First contact: meeting your college roommate


If you’re heading off to college for the first time this fall, I’m sure you have tons of questions about campus life. But, I’m betting the one thing that really is causing you the most stress has nothing to do with academics, right? Of course I’m right. You’re reading this right now because you are worried about your living arrangements for the next nine to ten months. It’s the one thing that all students who live on campus dread  roommate roulette.

Sure, the college probably had you fill out some survey when you registered for housing, but do you really think everyone answers those things truthfully? Be honest. I bet you even fibbed a little in a few sections. Even if you did come clean about your late-night addiction to horror films or the fact that you snore like a drunken sailor, chances are you’ll still get someone who’s not quite the perfect match for you. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. College is a place where you should step outside your comfort zone and try new things — your college roommate is simply a temporary travel companion who is hitching a ride while you figure out your final destination. If you want to make the best of an uncomfortable situation (when you see the size of your dorm room, you’ll know what I mean), there are a few things you can do right now to make sure your first year on campus goes smoothly.

1. Reach out 

Colleges generally release roommate assignments a few weeks prior to you moving to campus. Don’t wait until you move in to introduce yourself to your new bunk buddy. Give him or her a call (or send an email) right away and spend some time getting to know one another. Ask about high school experiences, family life, interests, and career goals. Resist the urge to dig around on Facebook or other social media channels before you make first contact. Why? It’s too easy to form an opinion about someone from some random posts and pictures, and that opinion could be way off. 

2. Meet face-to-face

After talking to your new roommate, the next step is to meet face-to-face. If you are within a short driving distance from one another, meet up for lunch or coffee. If that’s not an option, consider using Google Hangout or Skype to connect with each other visually. During this second interaction, dive deeper into what makes each of you tick. Discuss your personal style and habits. For instance, if you prefer to study late at night or tend to leave your room a mess, your roommate should know this upfront. You’ll also want to clue her in on any allergies or medical issues that might be important to know.

3. Talk about dorm life

By your third interaction, you should bring up the topic of your living arrangements. This will include a discussion on who is responsible for bringing small appliances, such as a coffee maker, television, and refrigerator. Many colleges only allow one of these per room, so it’s best to figure this out before you make any unnecessary purchases. You’ll also want to discuss your room’s vibe. Will you be coordinating colors to make it a shared space or creating two separate living areas? Some roommates even stack their beds to provide room for a small couch, which is great for entertaining. If this is something you might consider, you’ll need to add these items to your shopping list, as well. Don’t forget to ask about food and other items, too. Are you planning to share the costs or will you each have your own stash? Finally, discuss your guest policy. This not only includes the random day visitor, but also overnight guests. Remember, just because your college permits guests of the opposite sex, that doesn’t mean your roommate will be cool with it. Talk about your expectations and come to an agreement that works for both of you.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, your college will have done a pretty good job at pairing you up with someone you can tolerate for the next year. Just remember to keep an open mind and be flexible. It’s never easy learning to live with someone, even if that person turns out to be your best friend. Close quarters can make anyone a little crazy over time, but if you keep the lines of communication open and try to see things from the other person’s perspective, you should be able to handle any bump in the road.

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