While some college students may end up in a single room or commute from home, most first-year students who live on campus are going to end up paired with a roommate (or possibly grouped with two or three other people).
There are plenty of benefits to having roommates including some built-in friendships to combat the loneliness of living away from home for the first time. However, close quarters can make for some awkward or downright hostile moments.
Let’s look at some ways you can set yourself up for roommate success!
Before You Go: Getting a Good Roommate Match
While many colleges actually prefer that you don’t pick your own roommate, there are lifestyle issues that are going to make some matches better than others. Colleges know that roommate compatibility will make a huge impact on the day-to-day life of students, so they want to find a good fit.
The best thing you can do is answer any surveys from residential life early, thoroughly, and honestly. What kinds of things will they be looking for when they match you up?
• Sleeping Habits: Pairing a night owl with an early bird is bound to ruffle some feathers. Colleges often want to find roommates with similar sleeping habits to keep the peace.
• Cleaning Preferences: Neat freaks and slobs might make for good sitcom duos, but they’re rarely going to tolerate one another for long in a college dorm. Be sure to honestly assess your own preferences and needs when you answer questions about how clean you keep things. If you overstate your own tidying habits, you might end up with a roommate who is constantly nagging you to do more! If you understate your needs for cleanliness, you may end up resenting your messier roommate.
• Interests and Hobbies: Finding a roommate is not just about keeping harmony in the space. It’s hopefully also the start of a friendship and the chance to meet someone whose company you enjoy. Sharing about your hobbies and interests makes a great match more likely.
Chatting it Up: Connecting Before the Move
Most colleges now harness the power of social media to connect roommates long before you’ve packed your car and hit the road for school. Take advantage of this time to get to know one another before things have the chance to get awkward and contentious. Here are some questions you might want to ask (and answer) before you’re figuring out how to share your space:
• Have you ever shared a room before? If so, what kind of agreements did you have in place?
• How often do you plan to go home?
• What’s your schedule look like (class times, work, etc.)?
• What temperature do you like to keep your room?
• Do you like having visitors over?
Moving In: Setting the Ground Rules
It’s a lot easier to settle disputes when you’ve already agreed to some ground rules in advance. Being able to point back to an agreement you already made can go a lot further than trying to negotiate once there’s a problem. You won’t be able to predict every possible conflict, but sit down and have a conversation about the following common topics (and, while it might feel weird, write down your answers where you can both access them later).
Divide Up Chores
Whose responsibility will it be to do the chores around the room? How often will you sweep, mop, and dust? Will you take turns on every task or divide them up between you? Depending on the layout of your room and its amenities, you may also need to assign duties like cleaning the bathroom or doing dishes. Figure out how you’ll split them up before a dispute arises.
Are you each going to buy your own toilet paper and cleaning supplies, or can you share? What about snacks and drinks? What expectations do you have around shared property?
What’s a reasonable time for lights out and TV or music turned off? What are your weekend expectations? Are there days when guests aren’t welcome? How much advance notice do you want to give each other when you have a big test or project that will require some extra quiet time?
Planning for Disputes
No matter how well you get along and how carefully you plan, it’s very likely that a dispute will arise. Take some time to plan out how to handle them. Ask your roommate (and provide for yourself) the best way to communicate an issue. In person? In a text message? Make a plan for how you’ll negotiate so that you feel prepared to address issues as they arise rather than letting them pile up.
There’s a good chance your roommate will be a positive part of your college experience. They might even become a lifelong friend! Following these guidelines to get things started on the right foot will make for a better experience for everyone.