Ask the Interactive RA

Soon after arriving on campus, many freshmen realize they need real help in making a smooth transition to college life. In researching The Freshman Survival Guide, it became clear that some students didn’t feel comfortable approaching their local resident assistant on staff for any number of reasons (e.g. their issues felt too personal and they were embarrassed, they were afraid of getting in trouble, they simply didn’t like their RA etc). While we believe it is best for students, in general, to avail themselves of their local support staff, we also realized that it could be helpful for some students to have the option of contacting an experienced RA anonymously with some of their more delicate issues.

The Interactive RA (iRA) is our attempt to bridge that gap. Resident assistants from colleges around the country are available to answer your questions online through our partnership with, the nation’s leading online resource for residence life—a free service of Campus Advantage, Inc., the largest private student housing firm in North America.

You can choose if you’d like to ask our iRAs a question privately by email  ( or publicly on our blogSend us any questions or problems and the iRA on duty will get back to you within 24 hours (usually much more quickly depending on when we receive it).

NOTE: The Interactive RA is intended for your education, consideration and to help you make informed choices. This is not a substitute for the advice of your physician, educators, lawyer, local residence life professionals or other advisers.

Our Interactive RA Team in Partnership with The Milton Hershey School:

The Freshman Survival Guide is pleased to have The Milton Hershey School’s (MHS) Graduate Programs for Success (GPS) come on board as part of our Interactive RA team. Founded in 1909, by Hershey Chocolate founder Milton Hershey and his wife, Catherine, MHS is a private philanthropic (pre-K through 12) boarding school. The school currently serves more than 2,000 students and is the largest residential education program in the US.

The school’s Graduate Programs for Success is an initiative that helps their students make the transition from high school to their next steps in life–college or other postsecondary education, the workforce or the military. We are honored that MHS has used the Freshman Survival Guide as part of their GPS curriculum for several years. In many ways their program is like a laboratory during 11th and 12th grade in which students, teachers, counselors and administrators can discover what has the most impact on making the transition out of high school–particularly for first generation college students–as successful as possible.

Ashley Smith

Ashley Smith is a Higher Educational Support Specialist at Milton Hershey School where she provides support and guidance to graduates enrolled in technical school and community college. Prior to her position with Graduate Programs for Success, Ms. Smith served as a Lead Transitional Living Coordinator for 6 years where she was responsible for the development and post-secondary preparedness of high school seniors through residential and experiential learning. She is a graduate of Lebanon Valley College earning a dual bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Music Performance. She also completed her Masters in Higher Education at Drexel University with a focus in Neuroscience, Pedagogy, and online learning.

Jared T. Ross

After attending Milton Hershey School for 5 years, Jared T. Ross drove across the country to attend the University of San Francisco where he is studying Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Outside of the classroom, Jared is involved in boxing, building an online business, developing a podcast, manages the marketing efforts of MHS alumni Kayvon Asemani for his music career, and is always working on video projects. After college, Jared plans on moving to Texas where he will continue to manifest his destiny of becoming a Billionaire Entrepreneur Philanthropist working at the intersection of business, art, and technology. For more about Jared and his vision, please visit

Sheila McCrillis-Ciotti

Sheila McCrillis-Ciotti is a Manager at the Milton Hershey School (MHS) where she provides administrative and supervisory oversight of the College and Career Department.   Prior to her position at the MHS, Ms. McCrillis-Ciotti worked over eighteen years at the Harrisburg Area Community College in an administrative capacity, including associate dean of academic affairs, executive director of the Trade and Technology Center, director of Career Services and Records coordinator. She holds a Master’s degree in Management/Public Administration from Penn State University.

If you’d like to email the Interactive RA directly: