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Residential Life

Living with a Roommate

Sometime around the middle of June, incoming freshmen begin checking the mail for 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 nervewracking at the same time.

Seventy-five percent of freshmen will be paired with a roommate they have never met before. 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.

Amber Krusza, 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. She 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 coming to visit?
  • How many hours of sleep do you like to get? 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, 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.
  • Listen.
  • 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):

Students walk through the Student UnionYou 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 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. Your and your roommate(s) will be able to have a better conversation after having time to reflect on the issue itself.
  • Talk about action’s that can change an 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.
  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2020), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • The Tower, Carthage’s newest residence hall, provides some of the best views on campus — if not in the Midwest! In addition to #carthageviews of the lake from seven stories up, residents enjoy suite-style living and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about all housing options.

    • You’re going to need brain fuel. Grab a morning coffee and a snack and Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Later, meet friends at “The Caf,” where the specials change daily but the staples are constant, or swing through “The Stu” for wings, a burrito, or a sub. A new option, Carthage Cash, even covers some off-campus meals.

    • More than 90% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit The Aspire Center.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. More than 90% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • Carthage has ranked as a top Fulbright producer for four of the past five years. Read about Carthage Fulbright winners.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our science center, student union, athletic and recreation center, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 15 years.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from archaeology to neuroscience, nursing to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our more than 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

    • More than 90 percent of students receive financial aid. Carthage awards more than $20 million in scholarship and grant assistance. That includes $5.5 million in competitive scholarships in business, mathematics, science, languages, the fine arts, leadership, and overall academic strength. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” recalls biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 35 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from $20,000 up to full tuition. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about the Carthage core.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 12:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 130 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Fencing to Frisbee, Chem Club to Stand Up Comedy. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked No. 3 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …

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