We’ll be blunt – sharing your room with another person can be torture. There’s nothing quite like going from having your own sanctuary to having zero privacy 24/7. But, before you tear your roommate’s face off, here’s a few tips on how to turn a poor situation into a really positive experience.
The Roommate Agreement
When you sign your lease or your housing contract with the University’s housing department, you are signing an agreement that governs your behavior between you and University property. It does not (usually) create any type of legally binding agreements that oversees the relationship between you and your roommate – thats where the roommate agreement comes in.
While some schools already require roommates to sign such an agreement, a large amount of schools still leave that to students to do voluntarily. If your school is one of those that does not actually require such agreements, here’s a list of topics that you might consider putting in your agreement.
This one might sound like a no-brainer, but its important to set ground rules right off the bat about who gets what furniture, desks, beds, etc. Make sure that the arrangement and layout of the room makes sense in order to fit everyones needs. You will need to compromise here – this isn’t your room at home anymore.
Just because you think there is nothing wrong with having a different “special” friend over every night is okay doesn’t your roommate(s) is ok with it too. Set stricter preliminary expectations at first on how often guests are welcome to stay the night. This will give all of the roommates a chance to gauge just how much they can take. Also be sure to discuss whether this policy changes on the weekends or other nights of the week.
One of the most classic reasons that roommates don’t get along is because they don’t clean up after themselves. Use this section of the roommate agreement to not only commit to cleaning up after yourselves, but also set some general cleaning tasks that need to be completed once a week (or more often, depending on the situation). This ensures either that everyone is pitching in or that everyone has the chance to stop a bad habit before it gets worse.
Sometimes roommates get a little out of control and forget that their noisy binge drinking or late night re-runs are not more important than your time to sleep or study. Pull out your class schedules and sit down to discuss when the prime hours for studying and sleep are going to be so you can commit those to be times of silence. This should also be done every quarter as your schedules change.
Sharing Food / Supplies
Some roommates are really good about working together to buy food and supplies to cut down on costs. Others prefer to keep their own purchases to themselves and will ask their roommates to buy their own. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of these setups, its important to find out exactly which category you and your roommates fall into before you start to mooch.
Alcohol and other Substances
Very few dormitories in the United States are considered “wet”, signifying that alcohol can be stored and consumed. In fact, most schools have a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol in the halls.
Chances are good that if you are living in the dorms, you’re most likely not of age to drink. If you choose to consume or store alcohol or any other illegal substance in your room, it is important to run this past your roommates before you begin so you can all agree to have one definite stance or another on it. Most school’s policies will not only punish the roommate that actually owned/consumed the substance, but also any other roommates as well. While we want you have fun at school, be smart and know exactly what you’re getting yourself and your roommates into – and what the consequences could be
Equally important as the roommate agreement is communicating often with your roommates before you ever even meet in person. Speak with your housing department and see if you can get the contact information for your roommates if they haven’t given it to you already.
Talking before move-in not only gives you a chance to learn a little about your roommates, but also allows you to coordinate who’s bringing what so that you don’t all show up with the same thing with nowhere to put it. A perfect example is deciding who is going to bring a TV and who is not. Chances are if you live with more than one roommate and you all bring TV’s, there won’t be much room left for anything else. Take this opportunity to avoid conflict and arguments later by making these decisions now.
These are a few specific tips on how to maintain order in the dorm room, but most of it is really up to you and your roommates’ ability to communicate. Making sure that everyone is on the same page and comfortable with the arrangement is the most important thing. In any case where the roommates can’t agree on an issue or there is a breach of the roommate agreement, the floor or hall RA can be consulted to act as a mediator. He or she should only be called, however, when the roommates have tried and failed to come to an agreement on their own.
Best of luck and happy rooming!