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Getting Along: Tips for Freshmen Roommates

Freshman rooming situations can be a nightmare. My midwestern roomie got falling-down drunk every Thursday through Sunday night, while the Louisiana boy who shared a bunk bed with me made frequent ceremonial offerings to a legendary bayou voodoo queen. I realized within days that we were not going to be lifelong best friends. My goal was survival.

Getting great freshman roommates is more a matter of luck than the result of a college's sophisticated match-up process. While your entering freshman has no control over her lottery-like roommate pairing, she does have the power to create successful roommate relationships. Here are some tips for your child:

  • Don't be disappointed if you and your roommate are not going to be best friends. Casual, mutually respectful relationships can provide you with a satisfying, secure "home base" as you navigate the foreign waters of college life. Let these relationships develop naturally, without expecting that you and your roommate will always be doing things together.

  • Establish house rules. As soon as possible, get together over a meal to create a plan for peaceful, responsible coexistence. Now is the time to let your roomie know your sleeping habits (are you a morning or a night person?), your noise-tolerance capacity (Green Day cranked to maximum volume will melt your skin), your feelings about people borrowing your things without asking (no one uses your toothbrush — ever) and whether you're a slob or a neat freak (is a picked-up but dirty room okay with you?).

  • Create roommate rituals. Give yourselves a chance to get to know each other better by establishing regular roommate get-togethers: going out for a sandwich once a week, taking in a movie once a month, watching a favorite TV show, and celebrating each other's birthdays.

  • Displays of common courtesy and empathy are the basis of successful roommate relationships. Make sure to take down and communicate your roommate's phone messages. Be sensitive to how your roommate feels about girlfriends or boyfriends staying overnight. Offer some encouraging and supportive words when roommates are anxious about their first big test or term paper.

  • Sometimes roommate situations become unbearable, even if you've tried hard to make it work. Your room must be a place where you can find relative peace and harmony. Toughing it out in an unhealthy roommate environment will adversely affect all aspects of your freshman life. Ask your college's student housing and/or counseling office to help you find a better arrangement.

Read Carleton Kendrick's bio.

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