It’s freshman move-in day. You’re the first person to your room. You’re finally able to get rid of your parents. Bed Bath and Beyond trip? Check. Last minute trip to the grocery store to stock up on granola bars, Easy Mac, and Ramen? Check! Congratulations, you are officially a college student. You feel like the coolest thing since the iPad, and you start to put your Ikea Dorm Room Collection together. You think about what your roommate is going to be like, the parties you’ll go to, how you will be best friends for the next four years, even your kids will play together some day!
It’s important to realize that while you’re trying to figure out how to survive life with a roommate, your roommate is having to figure out how to survive life with YOU! Many schools ask students to fill out forms for the Housing Office during the registration process indicating various preferences. These responses are then used in attempting to match each student to a suitable roommate. Hopefully, you will have a roommate who ends up being a great friend and “survival” won’t be an issue. That’s not always the case, however, so you will want to create a situation in which you both at least feel comfortable. The most important aspect would have to do with being considerate. – Remember that you’re sharing a space. Keep your area as orderly as possible, and hope that your roommate will do the same. – Be aware that there are times when your roommate will need quiet for reading, studying, or simply reflecting, just as you will. – You can probably figure out when a habit is obnoxious. Don’t inflict those habits on your roommate and hope that your roommate’s habits will be tolerable to you. – Be prepared to be helpful when your roommate needs support in any way. The favor will probably be returned. – It’s a good idea to have a conversation with your roommate at the very beginning about what your mutual expectations will be of the shared living arrangement. Discuss situations which could arise and how they should be dealt with. – If a disturbing situation does arise, discuss it immediately, rather than letting the conflict fester and become much more difficult. Try to be open, but not accusatory, when expressing your opinions. Encourage your roommate to be open in expressing his/her viewpoints, as well. In the worst case scenarios, most schools have procedures for arranging roommate changes. These situations hopefully do not arise too often, but sometimes changing roommates is the only solution to a conflict.
Your relationship with your roommate is very important and can affect your entire year in college. Moving from living with your family to sharing a room with a stranger and living with other strangers can be daunting. But, if you’re a fairly easy-going person, you’re not likely to have any issues. Do your best to be a good roommate and be considerate of his/her space needs, cleanliness and level of neatness, television and entertainment preferences, tolerance for noise, light, bedtime, sense of humor, energy level, communication style, personality, etc. Set the example of how you’ll like your roommate to treat you. Be positive. Talk about minor issues before they become bigger problems. Remember that your roommate doesn’t have to be your best friend. Nor is he like your annoying brother, while you’ll have a lifetime relationship with your brother, your relationship with your roommate can terminate when the school year ends. Use your residence advisor, residence director, peer mentor or other individuals and resources if you need help with your roommate. Don’t just focus on the problem also think of solutions. And remember that change starts with you. Many, many others before you have survived living with a roommate and so will you!
First, be honest with them about your habits. If you were honest on the housing application then you should be a fairly good match. If you lied on your application and put down the characteristics of the person you want to be rather than who you really are, you are in for a bumpy ride! I always suggest that students get out their copy of the housing application and go through the likes and dislikes. It is a conversation starter on these issues and can help the roommates to systematically go through the important things that the Housing office sees as real roommate issues over the years. Discussing them can help the two of you to have an understanding of what to expect and if there is a real issue up front, you can agree on how to handle it BEFORE it becomes and issue. If you have a problem coming to an agreement, always feel free to seek out your resident adviser for some ideas of how you can reach common ground. They are trained in helping you with this and it’s their job to be your resource. Don’t be afraid to ask!
Here’s something my 10th grade English teacher said, “Before you begin a debate, you must define your terms.” That holds true for any kind of relationship. Be cordial, honest and keep your stuff neat & clean. Respect your roommate’s wishes so there won’t be a conflict.
Many campuses will have students complete a roommate agreement form within the first few weeks of school. This is an opportunity to lay the groundwork for tolerating differences. Everything in moderation, thinking considerately and maintaining a sense of humor will go a long way in domestic relations.
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