Roommates are a huge part of the college experience. Sometimes they are people you chose and were friends with before, but more often than not, they might be someone you’ve never met before – and that can be really nerve wracking! Living with a roommate can be challenging, but there are definitely some tips that can make your life a lot easier so that you can be a great roommate!
Set Ground Rules
Figure out quickly what is important to both of you. Is your roommate a super light sleeper and any noise bothers them? Are you planning to have your friend from out of town visit in a month? Does it bother your roommate when the room is super messy? All of these things are topics that you should discuss as soon as possible, preferably before the issue arises. Discuss your preferences as soon as you can.
Respect each other’s habits
If you are someone that likes to go to sleep at 1 am but your roommate goes to sleep at 10 pm, think about how to be a great roommate. Maybe this means that you go to the library to study instead of your dorm. Try to treat your roommate the way that you would want them to treat you!
Check-in with your roommate before bringing guests over
You might love having all of your friends hang out in your room together for multiple hours, or you might think your room is the absolute best place to have a study group. However, your roommate might prefer the room to be a quieter space because they might have a big exam they are studying for the next day. Figure out a way to check in with your roommate before bringing people back.
Learn each other’s schedules
Figuring out when each person is in class, or at a sports practice, or at a club meeting, can be extremely helpful for knowing whether you might have the room to yourself to study or whether you might need to be quiet coming in because your roommate might be in a meeting.
Communicate issues as soon as they arise using assertive communication
Maybe it bothers you that your roommate snoozes her alarm five times, or maybe you’ve noticed that your preferences for cleanliness in the room are entirely different. Whatever the issue may be, take time to discuss it with your roommate as soon as possible because it is highly possible your roommate has no idea that something is bothering you. Don’t spend time complaining to others or keeping your frustrations all bottled up. Most issues can be resolved quickly through open communication and through the use of assertive communication.
Assertive communication allows you to communicate your wants and needs in a way that is direct but still respectful to others. This is in contrast to communicating in a way that is more aggressive, passive, or passive-aggressive. Some strategies for being assertive include:
- Take time to figure out what is actually bothering you.
- Sarah has realized that it bothers her when her roommate snoozes her alarm 6 times before getting up on Thursdays, because that is the one day that she gets to sleep in.
- When speaking to your roommate, describe what you want from them and then explain how it makes you feel, using “I statements”.
- “Could you snooze your alarm just once in the morning? I often feel frustrated because it is hard for me to sleep when your alarm keeps going off”.
- Reinforce the situation and changes in behavior, such as by saying thank you again later in the day when you see your roommate.
- Appear confident in the interaction, taking into consideration your body language, tone, and eye contact.
- Be prepared to negotiate and for things to not go exactly as planned.
- Sarah might forget one day to turn off her alarms, or she might request that you make less noise at night since she goes to bed earlier. Being a roommate is all about compromising!
Note: If this communication isn’t successful, ask for help! The RA on your floor is here exactly for these kinds of issues and can help you out!
Don’t expect to be best friends right away, in fact, it’s okay if you aren’t!
We’ve all seen those movies or tv shows where someone is assigned a random roommate and the two characters become instant best friends. While that definitely can happen, it does not happen to everyone, especially because living in a small space with another person can be challenging. It is much more important to be able to get along with your roommate and live in a non-stressful environment, rather than being best friends. Spend time getting to know other people on your floor and in your classes. If you do end up close friends, then that’s a great bonus!
You might be exposed to new ideas and experiences from your roommate that you have never been exposed to. They might be from a different state or even country, might practice a different religion, or might have a completely different way of viewing the world! Try to stay open and flexible to these experiences. You might be surprised about what you learn and take away! College is the best time to try to step outside of your comfort zone.
If you follow all of these strategies, then you are more than likely on your way to being a great roommate! That being said, transitioning to college can be stressful and overwhelming, and it is common to want more help. If you find that you would like more support in managing the college transition, a new student at USF, Eckerd College, or The University of Tampa, or if you are a current college student struggling with a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety, please reach out to Dr. Hannah Gilfix, who has specialized training in working with college and graduate students.