For most people, college is the first time you’ll have to share a living space with someone that isn’t family. Learning to live with others, to communicate, and share spaces is an important skill that will serve you well later in life. You’ve probably heard all kinds of stories about roommates: from tales of students meeting their life long friends to horror stories of mismatched personalities and explosive arguments. To help ease your transition into college living, here are our top tips for getting along with your roommate:
This is one of the most obvious, but also one of the most difficult. Try and be direct and open with your roommate about any problems that arise. When discussing potential or current issues, don’t accuse him or her or criticize his or her personality – it can make him or her feel personally attacked. Instead, phrase it as action/reaction. Explain how the actions he or she took affected you and why you reacted negatively. If you can’t bring yourself to address the issue face-to-face, maybe consider addressing things over text, where you can also edit your message to set the right tone.
2. Sign a roommate contract
Consider drawing up a roommate contract when you move in – you can ask your RA if you need a template. It should cover expected ‘quiet times’ for studying, cleaning responsibilities, rules for having guests over, and any other things you consider relevant. Even if you don’t want to draw up a formal contract, make sure you sit down with your roommate and openly discuss your expectations and preferences with regard to noise, cleanliness, and more.
3. Understand that you don’t need to be best friends
Your roommates are simply the people you live with. For that reason, it’s important to be on good terms with them and be able to discuss issues that arise, but you don’t need to be best buddies. You’ll meet plenty of people in college and make plenty of friends. Don’t feel bad if you aren’t besties with your roommates, for sometimes it’s MORE stressful living with close friends. If you’re thinking about living with your best friend, check out these pro’s and cons before making a decision.
4. Respect their space and belongings
Remember, it’s not just your space. The room belongs to your roommate just as much as it belongs to you. With this in mind, consider how it would feel if someone was constantly up in your business and messing with your personal possessions. Don’t use your roommate’s belongings without asking, and don’t act like the space is yours to do whatever you want with.
5. Keep it clean
It may not be the most fun thing to do, but you must take your fair share of responsibility for cleaning the room. Even if your roommate is neater, you should always clean up after yourself and keep the room generally tidy. It’ll make the room a better place to live, and you will avoid conflicts over dirty socks left lying on the floor. If it helps, make cleaning duties a part of the roommate contract or draw up a chore chart. That way, you set the expectations and everyone knows their responsibilities.
6. Don’t be noisy
Save your brand new subwoofer for when you host a party. Noise-cancelling headphones can be a great investment as they allow both you and your roommate to avoid hearing each other’s music or conversations when studying. Similarly, avoid loud activities when you know your roommate is trying to sleep or focus. If you really need to make some noise, you can always find somewhere else to go.
7. Lock the door
Safety is a concern for many, and when leaving your room, it’s important to lock your door. Unless your roommate is comfortable leaving the door unlocked, you are putting their possessions at risk if you leave without locking the door. Think about how awkward it would be breaking the news that their laptop was stolen just because you left for 20 minutes to get some coffee.
8. Get to know them before move-in day
Contact your roommate before you move in with them. You don’t have to tell them your life story, but telling them a little bit about yourself and organizing who’s bringing what for the room is helpful. If you live near each other, you could even meet up for coffee and get to know each other in a more relaxed environment. Things are going to get hectic at the start of the school year, so get a head start on those introductions!
9. Go to your RA for help
If there’s some conflict or issue that you can’t resolve with your roommate, go see your RA about it. Most of the time, your RA is trained in conflict mediation, and will be able to figure out a solution to ease the situation. If it’s a worst case scenario, and you feel that your roommate is threatening your safety or sanity, your RA can arrange for a suitable dorm switch.
10. Be thoughtful and empathetic
In the end, it all boils down to this: treat others the way you would like to be treated. If there’s something you would find annoying or that you would want them to ask you about first, then you should definitely do the same for them. If you’re worried something might upset them, then either don’t do it, or ask them first. Living with someone else can be stressful at first, but as long as you both respect each other and communicate, you will have a great experience!