College Roommates: Your Complete Guide to Keeping the Peace
The relationships you have with your college roommates can either be problematic or the start of something “beautiful,” to paraphrase the ending of Casablanca (spoiler alert?). We hope your experience with whoever you end up rooming with is the start of a beautiful friendship that can last for the remainder of your lives.
At the very least, we hope it’s a partnership that will lend itself to your ongoing productivity and knowledge-building. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to ensure this happens. Be careful, though. While the following article will give you a generous share of tips to help, there also lurks herein some cautionary tales about how the college roommate dynamic can go very, very wrong. Without further ado, let’s begin!
1. Ask About Them
People who show a genuine interest in others are much more likely to earn the respect and admiration of the people they’re focusing on. Humans love to talk about themselves. When you give them a chance to do that, while modeling genuine and sincere interest, you make it easier for them to reciprocate.
They want to return the favor by asking you about yourself. And if they don’t, then you’ve at the very least established a pleasant dynamic with the other person that should keep them out of your hair or at least be more agreeable to you when you need something.
Some good starter questions include asking them about where they’re from, their family lives, their major, what career path they would like to choose, and whether they prefer reading or watching something on the TV/Internet.
2. Communicate Boundaries
Boundaries can be uncomfortable to establish at first, but you’ll thank yourself for doing so in the long run. When you establish a boundary, it requires you to be assertive and unrepentant in asking, no, telling, a person what you require to be at your best. A happy person always knows where their boundaries are, or at least how to draw the line once they realize a boundary they were unaware of has been crossed.
Living with your college roommates can be an incredible learning experience regarding boundaries. Start with the ones that you know are dealbreakers for you. In polite conversation, while you’re still getting to know each other, ask them what some of their boundaries are. From there, they should feel comfortable opening up and ask for yours in turn. If they do not ask, feel free to offer your boundaries up anyway. Your consideration in asking earns you the right to share your own, whether they want to hear it or not.
3. Get On a Schedule
Schedules are the lifeblood of every great roommate relationship. Sharing schedules with one another will help form a bond that can establish/deepen a friendship, as well as ensure the other party has the right amount of understanding they need into your work, study, and social habits.
Roommates don’t have to do everything together. They don’t even have to regularly hang out or be friends. As long as there is a mutual respect, however, their living arrangement can be quite nice and, in time, lead to friendships.
Don’t wait for your roommate to share his or her schedule with you. Share yours first! Also, tell them why you are doing so. “I want you to have this so you will know when you have the room to yourself to study, bring people over, etc.” You also might discuss how it’s a safety issue, too. “If I’m not back by whenever on this night, then I will text ahead and let you know. If I don’t, something’s up.”
My sophomore year, one of my roommates claimed that she didn’t cook or eat in our apartment at all because her sister lived next door so she did everything over there. However, she still kept fruit and vegetables in our apartment. One day while my other roommate and I were cleaning, we found a rotten banana with MAGGOTS in it. We threw it out, but a few months later, we found another rotting banana. My other roommate was so fed up that she left the banana on the counter so the first girl would have to walk by it and see it every day.SOURCE: BuzzFeed
4. Discuss Responsibilities
Every roommate relationship comes with its share of obligations. If you eat a bowl of cereal, you have an obligation to take if off the coffee table and put it in the sink when you’re finished. If you have to leave for class, you should remember to lock the door. If your roommate cleaned the toilet last time, maybe it’s your turn to do it next time. (Unless, of course, the roommate made the mess – i.e., throwing up on the seat after a night of partying.)
Think about the major responsibilities necessary for ensuring the dorm room or off-campus pad stays in working order. Split those responsibilities right down the middle, or get as close to 50-50 as you can. This will ensure that you all continue to get along for the full length of time you’re roommates.
5. Show Consideration
Showing basic consideration for your roommate should be simple. It’s amazing, though, how many people just don’t seem to get it. If you’re going to be back late, send a text or leave a voicemail! If you got hungry and accidentally (on purpose?) ate one of your roommate’s meals, replace it! If you’re coming in late, assume your roommate is there asleep and you don’t want to wake them up.
All it takes is courteousness. You know what you would respect and appreciate if you were on the receiving end of all those scenarios. Treat your roommate with the same kindness, caring, and consideration that you would expect from them.
6. Embrace the Headphones
Headphones are especially important, regardless of whether you’re living in a small dorm room or a more spacious off-campus home or duplex. When you keep your headphones handy, you don’t risk angering your roommate(s) with a playlist of aggravating country music songs (see below). You also get to enjoy your own thing – be it music, audiobooks, or podcasts – without being disturbed by complaints.
The use of headphones will also ensure that you and your roommate can focus on your studies while you’re sharing the room. That can happen a lot for two students taking on a full-time class schedule. You don’t want to force anyone out of their home to take care of studying. If they work better at a coffee shop, then fine. But don’t make that decision for them through a lack of courtesy.
The first place I lived on campus was in a suite with three other girls. My actual roommate was nice enough, but she constantly (even while she slept) listened to a playlist with about 20 awful country songs. Over and over and over. Also, if she ever listened to other music (more country), she would FLIP OUT and run over and turn off the volume if a song with a “bad word” came on. Then she and the other two girls got angry with me because I wouldn’t go to church or non-drinking parties with them. I had to move to the honors dorm where things were slightly more normal.SOURCE: Mashable
7. Keep Each Other in the Loop
Keeping each other apprised of your comings and goings is only a small part of what we mean by keeping each other in the loop. You should also consider sharing emergency contact information in the event of, well, an emergency! It’s a great way to keep each other informed should the need arise.
Emergencies can be anything from health scares to locking yourself out of the room and needing your roommate to save the day when you can’t reach them through ordinary contact methods. The more info you have on one another, the better, provided you are following the other tips on this list.
8. Find Areas Where You Can Compromise
Moving in with someone new can be challenging, and there’s really no better odds of that being the case whether we’re talking about strangers or long-established friends. In fact, friends can be even harder because you know them as friends but you don’t know their disgusting and/or annoying living habits until you’re right there with them. A previously established friendship can make it harder to confront them and establish boundaries, which, in time, can lead to larger conflicts.
Regardless of how close you are to the roommate, do try to find ways to compromise as you encounter differences in opinion or in the way you do certain things. Talking to one another has become something of a lost art thanks to social media, but you can make communication cool again by addressing disagreements and other challenges right away and finding a way to work through them face-to-face.
9. Make Friends With Quiet and Alone Times
Quiet time (together or apart) is something that every relationship needs. And while it might not be romantic, what you have with your roommate is definitely a relationship. You have to learn to function with one another as-is. Don’t feel obligated to fill up the quiet times with vapid conversation. Instead, get comfortable doing your own thing while they’re around. As long as the two of you are committed to not annoying each other, any breaks in the quiet for some meaningful conversation will come honestly and naturally.
By the same token, you and your roommate will need time alone every now and then. Make these moments easier to coordinate by sharing where you’re going to be, what your schedule is, and when you’ll be returning to the room or apartment. The more communication you share, the easier it will be to get the alone time you need without being an imposition to each other.
In my sophomore year of college, I found myself without a roommate at the last minute. Desperate, I agreed to live with a friend of a friend who I didn’t know very well. It started out fine, but it was on my birthday that I knew I’d made the best choice ever — she decorated the whole room while I was sleeping, and knowing I liked cornbread, commissioned the school cafeteria to make me a gigantic cornbread cake. That was my 20th, and it was one of the best birthdays ever.SOURCE: BuzzFeed
College Roommates Can Enrich or Detract From Your Experience
Establishing positive relationships with your college roommates is essential to deciding how this will ultimately play out. Avoid the horror stories. Gravitate towards thoughtfulness and consideration. Show it to your roommate and expect it in return. Using the tips presented above, you both can be embarking on the start of a beautiful friendship indeed. Now it’s your turn, readers? What are some of your biggest fears about your future roommates? What are some of your own roommate horror (or adoration) stories? What tips have helped you get along with new faces? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
[Featured Image by Wikimedia Commons]