The fall semester is around the corner, and many nervous college freshmen are anxiously waiting to take the next big step of moving away for college.Whether you’ve shared a room at home or will be sharing for the first time this upcoming fall semester, transitioning to living with a roommate is a big change that requires some adjusting of your daily routine, maturity, and ability to compromise.
What to expect if you’re rooming random
Moving away from home is a big step, and, most likely, you might be moving to a college with little to no friends or family close by. Every college has a “roommate matching” process, which is an automatic system that pairs you up with another student living in your dorm based on a questionnaire. This assigned roommate might be in your same year, and most schools will ask you about grade level, how late you stay up and how early you go to bed, your social activity (how likely you are to bring guests, if you’re thinking about pledging greek life, etc.), and your preferred room temperature (for dorms that have their own thermostat in each room). The system will then “consider” these factors during the matching process. However, you are not guaranteed to end up with someone who answered these questions the same as you. You also have the option to put a “roommate preference”, but, again, it’s not guaranteed you will end up with someone you prefer. However, there are ways to room random that will make for an okay living situation.
Having an assigned roommate is a learning experience. Be prepared to adjust to living with a completely different personality. The system may think that you two are compatible, but sometimes personalities will clash. When rooming with someone you have never met or know, it can be difficult to decide which issues are meant to be further addressed and which are not issues at all.
“I used the roommate finder [for my school] and met a girl,”22 year old Brittany Golden said. “We hung out a few times to make sure we were compatible.”
Some may not as lucky as Brittany, and there are a fair share of roommate horror stories out there. Don’t be afraid, not all random roommate situations turn out bad. One useful thing to know about rooming random is to try to understand the other person’s point of view. For example, if your roommate does something you consider unethical or rude, your roommate may not even see it as a problem. With that being said, if it really is a big issue, it’s important to let your roommate know in a way that it does not appear you are attacking her.
Establishing boundaries with a roommate
When sharing a room with someone else you’re bound to have some conflict because, even though you’re no longer with your parents, you are still living with someone else’s standards and boundaries. It’s important for you and your roommate to establish boundaries in order to avoid conflict in the future. For example, if you are absolutely not okay with friends staying the night in your room, it is important to let your roommate know instead of waiting for the day you come home to a stranger three feet from your bed. Yikes!
“We made list of things we liked and disliked,” Golden said. “We’re still friends today.”
When you establish boundaries you will also need to be ready to make compromises. For example, if you love staying up late and blasting your music, chances are you will need to turn it down. Not only will it annoy your roommate, unless you both like to do this, but in a dorm it will lead to noise complaints and be paid a not-so-lovely visit from your RA (Resident Assistant). The key to a successful living arrangement with anyone is communication, but there will be times when boundaries and compromise are not enough to avoid conflict.
Handling conflict with a roommate
Pick and choose your battles. Ask yourself: “Is the issue I’m having effecting the both of us or effecting me in a big way? Is it in compliance with housing policies?” These are important things to consider before confronting your roommate. While it’s important to be an adult and confront an issue, it’s also important to make sure the issue is really an issue before having heated discussions with your roommate.
Using the “It’s ‘we’ not ‘you’” statement can help resolve conflict. For example, if your roommate is leaving their laundry everywhere, saying something like: “It’s important that we respect each other and the room in compliance with housing policies and maintain its cleanliness and odor” sounds less defensive than saying “You’re a disgusting slob! Pick up your mess!” When phrased with a “we” attitude, it addresses that you have an issue, but in a way that the benefit of fixing the issue is not just for you, but for the both of you. Highlighting mutual benefits can be a great way to help your roommate see how something can be a problem.
Living with a roommate is a learning experience, but, in the end, you’ll find out more about yourself. You might even wind up becoming best friends with your new roomie!