Attending college is a nerve-racking experience for a lot of students, particularly those who have never lived away from their parents or siblings for an extended period of time. But that fear of the unknown is compounded by the fact that many students—whether they’re required to live on campus or find a place on their own—will be living with a roommate or roommates they’ve never met before. So what can they do to prepare for this unique experience? What challenges will they face? Here are some tips and suggestions for those about to take the plunge into roommate living!
1. Communicate early and with interest
The most essential aspect of “keeping the peace” is to show interest and open the lines of communication as quickly as possible. Talk to them. While this advice is obvious, it’s often not as easy as it sounds, especially when priority number one for most students is ensuring they’re not stepping on anyone's toes. With that being said, little problems lead to big problems the longer issues aren’t communicated.
In addition, on the flip side, having open communication often leads to an improved environment, where both parties are sensitive to the others’ needs and more likely to respect each other’s boundaries. At the end of the day, whether two roommates become best friends or not, this is the foundation for having a smooth transition to college, though I also recommend that students reach out to their prospective roommate BEFORE meeting them for the very first time. Not only should they exchange contact information, FaceTime, and set expectations in advance, but it’s the perfect opportunity for them to form a bond early, particularly when they’re going through the same process and stress together.
2. Recognize it’s ok not to be best friends
Not every roommate pair is a match made in heaven, but student’s need to realize that’s ok. They don’t have to be best friends with their roommates since it’s impossible to know their interests, values, pet-peeves, etc. Nonetheless, communication will ensure students don’t have those awkward encounters and/or surprises moving forward.
3. Exchange schedules and plan around them
An important part of keeping that communication open should be students exchanging their course schedules as well. One of the major challenges I remembered enduring during my time in college was finding the right time to study in my dorm room, and doing so in a way that wouldn’t interfere with my roommate’s schedule. Now, sometimes this is impossible. In my case, for example, my roommate and I always had classes on opposite days, which meant there were often times I would be trying to study when he would be trying to relax, watch TV, sleep, or play video games. Therefore, it is imperative that students sit down with their roommates, go over these details, and then reap the benefits of knowing exactly when and where their roommates will be without having to text or call. This will also help both parties plan their days a lot easier and avoid heated arguments and/or confrontations.
4. Find additional study areas around campus
Additionally, depending on both students' schedules, I suggest that all roommates in the dorm or household find different places around campus where they can study effectively without being distracted just for their own peace of mind. The library is always a popular option, but many colleges and universities have different study halls and allocated workspaces students can find.
5. Aim for a workable agreement on shared living standards
Finally, my last suggestion is for students to keep their residence clean and tidy, respect their roommates personal items, and have an open conversation about guests and/or parties so they are all on the same page. Setting those expectations in the beginning will go a long way towards all parties’ comfort level, and having everything on the table will make it easier to have trust and respect for the duration of their time together.
Take it from me as someone who became best friends with his roommates because we got a head start and bonded through the challenges we faced together: keep an open mind and do something fun together early! Having a new roommate can definitely be a scary proposition, but it will inevitably help you grow and mature as you learn how to live with others outside your comfort zone.
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