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5 Discussions to Have with Your New College Roommate

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5 Discussions to Have with Your New College Roommate

For many new college students, living in a dorm will most likely be their first experience being away from home and living on their own. It’s probably also their first experience in dealing with a roommate. Because of this, complaints and conflicts are likely to occur as newbie students learn to work and live together in a small dorm room.

We’ve all seen movies about the college experience, ripe with parties and new, life-changing experiences. The reality is, living with roommates isn’t always one big love-fest. How you get along with your roommates impacts your entire college experience—be sure to have these five discussions before move-in day.

1. Get to know one another

A proper introduction sets the tone of the relationship, and breaking the ice early gives students a head start on addressing more pressing issues. So, once you get your roommate’s name and contact info, put it to good use by shooting him or her an e-mail or a Facebook friend request. Better yet, pick up the phone and call or send a quick text.

Don’t jump to conclusions while stalking your roommate on Facebook. It is just a way of getting that initial impression of the person and taking the ease off the nervousness. But actually spending time with and getting to know your roommate is your best bet.

USA Today College gives this scenario:

I’m not saying to exchange social security numbers, but it may be a good idea to have a general idea of who your roommate is before move in day. Especially if you are polar opposites.

For example, if Janice Ian is moving in with Elle Woods it would probably be favorable that she gives herself a few weeks to mentally prepare herself. Maybe try on a pink shirt (not buy it), use the word “like” every so often to get used to it, and maybe put Barbie Girl by Aqua in rotation in her favorite playlist.

When a pool is absolutely freezing sometimes it is easier to stick a toe in, then a knee, then your stomach and then jump in. So ask what type of music they are into, hobbies, etc., but keep an open mind if they answer makes you apprehensive. College is about expanding your horizons. High school is over… leave your cliquey mentality behind.

2. Who brings what

This is one of the most important questions to ask your roommate before you move in. You wouldn’t want to arrive on moving day to find out you and your roommate are now the proud owners of two microwaves and no mini fridge. Coordinate well in advance to make sure one of you isn’t stuck buying and bringing most of the big-ticket items like a fridge, microwave, TV, rug, or mirror, as well as double-check to make sure you won’t have duplicate furnishings.

This planning is important, as many dorms restrict the number of large items you can keep in one room. Keep in mind that space will also be limited in the dorm and don’t bring every item from your room at home.

3. Set ground rules

You should discuss each of your expectations about staying up and waking up, partying, having guests over, cleanliness and borrowing each other’s things. (These are the most common conflicts, but they might not be the only ones.) There is no better time than the present to voice your opinion or strike some compromises. It’s better than letting issues build up later, which can lead to heated arguments and uncomfortable passive-aggression.

If conflicts arise, decide to follow these steps toward resolution from University Parent:

  • Press the pause button
  • List the specific problems
  • More communication might help
  • Be willing to negotiate
  • Consider a roommate contract

4. Study/sleep habits

It’s also a good idea to discuss in detail how the two of you prefer to go about day-to-day activities. The dorm room you’re sharing will be your home for the next several months on campus. Clarify things like whether or not you need music or white noise to fall asleep to, whether or not noise and distractions are acceptable when studying or if quiet is preferred instead, and how comfortable the two of you are with overnight visitors on weeknights.

Don’t be afraid to be honest about how you prefer things, and set up the expectation that both of you will stick to what you’ve shared and agreed upon to set as room rules.

5. Identify personal and shared space

Talk with your roommate and decide what parts of the room are mutual space, and which are solely your own. Respect your roommate’s boundaries and personal space. Don’t use their supplies, eat their food, borrow clothing, or naturally assume that it’s acceptable. Ask first. This will aid in creating understanding about the environment in which both people want to live.

Before leaving for college, prepare yourself for roommate issues. And if you don’t think it will happen to you, think again. Read this post from USA Today College: 5 Types of Freshman Year Roommates: Which One Will You Get? It will happen at some point during your college experience.

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Written by Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer counsels parents and students in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation. Her Parents Countdown to College Coach blog offers timely college tips for parents and students, as well as providing parents with the resources necessary to help their college-bound teens navigate the college maze.

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