Roommate Survival Guide By Lin Lawson, Student Service Counselor
Living in a dorm can be one of the greatest experiences during your college career or one of the WORST! During this workshop, you’ll learn tips to improving communication with your roommates to create a comfortable living environment. This workshop will give you tips on the following: • How to make a Roommate Contract • How to mediate Roommate Conflicts
ROOMMATE CONTRACTS • One of the smartest things new roommates can do to minimize conflict is to write a roommate contract. • This allows each roommate to articulate their expectations of each other and to negotiate points that might lead to problems. • All roommates should schedule a time AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SEMESTER to sit down, discuss the components of the contract, and sign it. Below are a few components that you should remember in your contracts: • Noise • Cleanliness • Visitors • “Your” stuff
Noise • Having a comfortable and reasonably quiet room is essential to enjoying your living space and getting your studying done. When discussing noise with your roommates think about the following: • Quiet Hours: Set quiet hours for each day when you know you’ll have time to quietly study. This may mean no music or TV during these hours, but decide this with your roommates. • Bed Times: Discuss when each roommate has class and when they plan to go to bed. • Music: Some students like to study while listening to music while others need complete quiet. Discuss headphone usage etc and add this to your contract.
Cleanliness • Not everyone keeps their room the exact same way. Some people are able to live with a little mess, while some need their room to be pristine. Discuss with your roommates how bedrooms, common areas, and bathrooms will be kept clean. • Here are some tips: • Make a schedule for cleaning and what should be cleaned • Figure out what should and shouldn’t be left out in common areas, such as food and personal items
Visitors • In college, you’ll hopefully meet a lot of new friends. You’ll want to hang out with these friends on campus and in your dorm room. It’s important to speak with your roommates about how to deal with visitors. Below are a few questions to kick start the conversation: • How many times a week can you have visitors? • When can people visit? • How will roommates be notified about visitors? • How much time is necessary to notify your roommates of a visitor? • Are overnight visitors allowed? • Are visitors of the opposite sex allowed?
“Your” Stuff This item is extremely important for your roommate contract. In the beginning of the semester everyone is polite, but as soon as “your stuff” starts going missing, all gloves come off. Discuss with your roommates how you will or WON’T be sharing your personal items. Can you share clothes or shoes with your roommate? If so, should you ask first before you take? Can you share food with your roommate? If not, how will you make sure to separate your items?
In case of conflict…. • Don’t be passive aggressive – leaving notes around your room will only make problems worse. • Don’t attack your roommate – Set a time to speak with them about an issue when you are not as upset and can make progress • Getting revenge is never the answer– this creates a cycle and a bad living environment
Rule #1: Be true to Yourself and Your Roommate When you first meet your roommate, be yourself, so that they get to know the real you from the beginning of the relationship. Try to get to know your roommate, don’t brush them off based on their appearance, you will never get to know what they are all about if you don’t try.
Rule # 2: Speak up. Get to know your roommate. Even if you're not great friends, you'll be able to get along better if you understand each other. Discuss what you expect from each other. Don't be afraid to tell your roommate if his/her actions bother you. Let each other know when important events (tests, papers, games, etc.) are coming up.
You shouldn't be afraid to discuss things with your roommate, but you'll probably be better off if you don't tell your roommate about all of her little annoying habits. Think long term. You're going to have to live with your roommate for an entire school year, so don't nit-pick or judge her on how she acts the first week of school It takes people a while to adjust to college life and living with a stranger, so give your roommate the benefit of the doubt before criticizing his/her actions. Rule # 3: Silence is NOT Golden
Decide how you're going to handle financial obligations (e.g. phone bill, groceries) ahead of time so there won't be any misunderstandings when it's time to pay. You should also discuss whether borrowing or using each other's property (e.g. stereo, clothes, toiletries, etc.) is cool. Establishing boundaries is fine as long as both roommates are aware of them. Rule # 4: Plan ahead
Rule # 5: Establish company policy • Decide whether it's acceptable to bring a boyfriend/girlfriend back to the room. Figure out how the roommate entertaining a guest will let the other roommate know when he/she has company.
Rule # 6: Do unto others... Whether you like your roommate or not, treat him with the consideration that you'd like to be treated with. Set an example and with any luck your roommate will catch on.
You don't have to subvert your personality to get along with another person, but be prepared to compromise. If you're naturally a slob, you should learn to be neat to the extent that you don't encroach on your roommate's space. If you're a neat freak, remember that your roommate may not be as offended by mess as you are. Rule # 7: Give a little.
Rule # 8: Don't Stress • Most roommates naturally figure out how to get along even if they don't become best friends. In the unlikely event that you find yourself in a living situation that's unbearable, you should meet with your RA to discuss a new way to approach your roommate or other options.
Ways to resolve arguments • Talk it out • Don’t bring out a laundry list • Review ground rules again and make necessary changes. Hang it in a common area for review • Find alternatives or options that work for everyone • Set up a meeting with your RA to help
Food for Thought! How far can conflicts escalate? Is it worth it? Maryland police charged a college student recently in the stabbing death of her roommate over an IPod.