Roommates can be one of the most exciting — and most stressful — parts of college. Sharing a space with someone you barely know (and even a good friend) can be challenging! Adjusting to another person’s schedule and preferences, especially if you’ve always had your own room, is oftentimes difficult, especially when trying to balance your college responsibilities.
With open communication and a willingness to compromise, you can have a great roommate experience even if you aren’t destined to become best friends. We’ve put together some tips to get started off on the right foot.
- Clarify expectations & set boundaries
From day one, be clear with each other about what matters to you. Maybe getting a full eight hours of sleep is your top priority, so it’s important that your roommate doesn’t come back at one in the morning and turn on all the lights. Maybe your roommate has a hard time with clutter, so keeping a clean space makes a big difference to him. Set boundaries about what you are and aren’t okay with so that no one feels blindsided down the road.
- Get to know each other
Take some time for a few bonding activities together at the beginning of the semester before your school workloads really pile on. It can help to see your roommate outside of your shared space to get a sense of who they really are. Grab a quick dinner, head to the gym, or meet up with a larger group of friends.
- Practice self-awareness
When something bothers you, take a minute to think about your own actions and how they might be perceived. We love to think we’re always right, but nobody’s perfect — chances are you annoy your roommate sometimes, too! Be self-aware of your own habits and flaws to make sure you’re not causing unnecessary conflict.
- Keep an open line of communication
Make sure you communicate with your roommate frequently. Most problems can be solved by being honest and upfront before they escalate into something bigger. The second something feels off, bring it up and be willing to listen to the other side. If you and your roommate both know you can be open with each other about any issues, you’ll create a comfortable environment where nothing is swept under the rug to fester.
- Don’t set unrealistic expectations
Movies and TV shows make it seem like your college roommate has to be your best friend. That’s not always how it works in the real world — and that’s okay! It’s much more important that you and your roommate can comfortably share the same space as opposed to being inseparable buddies. If you do feel like spending a ton of time together, that’s great, but don’t worry if you’re just co-existing. You’ll find plenty of friends in other parts of college.
- Bring in a mediator when necessary
If an issue seems too big to work through on your own, don’t hesitate to bring in a mediator or neutral person you both trust. (If you live at Pres House, for example, Ginger is available to help roommates communicate about how things are going.) Sometimes an external perspective can make all the difference! It helps to have someone not directly involved to objectively listen to what’s going on without taking sides or feeling emotional.
- Be willing to learn
At the end of the day, living with a roommate is a learning process: you’ll learn not only about each other but about yourself. Be open to the experience and willing to evaluate your own habits and attitudes. You and your roommate might not be best friends for life, but no matter what, you can both take something great away from the experience. What you learn can serve you well and be even more important down the road–if or when you decide you want to live with someone who is very important to you.