One of the most stressful parts of beginning your college experience is meeting and subsequently living with a new person (or people, if you end up tripled). A large part of your college experience can hinge upon a positive experience with your new roommate. So how do you prepare for the most amicable and healthy living scenario possible? We’ve got some great ideas for you!
For starters, sign a “roommate agreement” with your new living mate. Yes, it might seem awkward and a little uncomfortable. But most academic institutions will recommend you do this during orientation anyway, so you can always take the approach with your new pal of “yeah, it’s stupid, but the school thinks we should do this.” Don’t come across as if you’re some stickler forcing this issue, but more of something you’ve both been advised to do. In reality, it’s a good idea, as it will protect both of you from make or break misunderstandings or showdowns.
The form is fairly straight forward, and most schools have their own version of the forms for you to fill out. These so-called contracts ensure that you both have your belongings respected, have a right to privacy, and are protected against any physical or emotional harm as well as address other essentials: the right to a CLEAN space, the ability to study in the room free of noise/distraction during quiet hours, etc. Furthermore, it encourages you to take an inventory of all belongings and helps you specify from the get-go which items will be shared and which you do not want your roommate touching. The contract will allow you to also agree upon a cleaning schedule, guest policies, strategies for conflict resolution etc. Once all parties feel good about the terms, everyone signs the document. If living in a dorm room situation, it is wise to provide your R.A. (resident advisor) with a copy of this agreement. While this contract might seem quite elaborate and stern, we promise you that it will save you from a great deal of awkwardness, confusion, and potential heartache down the line, as you will be signing it before you even truly “know” the quirks of your roommate. Trust me, these scenarios (keeping the room clean, keeping the noise down etc.) are MUCH more difficult when you already have formed some type of relationship and feel uncomfortable bringing it up. Now, you have it all down in writing.
Another important idea we urge you to keep in mind is the importance of going into this whole new, somewhat unpredictable roommate adventure with an open mind. There’s a good chance this is the first time both of you have lived in such a small space with a complete stranger for an extended amount of time. You’re going to meet a new personality and be put in a situation where you must learn to live together. So much good can come of this scenario; it can grow and shift your perspective and get you all the more clear on who you are, what you want, and how you best relate to people. All these epiphanies will inform the decisions you make later on down the road, be it another living situation, a potential roommate, a prospective business partner, or the ways in which you seek to connect and relate within the big bad world. Be open to their culture, their lifestyle, their background and see how it affects you and gives you a nuanced, more vital perspective on all that matters to you and why. Don’t just co-habitate: attempt to get to know your roommate, ask them questions about their life, form a bond. This could end up being a lifelong friend.
To take it a step further, yes, you’re friends and family members will always be just a phone call away, but your new roommate more than likely will turn into your daily therapist. When you don’t perform as well as you wanted on an exam, when you deal with a messy breakup, when you just need someone to vent to, your new roommate more than likely will be the first person you turn to. Obviously you want to be as comfortable as possible with the person with whom you may very well be sharing a ton of personal information.
One last inevitable piece of the puzzle is conflict. As perfect of a fit you and your new roomie may be, and as many steps as you both may take in creating as harmonious of an environment as possible, conflict will come – whether big or small, it will happen. That’s not a bad thing; in fact, the way you both deal with it more than likely will teach you a great deal about your roommate (as well as yourself). The first thing I will say on this topic is don’t shy away from conflict. Yes, you should absolutely pick your battles and know when to let small issues go, but if something your roommate does bothers you to the point of constantly running through your mind throughout the week, don’t keep it locked inside of you. Beginning a cold war and just freezing your roommate out is not the way to go. Instead, calmly and respectfully address it with your roommate – these little issues when ignored tend to turn into much larger and difficult problems down the road. When addressing your roommate, be respectful, think about how you would want someone to bring a topic like this up to you (don’t run in the room screaming at them about your issue while they’re trying to study). Do it in private, confirm with your roommate that this is a good time to talk. If it is a good time to talk, be direct, keep the conversation about the issue at hand and don’t turn it into a personal attack. After you have said your piece, allow your roommate time to talk and give their perspective on the situation, as well. You need to be willing to give a little to get what it is you want, so try to come to a solution that benefits you both. If the issue is too large, don’t force it. You have a R.A. for a reason, so contact them; they are trained in conflict resolution. Sometimes an objective voice provides some much needed clarity in these situations. More than anything, just be respectful and you’ll more than likely be able to reestablish an amicable living situation.
Living with someone new is sure to be a life changing event. Walk into it with the right mentality and an open mind and it can turn out to be one of the more enriching experiences of your life. To learn more tips and trick for getting into and surviving college, join us at our upcoming College Knowledge Night (RSVP here). Have a crazy roommate story? Share some of your college roommate experiences with us in the comments or on our Facebook page.