Careers & Education

How to get along with a college roommate

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Being a roommate tests your interpersonal skills
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Knowing how to get along with a college roommate can make your experience great

Youíve just been informed by your college about your new roomie. Given a name, email, and phone number, you scour the internet searching for a Facebook profile or a list of awards from their high school. The excitement builds until you finally decide to break the ice and call or email this other student.

Then the realization sets in: this could possibly be your best friend or worst nightmare of college dorm living.

Hereís how to get the most of your roomie living situation without sacrificing your own sanity.

Start off on the right foot

First impressions are a big deal. Donít come off as rude or aloof to the person that will be forced to share your space for an entire school year. Take the first step in contacting your roommate if you havenít already heard from them. Stay upbeat and positive. Mention some interests, possible majors, and just how excited you are to meet them in person.

Before school starts it is often wise and practical to discuss dorm necessities Ė such as who brings the mini-fridge and microwave. While many parents like the idea of splitting costs down the middle just remember that itís easier to part ways when itís obvious what items belong to whom.

Remember that your first impression of your new roomie may be skewed. Perhaps she doesnít respond to your email for a month because sheís traveling. Or maybe he sounded boring on the phone because he was trying hard not to make a bad first impression while feeling a bit self-conscious.

Lay down expectations

Itís move-in day! Your new dorm dťcor is in place and your parents have just said a tearful goodbye. Now what?

Offer to give your roommate a hand with setting up their side of the room if they havenít already finished. Start exploring by heading down the hall together and introducing yourselves to neighbors. Get situated on the campus by going out to grab lunch or dinner together. On the first day of your independence spend some time bonding with your roomie and indulging in college giddiness.

After the first week of orientation youíll most likely be given roommate contracts to fill out. Roommate contracts contain basic lifestyle preferences such as bedtime, studying with music or the television on or off, sleeping with the light, asking permission before entering with friends, etc.

While sometimes trivial, these questions are useful to outline some non-negotiable requests. If your roommate canít sleep with the light on, then be respectful and head to the library for late night cramming. Remember, everyone has their quirks. If you give your roommate some leeway on their quirks then Iím sure theyíll return the favor. Perhaps your roommate will even come to appreciate your Monday morning motivation routine complete with Joe Espositoís ďYouíre the Best AroundĒ soundtrack. 

Discuss issues as they arise

Remember that time your roommate spilled soda all over your new rug? Twice? Chances are your roommate didnít think twice after helping clean up the mess, but you did.

If something repeatedly irks you, then say something. The worst fights occur when one person bottles up their real feelings. Mention to your roommate that they stop leaving soda cans on the floor since it never fails to spill. Each time they repeat the bothersome action, gently remind them of your annoyance. It doesnít have to be dramatic or rude when you share your frustrations. Stay calm, voice your opinion, suggest an alternative, and make compromises.

Chances are you do something that downright agitates your roommate as well, so start that open discussion. Not every little thing needs reprimanding. If your roommate has a habit so engrained in their personality donít expect to be a miracle worker and change that behavior. Sometimes you just have to ignore othersí faults and learn to live with them.

Seek intervention

I hate to say it but not every roommate pair is going to be the best of friends; you may even downright despise one another. However, remaining cordial is the key to having a peaceful dorm atmosphere.

Respect one anotherís space and belongings, but you donít have to be best buds outside of your room. Sometimes though, a roommate has truly nasty behavior that is dangerous, illegal, or just plain rude. If normal conversation doesnít help the behavior that is causing you noticeable distress then consider involving a trained counselor. Upperclassmen are often assigned to freshman dorm units as the residential advisor. This advisor has been trained to handle conflicts and has the experience of a student to lend an ear.

Sadly, not all roommates can handle remaining civilized toward one another. If the situation gets out of hand suggest changing roommates or dorms. All you need is paperwork and administration approval Ė although this is often saved for the direst of situations.

College is about new experiences. Having a roommate is just one of many factors that will shape your freshman experience. You donít have to be best friends; you donít even have to like one another. But chances are that your roomie will be a person you never forget Ė the one to see you at your best and worst, the one who listens to your late night rambling, and the one who shares an unspeakable bond with you: the bond of freshman roomies.

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