We have all heard the horror stories about college roommates. It’s normal to be nervous about living with someone whom you have never met…especially when you know you will be stuck with them for a whole school year!
These simple do’s and don’ts can help you and your roommate start to be good and happy roomies before you even settle into the dorm.
Do Take Advantage Of Social Media
No doubt the college you are attending has sent you contact information for your future roommate. Take advantage of that. Even better look for your roommate on Facebook; you can learn a great deal about someone by their Facebook.
And see if your university has other Facebook pages up. You might find a Class of 20___ Facebook, your college’s sports teams or a page for your residence hall, all where you can start making friends before you even start packing your stuff up.
My daughter moved across the country to go to college. She was used to having her own room where she spent a lot of time alone, so she was nervous about how she would adapt to having a roommate. She also knew that she was going to need to make some big adjustments to a new culture. But once she hooked up with her roommate on Facebook, they found some common ground before they met.
Having already discussed pet peeves, study schedules and favorite music made move-in day much less stressful than if she hadn’t taken the opportunity to “meet” her roommate online. She also found the university’s class of 2015 Facebook page and started messaging other freshmen.
In doing this, she realized that she wasn’t the only one who was concerned about this big transition. And, she made some friends who had the same major and who were living in her residence hall before setting a foot on campus. Before long, she was looking forward to dorm life.
Don’t Believe You Have To Be Best Friends
You will hear a lot of stories about how a roommate became the best friend…but you shouldn’t feel like that has to happen! In fact, you don’t have to be friends at all! There is a big difference between being good friends and being good roommates.
Trying too hard to make your roommate your new best friend can backfire. You can still enjoy each other’s company and have fun together, even if you have other friends and activities that you don’t share. The goal is to find common ground and build on that.
If you can be courteous and respectful of each other’s differences and discuss problems that come up, you can be good (and happy) roommates without feeling the need to proclaim BFF status.
Do Hash Out Some Ground Rules Before You Need Them
Most schools now offer what I call Roommate Match.com…you know, the survey you take so that the university can make the best roommate match as possible.
Some colleges even have you make roommate contracts after the first few weeks of classes. These tools should be taken seriously.
But don’t rely on them exclusively. Take the time that first weekend before classes start to discuss some pet peeves and things that are important to you. Are you totally grossed out when you find hair in the shower you share? Talk about that…make a “rule” that you both clean out the shower after using it. If you aren’t sure where to get started, use the topics on the matchmaking checklist as a starting point.
You will come up with other topics naturally once you get rolling. If you want to make a start on this before you are face-to-face hash some of it out on social media (privately, of course).
Don’t Think You Have To Share All Of Your Stuff
It’s sometimes hard to share, even as adults. This can be especially difficult when you are used to having your own space in your family home. So far from home, you may want to keep some special things to enjoy for yourself.
Your favorite homemade cookies sent in a care package from home, for example. That is fine! It is appropriate to have your own stuff. Just because you are living in close quarters doesn’t mean you must share everything. But it does make sense to share some things in such a small space. For example, you may want to decide before you go shopping for school (during a social media connection, maybe) who is bringing items like the T.V. and coffee maker.
Make sure that if you say you will bring something to share so that there is only one of them taking up space in the room, that you are truly happy to share that item as if it belonged to both of you. To avoid problems, be upfront and set up guidelines about what your roommate can feel free to help themselves to and what things are yours exclusively, unless you give permission.
Do Talk Things Out Before They Reach The Boiling Point
Most of us don’t enjoy confrontation. Because of this, we too often let irritations go without communicating that there is a problem.
But living in a 15’X 15’ area magnifies all little irritations. So, before you end up in a shouting match, saying things your relationship can’t recover from, speak up when there is an issue that is bothering you. Find the right time to do this. Don’t pounce on your roommate as soon as they enter the door after their most hated class.
Don’t mention it when you know you don’t have time to talk it out. Find a time when you are both available for a while and are relaxed. Avoid blaming, but instead, use “I” statements. Saying, “You always leave hair in the sink, and I have to clean it out before I can use it. You are a slob, and I find your habits disgusting!” is not going to make the situation better.
By stating it that way, the other person goes on the defensive, and you will probably get something like “Oh yea, well, you do _____ and I find it disgusting!” shot back at you. If you use these suggestions, it won’t be confrontation as much as just clearing the air.
Do Spend Time Apart
When one of my friends went to college, she roomed with a new friend of hers. At first it was great. They did everything together, which made sense, since they had so much in common. But after awhile of being together all the time, little irritations became major issues. By the end of the school year they hated each other and haven’t talked since.
Of course, there were other issues involved, but taking time away from each other would have made living together in a small space easier and could have saved their friendship. When my friend went back to school the next year, she realized how she had used her former friend and roommate as a buffer-she was intimidated by all of the new people she met and avoided having to go out and meet others because she kept her roommate with her at all times.
She now very much regrets this situation. Not only because she lost a friend, but because she didn’t get everything out of college that she could have because she didn’t go out and make new friends, join clubs, move out of her comfort zone.
So, make other friends. It can be too much of a good thing to spend much of the day together as BFF’s and then be secluded in a tiny room all night and weekend also. Time off from each other is healthy for you, your roommate and your relationship.
Don’t Forget About The R.A.’s
Resident Assistants (R.A.’s) are there to assist you in everything-from finding the Registration Office to helping you adjust to living with a roommate. If you are having issues with your roommate and you need a sounding board or some advice, they are an excellent resource!
They were chosen for the job because they have gone through all of the usual first-year stresses and challenges successfully and want to help others maneuver them too.
They can give advice on small issues that could turn into big ones or even intervene, if necessary. If you have done all you can to communicate with your roommate and are just not getting through, talk to your friendly R.A. They can be a mediator between the two of you to help you work out your differences.
D0 See This As A Personal Growth Opportunity
College is much more than just learning academic lessons that will help you earn a degree. You will be on your own for the first time, learning how to deal with adult issues. You will have opportunities to grow into the adult you will become.
Learning to work out issues with your roommate is one of those life lessons that should be taken advantage of, even when they are uncomfortable. The communication and negotiation skills you learn by living with a roommate will serve you well throughout your life.
Author: Jacqueline Myers, is a career educator who wears many hats. Among her many activities is writing for the American Educational Guidance Center.