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Roommates 101

The roommate experience doesn't have to be awful--just follow these tips.

Betsy Huang

April 21, 2009

Roommates 101

I heard all the roommate stories before I started college. The majority of them were about how awful roommates were and how it was impossible to get along. I had a major case of roommate phobia before I started college and I was convinced that I would get a psychopath for a roommate. To my surprise, my roommate and I became best friends and we decided to live together again this year.

I know it's rare that my roommate and I ended up best friends, but the truth is, everyone can learn to get along with their roommates. It doesn't require that the two of you become best friends, or even friends at all. You just need to practice common courtesy. Here are a few helpful tips and guidelines:

1. The first thing you and your roommate should do is to sit down and write a living contract together. List rules for the room that the both of you agree to follow. For example, quiet hours, telephone calls, borrowing each other's things, having friends sleep over, etc. Writing the contract together ensures that both of you understand what is agreed upon. Also, when one of you breaks one of the rules, there is written proof that the contract was violated, as opposed to the two of you arguing day in and day out about what the rules were in the first place.

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2. After the contract is written, try your best to follow it. When you break one of the rules, apologize and acknowledge that you broke a rule. Don't pretend it didn't happen or hope that your roommate didn't notice. They probably did, and they will get upset with you if you pretend it didn't happen. When your roommate breaks a rule, be forgiving, especially if you've broken a few. Don't hold grudges and keep tabs of when your roommate broke the rules and bring it up every time the two of you have a fight.

3. Be considerate. If you spilled something, clean it up. Wash the dishes after you use them. Don't take things without permission. If you see your roommate studying, even if it isn't quiet hours, turn down the volume. Being considerate is contagious and your roommate will do the same for you.

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4. Communicate with your roommate. If something is bothering you, don't expect your roommate to figure it out. Just tell him or her what it is and try to work something out. It is so easy to just stop speaking to each other when something goes wrong, but it won't get resolved that way. Communication is the key!

I know that there are some bad roommates out there and these guidelines won't help everyone. For those people, I recommend that you talk to your Resident Advisor as soon as possible and tell him/her your situation. Your RA's are paid to help you, so don't hesitate to go to them for support. They will let you know if it is possible to change rooms and/or roommates and what the proper procedure is.

Roommates are really nothing to be afraid of. They are people just like you. Chances are, even if you and your roommate are extremely different, you can still end up being friends. They are going to be a big part of your school experience, so make an effort to get along. And who knows? Maybe you will get lucky and you and your roommate will have a best friend for life-bridesmaid/ best man at your wedding-name your children after each other kind of relationship.

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This article originally appeared on Making It Count.

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