Living with a roommate can be a challenging experience. Most students entering college have never shared a room with another person before. In addition, a residence hall room might be smaller than the room you live in at home, minus the roommate!
Do not despair! A roommate relationship in college can be managed, and many result in close relationships that are sometimes maintained long after you have left the college experience. Building a positive roommate relationship takes work however, but it is better to put work into this relationship than endure the problems that arise when things do not go well with a roommate.
The key to a successful roommate relationship is honest and open communication: This should start from the moment you move into the residence halls, and continue throughout your entire roommate relationship. Rutgers Residence Life requires all students to complete roommate agreements. Your Resident Assistant/Apartment Assistant will coordinate this process with you.
When establishing an agreement on how you will live successfully together, think about the issues that are important to you, as well as the expectations that you have for a roommate. Some things to consider discussing are:
- Are you a morning person, who likes to go to bed early so you can get a quick start to your day, or someone who stays up late and eases into the day slowly?
- Do you intend to share personal belongings? If so, is everything in the room O.K for common use, or are some things off limits?
- How will you manage issues of overnight visitation? Do you have different feelings about same sex verses different sex visitation? How frequently will this be permitted, and are there guidelines that you can set with a roommate to make this situation manageable? Is this something that you are simply not comfortable with?
- Will there be set times for quiet in the room to permit study and sleep? When will those "quiet" times occur, and how will this be managed?
- How frequently should guests visit in the room, and are there "no visitation" times that could be set to guarantee periods of privacy in the room?
- How will you plan for cleaning of common space in the room/apartment?
- How do you want to arrange for your room and use of space.
- How are you going to manage problems with each other if they arise?
Honest open communication is critical to a successful roommate relationship. In addition to setting expectations for each other, you also need to live by the expectations that you set. As a college student, you will experience many different situations and through these experiences your initial expectations may change. If this is the case, then you may need to revisit your roommate agreement and set new expectations. You and your roommate may not always see things exactly the same (and that can be a good thing), but you should always work to be sensitive to each other’s needs. Being able to compromise and understand your roommate’s perspective will be important as you work to learn about each other and live together. Sensitivity, ongoing honest open communication, and the ability to listen and hear what your roommate is saying, along with compromise, will move you along the road to successful roommate relations.