooks today are a multimedia force. Writing wise, anecdotes and quotes combined with the author’s style of writing make up most of the text. This is to make the reading easy to understand and relevant to the student. It’s here where students need to differentiate what’s making the text easy to read and what needs to be known for exams. Underlined, bolded and italicized words or phrases and a HUGE indicator. Repetition is also a hint for context that should be remembered. Finally, photos and graphs often highlight subject-wise concepts that a student should focus on due to the complexity and subdivision of chapters.

Highlighting / Sticky-Notes

Many students use a highlighter to make notes of key sections of a textbook. This is kool because you focus on the most relevant, useful content that needs to be learned. Also, it creates a more refined chapter for students choosing to reread the chapter later. YES some students reread them! My choice of note taking is off sticky-notes. They act as bookmarks for different pages and allow you to write  in the book (on the sticky-notes!) for general notes, definitions, or relevant class lecture. You can also make a nice study guide with them instead of flipping back and forth through highlighted pages.

Test Yourself

Many textbooks have specific pages that test your knowledge at the end of chapters or sections. A few examples of these are defining words/concepts,  multi-choice questions and writing assignments. Though these are often optional, they really reinforce the knowledge that should be taken from the reading, meaning these can be helpful for exam preparation. Finally, many textbooks nowadays have an online component that is activated by either a code that came with the textbook or just visiting the companion website.

The Whole Chapter VS The Chapter Summary 

Alright, first and foremost, reading the end chapter summary  is not a shortcut substitution for reading the entire chapter. Most textbooks have an end chapter summary that summarizes the chapter together because typical textbook chapters themselves are broken up by content and context. The goal of the chapter summarization is to re-piece the puzzle together, not complete it from that ‘skip ahead’ chapter summary reading.


Taking a break when needed is key! Yes, it’s good to complete your assigned readings, though it’s all for nothing if external or internal factors are in the way (tiredness, schedule, Xbox). It’s always recommended to read when you have  total focus, so if it isn’t there substitute it with a bookmark.


With all that said, how do you read your textbooks?


Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.

Move-In ✔ List (What NOT to Take to College)

All colleges and universities have a list of recommended items to bring during freshman or transfer move-in. A few of these are allowed appliances, classroom supplies, clothes and bedding items. It’s usually straightforward and easy to follow.  However, the list that is typically ignored is the ‘What NOT to Bring’ list. This list is important because it outlines what isn’t necessary to have the very best college experience and build the best character perception for classmates, professors and dorm mates. Below, in no specific order, is a description of four examples of what should not be taken to college with you.

What The College Does Not Allow

Most colleges have a list of items that are not allowed within the campus residence areas. These items are usually not allowed to prevent fire and electrical hazards, such as candles and  high-watt appliances respectively. Any student can do without these so they should not hinder the new living experience. Additionally, there are usually alternatives to what is not allowed. For example, a low-watt microwave is often acceptable, while plug-in air fresheners can substitute for candles. (That is what the candles are used for, right?)


In some cases, many students can transfer applicable credentials from high school to college. These range from (Advanced Placement) AP credits, testing out college classes, and Honors recognition based on their transferring GPA .  These are nice additions that boost a new college student’s new resumé and transcript.  However, previous achievements such as valedictorian, class president and other similar merits no longer matter and should not be used to pull rank. This includes that 4.0 high school GPA after it was applied to a scholarship or class placement. College is all about starting over fresh and getting involved within the campus is the key to building up a new resume–a resume that can be used to obtain future employment. This includes academics; a college students’s college GPA is way more relevant than their previous high school equivalent.

Fixed Expectations

The media displays and plays on a specific angle toward many archetypes–and college students are a main one. Expecting the ‘okay’ to skip class whenever (regardless of the attendance policy), disregard studying (regardless of minimum academic expectation) and drink underage and/or drugs use (regardless of the law) only sets students up to fail with short-term contentment and long-term frustration. Damaged transcripts and records never go away and only prevents employment, which defeats the purpose of attend college in the first place. Furthermore, fixed expectations on other college related categories also needed to be dispelled. For example, the fraternities and sororities at Grand Valley State University value service work and community development entirely, meaning if a student followed the media’s label of “sex, drugs and hazing” they could miss out on a great opportunity to get involved, build their resumé and support their community.

Fixed Values

Everyone has developed traits and character that defines them as individuals–that make us who we are. Personal quirks, habits, and knowledge also helps define us. This is how most make friends and maybe avoid others who clash or contradict with our standards. It is perfectly okay to define and develop our inner circle this way. However, without respect it is not. Diversity is a gift reminiscent to treasure–opened with the key we all have and should be valued like diamonds. With that said, it is okay to disagree with another point of view. It isnot okay to highlight that difference and discriminate in a malicious way. Be constructive, not destructive; build others up, don’t tear them down. College is a place where many different ideas come together, so respect and understanding are very important. Extreme cases aside, this could just mean being opening to trying something new, like sushi perhaps. (Spicy Salmon & Yellowtail Rolls)


What else shouldn’t you bring to college and why?


Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.

RA = Resource Accessible

The acronym ‘RA’ has more than just its standard meaning of Resident Assistant, it actually means Resource Accessible. This is because being a resource for students and being easily accessible is the most important part about being an RA. Though there are many resources new students have, I have outlined the top five in no specific order. Any new students reading this you are not just limited to these five, asking simple questions such as “what time is it?” is are also welcomed!


Information is the first thing new college students will want, specifically those living on their own for the first time. From directional information of the campus to laundry rules, the questions are always specific and RAs must always provide answers. However, this does not mean RAs must have knowledge of everything. Referring a student to a specific area is the key. For example, if a student wants to change their major an RA should direct them to the counseling and career center so this can be done officially and after discussion.


Most new students are not accustomed to campus life, nor might they know where many campus events are. An RA plans events and programs in two ways. In-Area and Out-Area. In-Area events and programs are planned and facilitated by the RA(s) in their area so student never have to go far for something entertaining. Out-Area events are events RAs take students to that may be going on around campus, such as a homecoming event, a service projects or a campus-wide conference. These events are  usually academic-based or recreational-based.


Mediation = conflict resolution. In college many students have never had their ideas challenged or their style of living questioned. This can cause issues when this conflicts with a roommate’s living style–and the RA is the first resource for students. In no way is conflict destructive, in actuality it is constructive. Life is all about learning and becoming adaptable to different circumstances, and RAs aim to help roommates by encouraging them to create a fair game plan that works for them both–not in compromising, in collaborating.


Low grades, homesickness, boyfriend/girlfriend issues and depression are just a few issues RAs may encounter from their new students. Everyone has their down days, and the most important aspect to remember is that these feelings are momentary–meaning they’re not forever. With that said, RAs aim to assist students by stating the problem, understanding how/why it’s affecting them, and working on a solution to remedy the issue. It is here where RAs use their discernment in knowing if they can successively remedy an issue or make a necessary referral for the student.


Every RA has their own way of having fun with their students. From football outside, cooking and even watching a movie in Kirkhof’s theater, the options are endless! I’ll have an Xbox in my room so any of my students are more than welcomed to get beat in MW3 or defeated in HG! Though college is all about learning and doing new things, sometimes it’s doing your favorite hobbies with new friends that turns them into lasting ones.

[The site zerolocked – The Keys of An RA, will always proceed ‘RA’ with the article ‘an’ and not ‘a’, unless the word is spelled out–hence forth known as the RA Rule. This is because annunciation-wise, RA = Are. The grammatical rule is that if the word after the article is a vowel then an is used, while consonants use a. (An article, A vowel). There are exceptions to the rule. You would say “An Xbox”, even though X is a consonant. Again, annunciation-wise Xbox = Ex, so the RA Rule applies!]

RA 4 West A

If you’re reading this, then you’re either one of my friends or one of my residents.  Though I’ll keep the intros about myself short, it’ll answer the “Who is this guy that’s my college RA” question. I’m Mario, though I go by Ari here at Grand Valley, and I’m one of the three Resident Assistants (aka RAs) for the West A Living Center. I have an identical twin brother who is definitely similar to me and my home town is Detroit, MI. I’ll start this fall in my senior year and I’m psyched to hang out with all the new incoming freshmen assigned to West A (and the surrounding dorms) and help with the transition from high school to college—and I know about that very well myself.

I was home schooled since the 6th grade and it still stands as one of the best experiences of my life. The only ‘negative’ aspect of getting home schooled to me was my twin and I could never switch classes (I mean, the most we could do was switch seats and what fun is that?) Also, I could never skip school, because, well, it was like running away from home… (Again, not something worth doing).  Those aside it was THEE koolest experience. I graduated not knowing my major so I enrolled into Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) and graduated from their Honors Program and with an Associates of Arts degree. My time at GRCC helped define my major after transferring to GVSU and this RA position of mine helps it even further. That means if you guys don’t come to me for anything I’m going to be very bored! Heh, well not really but my future master degree program is College Students Affairs Leadership M.Ed, to connect all this together.

All that said, I’m here for any and all new students so keep me posted with any questions and all of us RAs will be sure to provide you guys with all the information you need and relevant programming.