Living with a Roommate
Throughout June and July, incoming freshmen will receive what might be the most anticipated letter of the summer: housing assignments. This is the letter that tells you which residence hall you’ll be living in, and perhaps more importantly, who your roommate will be. Getting your roommate assignment can be exciting and probably a bit nerve-wracking at the same time.
You’ll be spending a lot of time with that person in a 16 x 20 dorm room for the next nine months, so a lot of thoughts are probably running through your head. Are they nice? Are they messy? Do they snore? These are just a few of the many questions you’re likely wondering about.
Ryan Colvin, Director of Residential Life at Carthage, suggests spending some time over the summer — by text, phone call, email, or facetime — getting to know your future roommate prior to arriving on campus in September. He offers the following tips on how to build and maintain a successful roommate relationship.
10 questions to ask your roommate over the summer
- What’s your life like? Where are you from? Who makes up your family? Do you have siblings? Pets?
- What are your hobbies? What do you like to do outside of school? What extracurricular activities did you participate in while in high school?
- What drives you? What are you passionate about?
- Do you have any ideas for our room? Who’s bringing the fridge? Should we bunk our beds?
- Why did you pick Carthage? What is your intended major?
- What are your goals after Carthage? What does your dream career look like?
- What are you most excited about for college? Anything you’re nervous about?
- How would you describe yourself to others?
- What do your daily habits look like? Are you more of a morning person or a night person? When do you have the most energy?
- What are some of your values? What are some personal goals you have?
Tips for having a successful roommate relationship
Get to know yourself first!
It’s important to know yourself and your habits. Are you a social butterfly? Are you more of a private person? How do you feel about sharing your clothes, food, etc.? Are you flexible? Are you willing to change some of the habits that you have? What values are important to you that you wouldn’t want to part with?
Get to know each other.
Getting to know your roommate. Talk about your likes and dislikes. This will be helpful when living in tight quarters with one another.
- How do you prefer to study when you’re in your room?
- How important is neatness and cleanliness to you? How often?
- How do you feel about borrowing items from one another?
- How do you feel about members of the opposite sex visiting?
- What time do you like to go to bed, and when do you like to wake up?
- What are your opinions and thoughts on drinking/drugs/smoking?
Set some boundaries.
- Once you’re moved in, it will be important to establish some ground rules with each other. You can talk about how often you will both clean the room, your views about having guests over, your study habits, etc.
- It’s important to be flexible and to have an open mind when having these conversations with your roommate because your views may change as the year progresses.
- Fill out your roommate contract together once you’ve moved in to help each other understand your likes and dislikes when it comes to living in your room.
Talk about your problems and communicate.
- Avoid gossip and making assumptions.
- Be direct when talking about issues, especially when covering serious subjects.
- Make eye contact.
- Watch body language.
- Use “I statements” instead of accusatory statements.
- When stating a problem or issue, offer a solution as well.
What to expect from your roommate(s)
You may not be best friends, and that’s OK.
Don’t set up the expectation that you and your roommate(s) will be best friends for life. It’s OK to make lifelong friendships with your college roommates, but it’s also OK just to share a room with them. Respecting each other and respecting each other’s space will help you build a good relationship. Using a roommate agreement (provided by your Resident Assistant) can help facilitate a conversation between you and your roommate(s) about what items can be shared, when you like to go to bed, when to have guests over, etc. It’s important to take time to have these conversations with your roommate(s) to promote healthy relationships with one another.
You may get into some disagreements, and that’s OK.
Conflict is normal in any relationship, including the one that you have with your roommate(s). Don’t be afraid of having conversations together if a conflict arises between you and your roommate(s). Remember, you can always go to your Resident Assistant, Senior Resident Assistant, and professional hall staff member for help and support. Read further below on some tips for working out conflicts with your roommate(s)!
You will have different experiences at Carthage College.
You and your roommate are two different people, which means that you two will experience all that college has to offer differently. You may get involved with different activities and make different friends while at Carthage and that’s OK. Having separate interests and spending some time away from each other can support and promote a healthy relationship between you and your roommate(s).
Tips for communicating/conflict resolution
- Make sure you have enough time to effectively discuss your issue(s) with your roommate. Find a time when the two of you can sit down together.
- Remember that you both have the right to be heard in your discussion.
- Pick a neutral space/location to talk to one another.
- Keep in mind when entering a discussion about a conflict, both parties will need to make a compromise.
- Understand the problem/issue from your perspective, and your roommate’s perspective. That will make coming to a compromise much easier.
- If you have more than one roommate, make sure you don’t team up with one roommate against another. It will be important for all of you to work your issues out together.
- Take into account any cultural traditions that could be adding to the problem. Keep an open mind when learning about these differences as it’s important to keep lines of communication open to keep relationships with your roommate comfortable.
- Be calm and patient when working with your roommate through an issue. If your discussion escalates to an argument, it may be a good idea to take a break and cool off before coming back together to finish your conversation.
- It may be helpful to take some time to think through your issues before talking through them. You and your roommate(s) will be able to have a better conversation after having time to reflect on the issue itself.
- Talk about actions that can change action, NOT an aspect of personality. Personal attacks make it harder to effectively communicate with one another.
- Set a future date to re-evaluate the situation. That will provide insight as to whether or not further steps are needed.
- If you feel that you need assistance or a third party involved with talking through any issue(s) with your roommate(s), you can request the assistance of your Resident Assistant (RA) to help facilitate a conversation.