The following tips, originally posted at Student Awards Conversations, were contributed by students in our membership.
Q. What’s your opinion on having a random roommate in your first year? (posted by: AliceK109)
A. It really depends on your current living style. If you’re someone who has siblings and/or is used to sharing living spaces already, it’s not nearly as huge of a leap in comfort. If you’ve lived more or less on your own until now, it can take some adjusting but isn’t impossible. The biggest advice I can give after having several roommates myself is that you have to set up your ground rules from the beginning and keep open communication afterward.
When you set ground rules, it’s best to avoid things like dishes/cleaning schedules because once school gets busy those almost always get compromised/abandoned. It’s better to have an “if you made the mess, you clean it up” mentality. However, the biggest boundaries you have to set are not to do with cleaning, but your personal comfort levels with different situations. Don’t make the mistake of being too accommodating in this discussion, if you say you’re fine with situations (like visitors, noise, etc) the person will assume you’re telling the truth. It’s better to say that (for things like visitors or parties) you would like a heads-up beforehand to make sure you’re okay with it on a case-by-case scenario.
This allows both people to have a certain amount of personal freedom without the opportunity for things to get out of hand. I found that when I was living with four other roommates in my first year of university, we all had very different schedules, so finding time for us all to talk throughout the year was difficult. So we made the “check-in” wall, which was a section of the wall with a stack of post-it notes beside it so that we could leave various messages/requests for others to see at their convenience. It’s important to post up compliments/thank-you notes as well as requests so that it doesn’t turn into a passive-aggressive complaining wall. And above all else, you have to be willing to make compromises once you share a space. It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll get annoyed with each other or leave messes once in a while. The student life can be busy and hectic, it’s important to remember that your roommate has just as many assignments/tests as you do. As long as you remember to communicate about your needs and comfort levels, you should at very least be able to tolerate your roommate, and you may become friends! (posted by: Cerebrop)
Extremely important to sit down and layout expectations when you first meet! Also, with my roommates, (everyone’s different so might not work for you) I found that it helped to make up a schedule for cleaning. A lot of stress from living with others came from people not pulling their weight when it came to cleaning, taking out garbage, etc. (posted by: Joanne22)
My school provided us with a “roommate agreement” that we had the option of filling out. It had things like who took out the garbage, cleaned the floor and stuff like that. After the first week, my roommate and I decided that we got on really well and that we both did a really good job of cleaning, so this wasn’t necessary. I regretted this a few weeks later when school got more intense, and my roommate stopped cleaning up after herself. Set the standard early, because it is hard to go back on what was previously said. (posted by: herlein123)
When you meet them, it’s important to talk about your expectations, like if you want to have someone stay over… talk to your roommate to make sure they’re cool with that, especially if the person staying over is the opposite gender. Be respectful of their space but don’t be afraid to tell them they’re doing something that bugs you. You don’t have to be a jerk about it, but if you don’t tell them it bugs you, they have no idea, and it will keep happening. (posted by: tylerkading)
The most important thing is just to be considerate and respectful. Bonding activities are also really good. It’s always easier when you’re on the same wavelength and you can understand the person and their needs better and vice versa. (posted by: courtlimb)
Realize that you might not be best friends with your roommate. Don’t expect that you will like all of each others’ friends either. Make sure you both get some alone time and aren’t constantly together. Try to solve potential problems before they happen. For example, what time you want to go to sleep, how much partying you will allow in your room, who is going to buy cleaning supplies or other items and how these things will be shared. Speak up when something is bothering you but also when you appreciate something they have done. (posted by: danielleb)