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Matt Han / Gavel Media

Learning to Live With a Roommate

The much-anticipated start of college brings many changes in the lives of incoming students. Suddenly, incoming freshmen are eating every meal in the dining hall, experiencing newfound freedom, and taking difficult classes. On top of all of these changes, the majority of students are living with a roommate for the first time in their lives.

For some people, the potential for a live-in friend is cause to jump up and down with excitement. For others, the prospect of sharing a bedroom with a stranger is one of the more worrisome aspects of college life. No matter which category you fall into, it can be hard to know exactly what to expect when it comes to living with someone new.

To lessen the nerves that can come with these living arrangements, here is some advice from The Gavel on how to navigate life with a roommate.

Before school starts…

Don’t make snap judgments.

You know the age-old expression—don’t judge a stranger by their Instagram feed! Just because your roommate doesn’t have 900 Instagram followers or 300 likes on their Facebook profile picture doesn’t mean they aren’t a wonderful person. Social media “stalking” can be an inevitable byproduct of learning your roommate’s name before you meet them, but be careful not to jump to conclusions before you truly get to know them. Someone’s feed cannot give you a comprehensive sense of who they are; text, call, or FaceTime your new roommate, and be willing to learn about them on a deeper level.

Have realistic expectations.

While it is certainly possible that you’ll become best friends with your roommate, recognize that it’s also okay if you’re not perfect soulmates. A healthy roommate dynamic is based on mutual respect, not whether you both have the same hobbies or share a group of friends. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be open to friendship, but setting idealistic expectations for your relationship might result in a letdown. Similarly, don’t feel like something went wrong if you and your roommate don’t click perfectly once school starts—there are plenty of other opportunities to make friends.

Coordinate who’s bringing what.

On a more logistical note, the last thing you want is to arrive on move-in day and realize your room collectively has two microwaves and two mini-fridges. To avoid any confusion, discuss in advance what supplies you both want in the room and who should bring them. Consider the less obvious items as well, such as rugs and vacuums.

After arriving on campus…

Communication is key.

Set some general boundaries from the beginning. When is it okay to have friends over? Will you share food and drinks? It may seem like an awkward conversation to have so early on, but it can prevent potential conflict down the road. As the year progresses, be direct if your roommate does something that bothers you. Scribbling passive aggressive notes, shooting dirty glances, or talking behind their back will create a tense environment rather than resolving the issue.

Furthermore, be willing to compromise. You and your roommate’s lifestyles, habits, and schedules will inevitably differ. When this happens, it’s important to find a routine that works for both of you. Whether it’s your sleep patterns, cleaning practices, or social lives, acknowledge that you’re sharing space with another person, and you have to coexist there—hopefully happily—for the entire year.

Be intentional about meeting other people.

Having a roommate can make it a lot easier to navigate Welcome Week, the start of classes, social events, and other exciting but daunting firsts. If you and your roommate get along, definitely spend time together, explore campus, and talk about what you’re going through. But don’t forget to step out of what could become your comfort zone—whether that be your room, your hall, or your dorm building—to meet the hundreds of other freshmen you’re surrounded by.

If needed, find time to yourself.

You might be used to coming home from school and having some time to decompress by yourself, but this can be more difficult to find when you share a small living area with someone else. If you find yourself longing for some time alone with your thoughts, seek out an environment where you can do so. Go for a run, grab a cubicle in the library, or find some other place that can be yours for a little while.