In college, as in life, some things are unavoidable: tuition, essays, bad-for-you food…and roommates. Unless you live at home while going to school, from the time you enter the higher education world until you leave it (and probably beyond that), you will be coping with people in your personal space – sharing a bathroom, the kitchen and the TV. In the land of shared space, problems arise frequently – and if you never deal with them, they have the potential to ruin any relationship. Use these tips from experts and real college girls on getting along with your roommate – whether your roomie is a random assignment or your best friend.
What to Do From the Get-Go
A new school year (often) comes with a new living situation – if you’re a new freshman this might be your first time sharing your space with another person—not to mention sharing a bathroom with many more people—or you might be an upperclassman who has just moved off campus with friends into an apartment or house. Either way, it’s best to set up ground rules with your roommate(s) to ensure that everyone stays happy and you don’t end up like these HC girls!
If you’re living in the dorms, your RA may force you and your roommate to sign a contract concerning things from what to do during a disagreement to how to handle chores, boys in the room, and study/sleep schedules. If you live off campus and aren’t being encouraged to sign a roommate contract, a verbal discussion is a good idea.
Things that should be in any roommate contract (no matter your situation): whether you have times (such as right before a big test or past midnight on a school night) when you need quiet; your feelings about guys/boyfriends staying the night; and how to split chores evenly.
Living in the dorms can be especially tricky, however, because neither roommate has the ability to simply go into their own room for escape. Make sure you and your roommate clearly state your boundaries – for instance, if she needs quiet to study but you listen to background music, come up with compromises (you listen to your iPod rather than your stereo) in the beginning to deal with space concerns.
Living outside the dorms involves more than just cleanliness and proximity issues, however. “Sit down with your roommate(s) to set these boundaries from day one,” advises HC reader Emma Wallace, a student at Texas State University. “Decide who will do dishes on what days, grocery shopping guidelines (do you share or buy your own), and if there are boyfriends involved, make sure wires are never crossed with that. If you have the basics set in stone (with a little wiggle room), it's hard to mess it up.”
If you just moved in with a friend (or several), chances are you don’t think you need to bond; however, if you’re first-time roommates, it wouldn’t be a bad idea. Try having a roommate night (cook a joint meal and rent a movie, perhaps) – this could be a good time to discuss more serious topics, like how you aren’t okay with her plans to have her bf over every other night.
Kathryn Williams, author of Roomies: Sharing Your Home with Friends, Strangers, and Total Freaks, says, “If you're living with a stranger, I think it goes a long way to have an icebreaker outing with that person - lunch, coffee, a party, a movie in the commons room. It just starts things off on a friendly foot even if you have no intentions of hanging out with that person. He or she is probably just as nervous about living with a stranger as you are.”