Most incoming freshmen show up at school with hopes of becoming friends with their new college roommate. After all, it’s probably the first time that both of you have lived away from home, and being instantly forced into sharing close quarters with someone means that you’ll get to know them rather quickly.
Some students really do become friends with their roommates; they enjoy each other’s company so much, they would have hung out together even if they didn’t live in the same dorm. Others are able to put up with each other because they hardly ever see one another. Their class schedules might conflict so much that they’re hardly ever in the room at the same time, or maybe one spends the night at their boyfriend or girlfriend’s dorm so often that they’re never home. Then there’s the third scenario: people telling horror stories of being randomly paired up with someone evil or someone that drove them nuts.
The College Board offers similar advice. “Perhaps the most important lessons you’ll learn in college are the ones you learn outside the classroom. Figuring out how to live with someone involves respecting differences, sharing, being courteous, accepting others for who they are, and much more. You’ll find that sharing space builds character.”
Communication is the key to success in all relationships, even those between college roommates. If living with a roommate begins to overwhelm you, the residence life office at your school can offer some advice or about your situation. Your resident assistant (RA) can also listen to your complaints as well. Asking for help is totally acceptable, but if you rush in and demand a new roommate you might be out of luck. Dorm space is pretty prime real estate on most college campuses, and rooms are usually full. Unless something dangerous or illegal is going on, you might have to wait until the end of the semester to get a new roommate.
The Department of University Housing at the University of Georgia offers some tips for maintaining a good relationship with your new roommate. The school’s website stresses the importance of communicating with your roommate as soon as possible—you might not think it matters, but it’s definitely a little easier to let someone know that you love listening to country music while you eat popcorn and as soon as you’ve first met instead of letting it be cause for a huge fight.
1. Get to know each other. Even if your schedules don’t overlap very often, you’re going to be living with this person. Find out where they’re from, their hobbies, why they decided to attend your school and what they’d like to major in. Do you smoke or drink? How do you feel about living with someone who does if you don’t, or vice versa?
2.Communicate. Be honest with one another from the beginning. Let your roommate know how you feel about letting people borrow your things, how much sleep you need, and what sort of things upset you.
3. Be open and friendly. Discuss things that you’d share casually with anyone: talk about your favorite books, favorite movies, even what you like to eat. You may realize that you have more in common than you thought.
4. Define “neat.” Some people are compulsive neat freaks and others are self-described slobs, so tell each other what you consider to be neat and clean. Discuss and agree upon things that each of you will be responsible for, and discuss what to do should one of you fall short on your promise.
5. Discuss visitation hours. It’s a good idea to talk about when visitors can and can’t be in your room. You each have the right to bring people over, but there need to be limits. Do you care if your roommate has overnight guests of the opposite sex? Do you mind if your roommate has people over to hang out watching TV while you’re trying to study?
6. Find an activity you can share. You don’t have to become best buddies, but there may be something that you can do together. Work out at the gym together; go eat breakfast once or twice a week … something fun that you’d both be doing anyway.
7. What about study times and habits? Talk about whether or not you plan to study in your room. You may have studied in your room back at home, but at college you may find yourself studying in the library. Are you going to have set study times so the TV or music isn’t playing when you’re trying to prepare for a test?
8. Give each other space. Even if you do become really good friends, you don’t have to be together every spare moment. Hang out with others, and don’t become jealous if your roommate is going to do something that doesn’t involve you.
9. Are you okay with sharing? If you’re used to your younger brother or sister borrowing your stuff, you might not care if your roommate borrows your things occasionally. You may also have a “hands off” policy. Discuss whether or not you’re going to share things and how to go about it.
10. Pet peeves & personal habits. What drives you crazy? What are some of your own habits that might drive someone else crazy? It’s a good idea to warn one another before the semester progresses.
If you’ve had so many screaming matches with your roommate that people who live down the hall are ready to move out too, and you both feel that you need a “roommate divorce,” see what the campus residence life office can do for you. It might impossible to switch roommates at that very moment, but they might be able to arrange for one of you to move out at the end of the semester. See what you can find out, and good luck.
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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