If you’re in or going to college, having a roommate is a near certainty. For those of you who grew up without siblings, this may even be your first time having to share a room. A solid relationship with your roommate can enhance the entire college experience, but a lousy one can put a damper on the whole year.
Whether you’ll be living with one roommate, or two — or more — here are some tips for successfully living in each other’s space:
1. Create a Roommate Agreement with Clear Expectations
Your RA might suggest something like this, especially for freshman. I encourage you to do it every year, no matter what.
Get together with your roommate(s) and create a written document that covers policies and procedures for roommate conduct. It might feel a little awkward writing it out and making it formal, but the process will help you have a conversation about your preferences.
Even if it feels awkward, it’s much better to talk about doing the dishes right away instead of waiting until that Friday night in October when the sink is full and you have friends coming over in 15 minutes.
Here are some topics you might want to cover in your roommate agreement:
- Washing dishes
- Laundry storage
- Having friends over
- Having members of the opposite sex over
- Media consumption (headphone use, quiet hours, etc.)
- Quiet hours
- Dispute procedure (when disagreements arise, how will you deal with them?)
- Chore sharing
- Room preferences (blinds closed/open, warmer or cooler, etc.)
At the end of creating your agreement, set a specific day and time about two weeks in the future to review the agreement and make any changes. Those two weeks should give you a chance to discover anything that didn’t come up in your initial conversation and which parts of the agreement need modifying.
2. Hang Out Now
This is particularly important for new roommate pairings, but even old pals can benefit from time together after a long summer break.
Make time to hang out with your roommate now before you both get busy with school work, clubs, hobbies, relationships, etc. The year will be much more pleasant if you and your roommate(s) are friends, and friendships are built through shared experiences.
Here are a few ways to spend time with your roommate(s):
- Eat meals together (at the dining hall/your apartment and in town)
- Hangout together with hallmates
- Go see a movie
- Attend campus events together (especially the fun start-of-the-year events)
- Study together
- Invite them to hang out with your group of friends (I cannot stress this one enough!)
3. Commit to Communicate
Try not to assume anything. Even if you’ve created a comprehensive roommate agreement (see tip no. 1), people always appreciate a heads-up.
Having some buddies over to play Mario Kart all Friday night? Double check with your roommate that they’re cool with it, and invite him to join you.
Want to watch a movie? Double check that they weren’t planning on having folks over to watch the game.
Cooking dinner for your girlfriend on Saturday night? Ask if that’s cool or if he already had plans to have a game night.
4. Be Charitable
From the beginning of the year in August through finals week in May, there will be times when you won’t see eye-to-eye with you roommate(s). They will have different perspectives on some issues. Something you care about might not matter to them, and vice versa. Some things are worth sticking up for, and others aren’t. Do your best to differentiate the two. Figure out what’s a preference and what is essential for you to thrive, and be willing to bend on your preferences.
Follow these tips and keep a general attitude of charity, and you’ll be on your way to a better year at school.