College Dorm Survival Guide Pt. 2: Roommates

The transition into dorm life can be a difficult one for many college freshmen. Some simply are not accustomed to taking care of themselves and others go a little crazy without parental supervision. Most freshmen do just fine, but after the allure of being away from your parents wears off and the excitement of dorm life fades, you start to realize that you have an entire year to live in a small dorm room, in a hall full of strangers.

Fortunately they won’t be strangers for long, but that’s part of the lessons I hope to show you today. From how to live with a total stranger, to avoiding trouble with the RA and the police, I hope to help you navigate your dorm life successfully with a few tips and tricks from those of us who have been there and made those mistakes you’re hoping to avoid.

Roommates:

Chances are if you ask friends and family about their past roommates, you’ll start hearing some pretty interesting stories, from peeing in a hamper in the middle of the night to walking in on some unsightly interactions your roommate is having. So here’s the low down on how to have at least an agreeable, if not meaningful relationship with your new roommate.
The first thing you need to do is shake the notion that you are ‘just roommates.’ When you have roommates in a large house, it’s possible to avoid them if they annoy you, but in a 12’x10’ room, that is never going to happen. The fact of the matter is that you are basically dating this person, so you should treat your relationship with them as such.

Unfortunately, you didn’t have the opportunity to date around with other roommates before deciding which one to move in with, so having clear, open and honest communication is essential. Issues will arise over the year you spend with this person, so even if you never chat with your roomie socially, being able to discuss these issues is an important factor.

When you do sit down to discuss these issues, it’s important to keep in mind that if something they are doing annoys you, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to do it. Obviously there are exceptions to this, like the hamper incident, but the key is to compromise. If you want to get something from your roommate, chances are you’ll have to give something up. This may mean they only practice electric guitar with their headphones instead of the amp, or they give you advance notice of any ‘guests’ they might have over. It’s their room too, and although you may not agree with parts of their lifestyle, or some of their habits, they have a right to use the room as well.

If you’ve tried open communication and compromise and things are still going poorly, it’s probably time to get your RA involved. They may not be the therapist you wish you could find to fix your crazy roommate, but they can help mediate a compromise. They may even put everything in writing, having you both sign to show your commitment to working things out. This can be important if it comes to the point where you need to part ways since most colleges try to keep their dorms at capacity (making moves difficult). Having your attempt at resolution in writing lets them know you’re not just crying over spilt milk and you’ve tried to work things out.

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