How to Prepare for a College Roommate

I remember the excitement of waiting for my housing assignment letter when I was an incoming first-year student. I would run to the mailbox every day to see if my letter had arrived. That letter would contain information on where I would be living for the next ten months of my life along with the name of my new BFF that would someday serve as my maid of honor in my wedding. My expectations needless to say were pretty high for my new roommate. When the letter finally came I tore open the letter and skipped to the part that had the name of my new roommate. There it was, right in front of me, the name and contact information of my new roommate. I remember standing there staring at the letter and thinking, "okay, now what do I do?"

Things have changed with time and now housing assignments generally come to a student's email and the first thing they do is checkout their new roommate on social media sites to learn more about them. What do they look like? What kind of music do they listen to? What activities do they enjoy?  Be careful with this and not too quick to judge a person by their social media posts.  Also, take a moment to look at your own accounts and see what your new roommate might be seeing about you.   

Initial Communication

Reaching out to your roommate can happen in a number of ways. Some students will instant message their new roommate, request to follow them on a social media site, or send them an email. Expect the first conversations to be introductions of each other. Conversations will quickly switch to who is going to bring the fridge and who is going to bring a futon. What is important here is working to make an offline connection. It is normal for those first outreaches to be electronic, but where the relationship can develop and conversations about expectations can be had is when communication is clear and direct.    

Anticipating the Change

One of the most helpful things in developing a new roommate relationship is an open conversation and understanding that this will be a big transition and learning experience. For the majority of incoming college students, this will be the first time they have had to share a living space with another person long term. By owning that this going to be a transition can help acknowledge that there will be some challenges along the way, but that both parties are willing to work together to make it a good experience.

An On-Going Process

The first two weeks of a roommate relationship can be seen as the honeymoon stage. Where everyone is putting their best foot forward and making their bed every day or all of the dirty laundry is making it into the hamper. After that first two weeks we generally begin to live as we actually are, so that bed might not be made every day. It is important to continue discussion with each other on rooming expectations because those expectations can change and develop over time. The roommate relationship in ongoing and communication about living expectations is not a one and done conversation, but a process.  

If you do have some bumps in the road remember there are many people that can help you and your roommate navigate the new relationship.  Seek out your resident assistant (RA) or the professional hall director in your building. These resources can be very helpful in helping roommates establish healthy patterns of communication.  

For all of the new college students around the county excitedly awaiting your new housing assignment letters to arrive, best of luck on your new journey!