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Room-mating 101- Tips for Rooming With Someone for the First Time

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TCNJ chapter.

Last school year, I had the pleasure of rooming with none other than myself. This experience was many things, but it was my very first introduction to living on campus as an official college freshman. However, after living in a single on a floor filled with only doubles, I decided that next school year, I was going to live in a double and experience the room-mating life. I know, it’s weird to go from living in a single to living in a double. You’d expect to go from a double as a freshman then as an upperclassmen finishing in a single, but I figured I’d shake things up. I applied for a double, got assigned a roommate, and began my school year as a sophomore living in a double room. I was ecstatic. I was curious. I was ready. But it turns out I wasn’t ready enough.

Throughout my time living in a double room, I have some regrets and things I wish I could change, but unfortunately, there is no such thing as a time machine. I figured if I couldn’t rewrite these mistakes, I would help others to not make the same mistakes as me. I also wanted to pass along some advice that I did, which helped my relationship with my roommate and coming to terms with living in a double room. Living with a complete stranger for the very first time is very nerve-wracking and scary, but I hope I’m able to pass along some tips that will help to soften some of those nerves.

Tip #1- Talk Before You start rooming

One of the things that helped me to get to know my roommate better was by speaking with her before we actually started rooming together. At the end of my second semester as a freshman, my roommate reached out to me, and we started talking. We talked about what we wanted our room to look like, what stuff to bring, which bed we wanted, how our semesters went, and many other things. This was a great way to introduce yourself without having to wait until next semester to see each other. I’d definitely recommend doing this, and you can talk about a whole variety of things. It’s a great way to introduce yourselves and feel each other out. The beginning of the next semester, my roommate and I met up and had a proper face to face introduction. I felt that I knew her because of the interactions we had over the phone. 

Tip #2- Create a plan and SCHEDULE

This is something I wish I took more seriously. It’s extremely important to create a plan and schedule with your roommate for how to take care of your room. At TCNJ, we have to fill out a room pact form where we put down how we’re going to clean our room, who is responsible for doing something, how we’d handle an argument, how we’d handle having others in our room, etc. When my roommate and I were completing this form, we did it in a pretty nonchalant way, where we didn’t really specify any specific rules or agreements. We just kind of put whatever and didn’t set schedules. Now I see how much of a mistake that was. It’s important to set cleaning schedules, so you know who is going to do what and on what day or time. You shouldn’t really say that you’ll do it whenever because it’s just not going to be done. Take this part of the roommate experience seriously, so there’s no confusion or messes overflowing because no one was supposed to take care of it. As important as it is to nurture your relationship with your roommate, it’s as important to nurture your room too.

Tip #3- Invite your roommate to go places

This is something I wish I did more. Please, please, PLEASE keep up with your roommate and do as much as you can with them. Even if it’s walking to the library or going to grab lunch at the cafeteria. Invite them to go anywhere and nurture your relationship with them. I did this in the first semester, where I invited my roommate to go buy some dinner at a late night cafeteria. We were able to talk with each other and do something we haven’t done before. It was nice talking to her, and I thought our relationship would only go up from there, but that wasn’t the case. I tried to invite her to do other things on campus, but there just weren’t as many opportunities. When I had my meeting with my resident advisor, she asked if my roommate and I did things together. I was so taken aback by this question because the truth is we don’t really do anything with each other outside of our room. I highly recommend not giving up and keep on inviting them to go places.

Tip #4- Understand your roommate

Now this is something a lot of us don’t always have the patience or willingness to do. Sometimes we get roommates that are the complete opposite from us or are just not the people we want to associate ourselves with. In my case, my roommate is neither a bad person or the complete opposite from me. We’re just both introverted in our own right. I don’t want to speak for her, but for me, I’m not the most chatty person. I like my alone time after being outside for so long. When I return to my room, I don’t always feel like interacting, and since I’ve become so used to being on my own, I tend to forget that that’s not how room-mating works. I know sometimes we just know that our relationship with our roommate just won’t grow, so we just kind of co-exists in a room together, but even if you are going to go down that route, try to understand them. See why they’re acting this way or why they are the way that they are. Don’t judge them too hard because they have many layers to who they are and their personality. For me, it’s hard transitioning from being in a single to being in a double with a stranger, plus adding on being a complete introvert and socially awkward. I often feel bad because I feel that we could’ve done more to nurture our relationship. Just do your best with getting to know your roommate and not give up, but if you feel it’s not worth it, then do what you feel is best. 

Tip #5- Don’t pick randomly when you have a choice

This is for the room picking process. Please make sure to do research on the places you will live and don’t choose a random residence hall. I chose a random residence hall, and though it’s not too bad, there were other better halls that I could’ve chosen. If you have a choice, don’t be like me and waste this opportunity. You will be living here for the rest of your school year, so do your research on all the amenities, ask people about the different halls, and choose the one you feel is the best. Also, make sure to keep a list of the residence halls you would want to live in. Have a top five list just in case your number 1 doesn’t have any space. Be early when your time slot to choose a residence hall approaches, and when you see you got a roommate, reach out. 

Room-mating for the first time is scary, but if you take the time to get to know your roommate and take care of your room, you should be fine. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or talk to someone. Don’t keep it bottled in and risk ruining your relationship with your roommate because then you’ll have a long and awkward relationship with someone you’ll be seeing every day. I made many mistakes and have had many successes with this whole room-mating process, but I hope you were able to learn something or see something in a different light.        

Maya McKelvey is currently a college student at The College of New Jersey where she studies Communication Studies and Professional Writing. Maya spends her time writing poems, short stories, scripts, and song lyrics. Maya also is well versed in dance which she has been doing for over 7 years. Maya is an open-minded person who believes in taking risks and chances. Maya is currently the Academic, Career, and Campus editor for The College of New Jersey's Her Campus chapter. Follow her if you'd like on snapchat and Instagram @y8awesome.