The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Last year was my first on a college campus and, consequently, my first with suitemates. This experience was particularly novel for me as an only child who never had to share a room outside of a two-week stint at a sleepaway camp in middle school. However, with time and the advice of my friends, family, and the Internet, I adapted to life in the dorms. If you are rooming with someone for the first time this semester – or even if you’re an upperclassman used to sharing space – here are some things to consider:
- To request or not to request
At most universities, students have the option to be randomly paired with a roommate or to request a roommate. The first step in the process is to determine which of these options is best for you… and they each have pros and cons. Requesting a roommate might make you feel more comfortable as you know what – or, more accurately, who – you’re going to get. You can confirm that the person is a good match for you and that you get along nicely, and there will be one fewer unknown on move-in day. At the same time, the algorithms used by most colleges to match roommates based on lifestyle preferences are effective. And it is more important to have a roommate you can live with than a best friend who shares a room with you; in fact, I’ve heard many people say that being close with your roommate can get tricky because you spend a great deal of time together – maybe too much – and if there is some sort of conflict in your friend group, that tension follows you home. Weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each option and make a thoughtful decision about how you wish to proceed.
2. Honesty is the best policy
Once you’ve found/been matched with a roommate, carve out time in your schedule to have a candid discussion about your habits, questions, and preferences. Some important things to cover are sleep schedules, shower times, study habits, allergies/medical concerns, alcohol/drug use, guest policies, and cleanliness. When discussing these and other topics, it is crucial that you are completely honest with your roommate. Believe me, I was a little embarrassed to own up to my 90-year-old woman’s sleep schedule of bedtime at 10:00 and wake up at 7:00, but I knew it was essential to be blunt with the people I’d be living with for an entire year. Now isn’t the time to modify, fib, or guess – giving your roommates a clear idea of how you live – and having an equally clear idea of how they live – will allow everyone to plan ahead, adapt as needed, and coexist. For those like myself who shy away from confrontations, it may also be useful to ask your roommates how they’d like to be approached with requests or constructive criticism. That way, you can be honest about your feelings without worrying that you’ll damage your relationship.
3. Packing list
A second part of your group discussion should focus on shared items. Will you have a common area that you’ll want to decorate together? Will you want to share a mini-fridge, microwave, or printer? Before arriving on campus, you should consider these things to have enough time to purchase the necessary supplies and products and split the cost among your group. If one of your roommates already has a needed item, they can bring it to campus for your use. In addition to the items already listed, consider cleaning and office supplies, tools, a television, and décor. You should also discuss how you will split the cost of these items.
Once you’ve arrived on campus and have met (and hopefully bonded with!) your roommates, it’s time to settle into an on-campus routine. When living together, your expectations may or may not translate into reality. And that’s completely okay. Most importantly, you respect your roommates and do your best to create a comfortable, safe living environment. When living with others, you will often need to compromise. However, respect goes both ways: it is important that your roommates respect you as well! On the first week of school, a great idea is to sit down with your roomies and talk about boundaries: what are you comfortable with, what are your requests, and – as I mentioned earlier – how will you plan to resolve any conflicts that may arise? Being on the same page will allow you to calmly and effectively communicate with your roommates when things are uncomfortable. And, if things escalate, your RA should be able to intervene.
5. It’s okay not to be besties
Hollywood leads us to believe that our roommates will become lifelong friends. Sometimes, that’s the case. And, sometimes, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Don’t beat yourself up if you and your roommate don’t routinely braid each other’s hair and share your deepest secrets. As long as you are able to coexist in the same space, you’re doing just fine.
Living with others isn’t always easy, but communicating clearly and fostering a respectful, shared environment will make your dorm experience much smoother and more enjoyable.