Dreaming of becoming instant lifelong BFFs with your new college roommate? Hey, it could happen! But you’ve still got to remind yourself that even the closest, most compatible people can get on each other’s nerves from time to time—especially when they’re sharing a cramped dorm room and bathroom.
Whether you despise your new roommate from day one or you get along but have occasional squabbles, these seven tips should come in handy throughout the school year.
Most colleges use some type of preferences survey or app to help match roommates with similar habits and shared interests. If you’re required to fill out a form describing yourself, be honest! Do you like to drink? Not a party animal? Do you stay up until all hours of the night or prefer to wake up at dawn? Telling the truth on your roommate application could help you wind up with a decent roommate from the start.
Your college should provide you with contact information for your new roommate(s) which means you will have a chance to get in touch well before move-in day. If your parents went to college and lived in a dorm, you’ve already got an incredible advantage over their experience—Facebook and Skype didn’t exist back then. You don’t have to start texting each other 50 times a day, but speak or video chat with them at least a couple times. If your dorm is not equipped with a fridge or TV, determine who is bringing what so you don’t wind up with doubles, making your already-overcrowded space seem even smaller.
Communication is the key to success in most aspects of life, and it’s absolutely critical for living successfully with roommates in college! Communication involves being honest and open. Don’t make assumptions. You could easily assume that someone is angry at you because they are quiet and don’t want to chitchat about their day, but they could have just received bad news from home or just want some quiet time to themselves.
It might sound strange if you’ve never shared a room with anyone up until college, but you’ll want to set some ground rules as soon as you get settled into the dorm. Can you borrow each others’ things, or is that a huge no-no? Are overnight guests allowed or would that make your roommate uncomfortable? Keep in mind that these rules will most likely have to change as the semester or year progresses. A “no boyfriends sleeping over” rule might seem fine during the first few weeks of school … until you meet Mr. Right in chemistry lab and become instantly inseparable. Rather than decide for yourself that it’s perfectly okay for him to move his stuff into your half of the dorm, get your roommate’s input. You would want them to do the same for you.
Whether it’s a parent, brother, sister, spouse or college roommate, living with anyone involves compromise. That’s a given. And don’t think of compromise as one person getting their way while the other person sulks angrily—that’s not how it works. If you love staying up until 3 AM to watch TV but your roommate likes to go to bed by midnight, you don’t have to totally give up your late-night Netflix addiction. You could always watch movies on your laptop and listen with headphones. Small compromises can help save both roommates’ sanity.
Does your new roommate hide vodka in his closet even though you both agreed that liquor shouldn’t be in the dorm since it could get you both in trouble? Or maybe your clean towels have started disappearing faster than you’re using them yourself. You can’t afford to be too ultra-nitpicky when sharing close quarters with someone else, but speak up if something bugs you. If you continue to let it slide, your roommate will assume that their behavior is okay with you. (They might not even be aware that they’re doing anything wrong!) Otherwise you risk having a huge screaming match full of accusations that could have been handled a long time ago.
If you know that your roommate has a gun or other weapon in their possession, or if their actions or words make you feel even the slightest bit unsafe, speak up. Go to your Resident Advisor and/or the person who is in charge of campus housing. Don’t be embarrassed to admit if your roommate is physically or verbally harming you—bullying still occurs at the college level and no one deserves to feel threatened in their own room.
If you honestly just can’t get along with your new roommate, you can always request a new one … but always realize your request may not be granted quickly, if at all. You may just have to grin and bear it. One day you’ll look back and realize just how much you learned from the experience!
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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