When you hit campus as a freshman this fall, you’ll get to experience a whole array of interesting and exciting “firsts.” But milestones like your first college class and your first campus party will pale in comparison with the significance of another “first” – your first encounter with your new roommate.
If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll be rooming with one of your buddies from back home. But the overwhelming majority of college students who live on campus – nearly 75%, according to one recent estimate – share a dorm room or a suite with someone they’ve never met before. If you’re like most college students, learning to live with – not to mention get along with – a complete stranger can be a very trying experience, to put it mildly.
If your relationship with your new roommate gets started off on the wrong foot, you could be in for a year of turmoil and trouble. Ask anyone who has shared a room with someone they couldn’t stand, and you’ll likely be regaled with a barrage of horror stories that will shake you to your very core. Needless to say, there’s a lot riding on your ability to find common ground and maintain a civil rapport with your roommate. Here are some tips to help you keep things on an even keel and prevent outbreaks of unnecessary dorm-room drama.
*Find out and focus on what you have in common. Even if you’re a clean-cut preppy type and your roommate is a black-lipstick-wearing Marilyn Manson wannabe, you’ve got to have some sort of shared interests, background similarities, or other areas of common ground. Don’t be put off by superficial differences – just be courteous and ask polite questions until you hit on a topic that you can both connect to.
*Keep the lines of communication open. The worst thing you can do is try to ignore your roommate. Even if you rarely see one another, don’t give your roommate the cold shoulder. If a problem arises, try to address it with civility, honesty, and openness. The situation will only get worse if it’s allowed to fester with being given an open airing.
*Give your roommate the benefit of the doubt. If your roommate has some, er, evil tendencies, it can be easy to fall into the habit of interpreting all of their actions as evidence of a secret conspiracy to drive you crazy. Try not to fall prey to this kind of paranoia, though. Instead, force yourself to keep things in perspective and look at the situation with some humor and lightheartedness.
*Learn to compromise. A good relationship is a two-way street. If you want your roommate to cut you some slack, you’re going to have a give back a little bit, too. Try to be as fair as possible, working out schedules for studying, visitors, and other extracurricular activities in advance, before misunderstandings turn into blowouts.
*If all else fails, keep an eye on the light at the end of the tunnel. If you’ve tried every trick in the book and you still can’t get things to work out with your roommate, just try your best to grin and bear it – and start counting down the days until the end of the school year. Hopefully, you’ll have made some new friends on campus, and you can request a new roommate for the next term. If you find yourself stuck in a truly unbearable situation, ask an RA about your school’s policy on mid-year switches.
Do you have any fears or concerns about getting along with your new roommate? Have you heard any roommate horror stories from your friends and family? Tell us all about it in the comments.
Have something to say? Feel free to add comments or additional information.