When I attended New Student Orientation the summer before my freshman year at the University of Massachusetts Amherst I heard people talking about being in a RAP (no, not the genre of music). A RAP at UMass Amherst stands for a Residential Academic Program, and it is a popular program for freshman. A RAP allows you to choose the exact building you will live in your first year on campus and take one class first semester with a group of people who live on your floor, and who have the same major or similar interests as you.
I decided to join a RAP my freshman because I had heard good things about them and wanted to try something new. I joined the SBS Connect RAP for students in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Going into it, I didn’t really know what to expect, so hopefully I can give you more information about what it’s like if you’re thinking about joining one!
Picking Your Dorm
A big reason why I chose to be part of a RAP in the first place was to have a guaranteed spot in the residential area I wanted. I knew that the area I wanted to live in, Southwest, was very popular for freshmen. You don’t always get your first choice in residential areas so I decided it would be easiest if I just chose a building during the RAP sign up time to ensure I could live where I wanted. This is a very helpful feature if you have a specific residential area you know that you would like to live in.
Exploration of Majors
My RAP was designed for students in the exploratory track of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, so we were able to do a lot of exploring the different majors within the college. A portion of the class each week was discussing each major within the school and careers that could come out of each one. I thought that this was an extremely helpful way for us to get a good look at all of the different majors and what they really mean. For example, people may know some thing about economics, but do they really know what kind of jobs an economics major can have? This class helped with learning about that and the process of deciding on a major.
Tips for Freshman Year
I really enjoyed having this once-a-week class because it gave a ton of helpful tips on starting school at such a big university. We discussed tons of things from figuring out the bus route, the rec center and the dining halls, to sharing new things we had tried out each week with everyone. The SBS academic dean taught this class with the help of a student TA. Having their input about different academic and social events going on around campus was very beneficial. They could answer any questions we had about being freshmen or about SBS. It was great to have a resource like this available to us each week.
Stepping out of our Comfort Zones
This class challenged us to step out of our comfort zones by sharing stories with the class and meeting new people. We were also assigned tasks to complete with partners in the class to reach out to different areas on campus, such as the Bursar’s Office and collect information on what they do. Another assignment was to reach out and have a meeting with a professor in a field of your choice to help write a paper. These were things I would not have normally done but really helped me become a more informed citizen of the UMass community.
Becoming Closer with the Floor
Being in a RAP also helps you to make friends more easily with the people on your floor, since you are all in that class together. It created more of a sense of community among the floor since everyone knew each other pretty well!
I think that the RAP program is a very interesting part about residential life at UMass that everyone should know about! Being part of the SBS Connect RAP my first semester freshman year helped me in a lot of ways and I would recommend it to anyone thinking about joining one!