So you're off to college and ready to take adult life by storm. Awesome. The first step to college life is moving in and meeting your roommate. If you are like most eighteen-year-old freshman, you've probably never lived with someone you aren't related to. Maybe you've never had to share a room. And a communal bathroom is definitely not anyones idea of a perfect housing situation. Living with a stranger (or strangers) can be nerve-racking, especially if you are moving away from home for the first time. But don't worry. It's gonna be fine. Here is all you need to know about living with a roommate in college.
Be a Good Roommate to Get a Good Roommate (Most of the Time)
It's important to first and foremost be a good roommate if you want to have a good roommate. Basic manners are required. Say please and thank you and be polite. Being considerate of the other person will go a long way, especially in the beginning of your time together. For example, if they're asleep and you're coming home late, don't turn the overhead light on and try to be quiet. Little things like that will make living with your roommate much easier. And so when it's their turn to come back late, they will be more likely to respect you too.
Don't Expect Them to Reciprocate Your Good Manners
Sometimes roommates don't treat us the way we treat them. They might not be quite as considerate and kind as you. That's just the way the cookie crumbles. BE CONSIDERATE ANYWAY. The last thing you want to do is get into a fight with your roommate. It's messy and difficult and does not make for a very fun semester.
Set Some Ground Rules In the Beginning
When you first meet your roommate, you will be in the honeymoon stage. You don't know them. They don't know you. Most likely you filled out a survey with questions that asked you if you are a smoker/ non-smoker, neat freak/ slob, etc. Your school thinks you would make a good match, but you don't really know yet. It might be awkward and weird, but the most important thing to do when you first live with someone is to figure out some ground rules. Simple things can cause issues fairly quickly, so ask questions about what your roommate is ok with and not ok with. Questions like the following can definitely help. Write your answers down together so you can look at them later if need be.
- Can we play music after 10 pm?
- Do we lock the door when nobody's home?
- How would you like to handle guests coming over? Ask first or not?
- Do we have a "lights out" time or designated study times?
- Do we designate who does specific chores (trash etc.) or do them as we go?
Setting a few boundaries will make you much happier in the long run, although going through a list of dos and don'ts might be a little awkward at the time.
Get to know your roommate. This is a new person in your life and there's a chance you could become great friends. Your roommate is probably just as nervous and unsure as you. So ask them a few questions about themselves and be friendly and open-minded. Personally, I've learned that most of the time a first impression is not very accurate. So really spend some time with them and give them a chance to knock your collegiate socks off.
Dealing with Conflict
It is not a matter of if conflict will break out between you and your roommate. It it a matter of when. Conflict is an inevitable part of having a roommate (and being an adult). Knowing what to do when conflict breaks out is important. Communicating is the key, not only to deal with issues, but for preventing them in the first place. Tell your roommie when something is bothering you. Don't let it bottle up. If you hate that they leave their dishes in the sink, let them know immediately. Not three weeks after they've been festering. You'll be more likely to snap, which will just cause more issues. They may not even realize that whatever it was was bothering you in the first place. So let them know immediately and you'll avoid major pitfalls in the future.
When major issues do crop up, listen. Be patient. Let them explain what's wrong. Only once you understand the problem, then work together to try and fix it. And if your roommate has a problem with something you did, try not to get mad. Think about it from their point of view. It's hard. Conflict is never easy, but the worst thing either of you can do is ignore the things that bother you. Nip whatever it is in the bud so you both can move on.
When a Match Goes Wrong
Living with a roommate you love can be so much fun, but sometimes (or maybe even eventually) you will room with someone you don't love or even like. You can't get along with everyone and that's ok. Stick it out until you can get a new roommate or move out. Many universities and colleges will have a "move out period," where you'll have an opportunity to change rooms if you know it's just not going to work. Continue being considerate and maybe spend a little more time on the quad or in the library.
It's important to make an effort to get along, but sometimes people simply don't mesh. Having respect for your roommate is the most important thing you can do. Not only to be a nice roommate, but also so you have a roommate who is nice to you. Apologize when you should and try to listen when you annoy them (yes, that is an inevitability). Immediately and kindly alert them when they do something that you don't like too.
At the end of the day, this is a person you'll live with temporarily. Enjoy them (or tolerate them) while you can and before you know it, you'll be moving in with the next person. Oh yeah, and don't forget to call your parents. They miss you :)