Meeting a new roommate for the first time can be both exciting and intimidating – or just plain awful. You may be a perfect match or polar opposites. Either way, the close quarters, unique personalities, and different interests are bound to lead to conflict eventually.
But that conflict can generally be resolved … even before a lawyer has to get involved. In fact, it may even be avoided under the right circumstances. We asked a leading expert in all-things-college, Lance Millis (founder of CollegePrep-101) about his thoughts on subject. Lance shares this advice about adjusting to life with a new roommate.
Q: CAN YOU GIVE US AN EXAMPLE OF A COLLEGE ROOMMATE “HORROR STORY?”
I’ve heard plenty of horror stories – like two roommates, sitting alongside one another at their computers in their dorm room, firing off rude emails to one another about what they’re doing (or not doing) to bug each other. Or there’s the story about one roommate who was afraid of the other roommate’s pet snake who came home one day to find the snake curled up in the middle of the room on the floor. She was so startled, she beat the snake to death! The two were able to reconcile and stay roommates. The “scared one” even went on to become a Resident Assistant (RA), helping other students deal with their new roommates.
Too often I hear about one roommate letting the other run right over them without saying anything. Believe it or not, the other roomie may be honestly oblivious to just how bothersome their activities/habits are to others.
Q: WHAT SITUATIONS TEND TO LEAD TO CONFLICT FOR NEW ROOMMATES?
Mostly, students get wrapped up in their own world and don’t think about the effect they have on others. If both roommates agree to tell the other when something is bugging them, it will usually keep things from getting out of hand. Silence usually just breeds contempt.
We’re all imperfect, and the people who know us are somewhat used to how we do things. New roommates don’t necessarily already like us so they may be less ready to forgive our imperfections.
Specific problem areas include:
- Significant others’ visits to the room
- Amount and timing of studying in the room
- Borrowing items without permission
- Neatness (or lack thereof) in the room or with hygiene
- Money issues (generally for off-campus students who need to pay rent or bills)
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR TOP TIPS FOR ADJUSTING TO A NEW ROOMIE?
- Before getting mad at a roommate for something they’re doing, think about whether you’re doing anything that could bug them. Being self-aware and considerate of others can go a long way.
- Ask your roommate to tell you when something bugs them, and then don’t get mad when they do. Then be nice when you say something to them about it.
- Ask your roommate how they feel about borrowing each other’s things, and then respect their wishes.
- Do your best not to interfere with your roommate’s ability to study effectively and sleep. As long as you both get enough sleep and are able to study, most other stuff can be worked out fairly easily.
What’s your first-ever roommate story? How have you overcome conflicts in the past with college roommates?