I honestly don’t know how many first-year students this blog will be relevant to in 2020. Covid-19 has forced many students to Zoom from home verses zoom across the country to adult in a new way. Still, many students have chosen to head to their dream school, be assigned a random roommate, and start their college careers.
For those who are taking this adventure one facemask at a time, we want to help make your heroic effort worthwhile; one that will create a home you feel safe in and grow in relationship with others.
Tips for College Roommates
Here are some helpful tips on roommates I have learned over the years and through my conversation with students on campus.
Reach Out Before You Move In
Most colleges will provide you with your roommate’s information well before you move into the dorms. They do this is so you can start to get to know one another before you move in. Connect on social media (maybe ask them to friend you and vice versa). Talk on the phone, FaceTime, or Zoom with one another about family, friends, faith, hobbies, and even majors. Share fears and excitement about college with one another.
One fun way to get to know each other is to get on each other’s social media and explain what was happening in specific pictures to share different experiences you have each had in your life.
Remember, dorms are small. Communication about what you are bringing and what they are bringing into the dorm can be beneficial so you don’t have two of the same items. You don’t need two mini-fridges in a dorm. Talk about decorating style and possibly even coordinate a little. I’ve realized girls like to decorate and have strong opinions on what they want their room or apartment to look like, so negotiate on styles and come to some way of decorating together.
Everyone views college and living on their own differently. Some see it as a time to grow in virtue and relationship with others and God. Others see it as a time to throw away the rules and do whatever they want. This is why communicating your expectations and negotiating some rules is of the utmost importance.
Rules can include everything from cleaning to quiet hours, to sleepovers, to laundry. You will be amazed at all the little things you do that will drive your roommate crazy, and all the big stuff (or tiny things you make significant) your roommate will do that will cause you to confess the sin of gossip. So let’s try and straighten some things out before you make your bed.
Not everyone has OCD when it comes to keeping a room or apartment clean. I have had students hang out at the Catholic Center primarily because it is more sanitary than their dorm or apartment. With the fear of Covid-19 in the world, I think roommates will strive for a cleaner environment, regardless, set some expectations for keeping your home clean. Share the cost of cleaning supplies and set a schedule for simple tasks like taking out the trash.
An essential rule in any living situation is this: clean your dishes immediately after you eat! Your mess is your mess, not your roommates. I once had a roommate who left a greasy griddle on the counter for five days. I eventually washed it because ants were stuck in the grease (yuck!).
If you want another rule for when you share cooking responsibilities, this is a great one: if one person cooks, the other person cleans. Another thing to consider is that doing someone’s dishes is an act of charity, so instead of having a dirty dish create tension, wash the plate and pray for your roommate while cleaning it. It’s a great way to grow in the virtue of charity.
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Everyone has laundry, and most college students will let it pile up until the underwear drawer is empty. Back in 1897, an incredible invention that was created, and it’s called the Laundry Basket. Use it! Do not have piles of your clothes and your roommate’s lie everywhere.
When the nose tells you your clothes are ripe for washing, pay the extra quarters, grab your books, and have a study session at the laundromat.
One of the biggest complaints I hear about roommates is that they are too noisy that I can’t study in my room. Early on, at least during the week, communicate quiet hours where you can study. Most people are respectful about watching Netflix or Hulu on their computers with headphones, but if they are loud with friends over or just disrespectful, talk to them. Establishing quiet hours (aka headphone hours) is a great way to avoid conflict.
Discuss Alarm Clocks
One of the biggest complaints I hear from college students is that their roommate hits snooze multiple times, and they are the ones who keep waking! Little annoyances such as a snooze button can lead to big problems, especially if it goes unspoken. Class schedules will be different, and your roommate might need to get up at 8:30 am to throw on some clothes, brush your hair and teeth, and be in a class by 9:00 am. However, your class doesn’t start until 11:00 am. Unless you are a person who can sleep through anything, this might throw your schedule. Instead of becoming an issue, wake up at the same time, do your morning prayers while she gets ready, or even make her wake-up time part of your workout schedule or study time. The point is, communicate and don’t let a silly alarm cause tension in your living situation.
Whether you are talking about some girlfriends on a weeknight or a boyfriend regularly, sleepovers need to be discussed. If you don’t want sleepovers with friends during the week to study and sleep, say so. Concerning boyfriends or casual hookups, the last thing you want to be is exiled or “sexiled’ from your room. Do not assume your roommate has similar morals as you. If you are uncomfortable with men sleeping over, be strong enough to share your convictions. Your witness is a powerful reminder of your rootedness in Christ and His desire for your purity and dignity.
Not Always Going to Be Your BFF
I would say that it is rare that your BFF will be your freshman roommate. I mean, even Gilmore Girls showed us that knowing your roommate isn’t always an equation for besties. Rory knew Paris very well, and Paris told Rory, “I am not your mother or your hugger.” Most first-year roommate situations will be good, but they might not result in being best friends.
Roommates Present Opportunities for Growth in Holiness
Roommates during your college years will teach you a lot—possibly as much as your professors. They might have different political, religious, or cultural views that will help you grow and see the world through different eyes. They might bring you out of your shell or help you slow down and take the world in more. They will engrain in you a conviction of what is most important to you as an adult living in the world. They will teach you a lot about communication and the type of roommate you want to live with and be.
Roommates are the best and worst part of college life. When you live in a community that has not formed or raised you since childhood, it is one of the hardest things you will do in your adult life. Lean on adult mentors, resident advisory, priests, campus ministers, and other adults you value to help you through tough situations.
Most importantly, pray for your roommate and turn to God during the hard times. He is the best roommate you will ever ask for and will never leave a mess you have to clean up.
What advice would you give regarding college roommates?