Welcome to the next chapter of your life: college. The wait is finally over and you’re most likely leaving your parents and hometown behind, ready for your fresh start on a new campus. Your first challenge in college won’t be in a classroom or at a party – it will be the moment you meet your roommate for the first time.
Get ready, because this person could make some of your greatest or worst memories of college. Read on for tips to make sure you and your roommate get off on the right foot – and keep it that way for the rest of the year.
LIVING WITH A FRIEND
Rooming with a friend from home is a delicate balance. While you’re no doubt excited to have a familiar face to come home to, it’s important to remember you are separate individuals who deserve to experience college independently.
Because you and your roommate live together, you’ll often spend time together without even trying to, by watching movies, doing homework or listening to music in your room. But don’t feel pressured to include him or her in everything.
Set aside time to meet new people or join new clubs on your own. You’ll thank yourself for it later when you have a large group of friends, including your roommate.
GETTING A RANDOM ROOMMATE
Whether plans to room with a friend fell through or your school is far from home, the thought of living with a stranger can make you anxious. But don’t take that out on the person you’ll be living with for the next year.
Go in with a positive attitude. Think of it as an opportunity to gain another friend.
But don’t worry if the school completely ignored your wishes on your rooming questionnaire. No one says you have to love the person you’re sharing a room with. You will find other friends.
DECODING YOUR ROOMMATE
When living with a new roommate, it’s often helpful to understand their background and where they come from to get a sense of who they are. Ask your roommate their birth order – which often defines character and personality traits – and use that to navigate your relationship.
According to an article in Woman’s Day, if you’re roommate is the:
Oldest or only child: He or she probably relates well to older people and is very independent and responsible. This kind of roommate will likely enjoy spending time on their own and establishing a sense of self early on.
Middle child: He or she most likely grew up feeling lost in the mix of older and younger siblings, so relationships with friends are very important. Middle children are often independent peacemakers who can see all sides of an argument. Don’t be afraid to come to this roommate for advice.
Youngest child: Babies of the family are usually the most extroverted and irresponsible. Because they’ve likely gotten away with more as children, they’re used to pushing the limits and may do so in college more than others. Because youngest children often love the limelight, this kind of roommate is sure to be a fun going-out partner at any time.
BEFORE YOU MEET
Your school gives you your roommate’s contact information for a reason, so be sure to reach out before move-in day. And not just because you don’t want to end up with two TVs or three refrigerators.
Contacting your new rooming partner will give you a preview of your roommate’s personality and can help to alleviate anxiety about meeting in person. Try to find your roomie’s Facebook page to get to know them a little before you talk.
And when you do contact your roommate, this is the time to ask questions. You can find out your roommate’s likes and dislikes and share yours. Fill in the gaps that the roommate questionnaire may have missed.
This is also the time to clarify your answers.
For example, while you may strive to be a neat person, like you told the questionnaire, you may have to clarify that it’s a work in progress. This can smooth the transition into living together.
You also can bond over decorating plans and your shared anxieties and excitement about starting your freshman year. And remember that calling your future roommate can give you an even better sense of who that person is and how well you two will get along.
Set clear boundaries in the beginning of your rooming relationship. If you don’t, your roommate could claim to have no idea that letting a friend sleep on the floor for a few weeks isn’t OK, or that you should be notified if a group of friends is coming to party in your room.
The room is equally yours, so make sure your roommate’s things don’t start creeping onto your side of the room, unless you agreed to an arrangement beforehand.
Also, make clear which items you feel comfortable sharing. Cereal may be OK, but your shampoo may not be. To avoid later fighting, let your roommate know.
You may be a bit cautious when it comes to confronting your roommate about problems if you two only just met. Be polite, but firm. Any sharing problems will only get worse if you allow the behavior to continue.
If talking it out isn’t working, you can still find ways to keep your belongings safe. Dorm Co (dormco.com) even sells a fridge lock to keep hungry roommates from eating your food.
This obvious lack of confidence in your roommate may make your living situation awkward, however, so this should be a last resort.
DEALING WITH CONFLICTS
It’s inevitable – whether you disagree over whose turn it is to vacuum or acceptable study times, conflicts are sure to arise when living with a new roommate. The key is to set expectations as soon as you meet.
When will you each be studying and sleeping, when can friends come over, and who will be responsible for taking out the trash are just some of the topics you should discuss.
When an unrelated conflict arises, it’s best to get some space. Hit the library or visit another friend’s room.
If you can’t calmly discuss the issue after you’ve cooled off, consult your resident adviser ?– they’re trained to help mediate conflicts.
CARING FOR YOUR ROOMMATE
No matter if your classmate is a party animal or more of a homebody, you may have to take care of a sick roommate from time to time. Not only is this courteous, but it’s also what you’d want your roomie to do for you if you weren’t feeling so hot.
Your duties may range from picking up food from the dining hall for a feverish, bedridden roommate to helping clean up after a roommate who partied a little too hard the night before.
And if your roommate is really sick (think swine flu), know that you may even get a call from a hysterical parent.
But while you are somewhat responsible for your roommate, don’t think you have to be their mother or personal nurse, especially if getting sick after partying turns into a weekly routine.
Your relationship will determine how much you do.
But at the very least, you should make an effort to ensure your roommate’s sickness is not serious or an immediate danger.
You can do something as simple as speaking up and letting your resident assistant handle potentially worrying situations, especially if you think you’re not qualified to help your roommate.