It’s normal for incoming freshmen to be anxious about their roommates. We talk with residence hall directors Abby Bauer Finney from Woldt Hall and Luanne Goffnett from Barnes to get some tips on making the roommate relationship go smoothly.
Here are their tips:
- Don’t judge your roomie by their Facebook page.
“A lot of students, before they even meet, look their roommate up on Facebook and they start freaking out about the posts they see,” Finney says. “Maybe they see posts they don’t agree with. There’s a lot of judgment before they even meet each other. You’ll learn a lot more about your roommate when you meet in person.
“And even if they are quite different from you, that can be fine,” she says. “Sometimes roommates actually butt heads more if they’re too much alike
- Talk, talk, talk.
“Communicate with each other,” Finney says “ If you start early, it makes it easier the rest of the year.
“Go to the dining center together. Decide that Tuesday at 6 is roommate dinner night.”
- Lay some ground rules. The RA’s will help with that, using Roommate Agreements all will sign.
“How late you want to have friends over, when is lights out,” Finney says. “Bathroom cleaning schedule. It’s there in writing, so if a problem arises, the first thing the RA will do is pull out the roommate agreement and see what everybody agreed to.
“It’s a good tool,” she says. “Take that seriously.”
- “Speak up early about little things that bother you,” Finney says. “If you don’t say anything for weeks about hating hair in the sink, when you do say something, you’ll snap in anger. Say it kindly from the beginning, rather than waiting until you’re angry about it.”
If you don't know how to bring it up, you can always get some suggestions from your RA.
- Give your roommate a chance before assuming you have to move out.
“How well do you really know someone after three days?” Finney asks. Most problems can be worked out, she says. “We don't end up moving many people, but there are a few. And when it happens, we understand.”
- “The most important thing is to realize that every family and every person is different,” says Luanne Goffnett, hall director at Barnes since 1991. “Some students expect their roommates to be just like them, but of course they’re not. In my family, we talk problems out. Other families yell. Some just pretend problems don’t exist. Be ready for differences.”
- Don’t deal with issues through social media. “I can’t emphasize this enough,” Goffnett says. “Talk to your roommate face to face if you have a problem. Don’t post about it on Twitter or Facebook. The problem just builds and builds and a mole hill turns into a mountain. A little bit of real communication often clears it right up.”
- Prepare to change your sleep habits. “You might suddenly be sleeping with white noise or music or more light than you’re used to,” Goffnett says. “Headphones are key to roommate happiness. And you might want a sleep mask.”
- Don’t choose a roommate based on personality, but choose based on living habits, Luanne says. “You can always go visit your best friend down the hall,” she says. “If cleanliness is a major thing for you, live with someone who’s neat.”
- Problems? Talk to your roommate about it first,” Finney suggests. If that doesn't work, go to your RA.
Parents don’t typically get involved in roommate disputes, but parents are welcome to call the residence hall director.
“We’re happy to talk to parents, and give them advice on what they should tell their students,” Finney says, “but at the end of the day, we’re not solving the problem with the parent -- we’re solving it with the student.
“Feel free to tell your son or daughter that these problem solving skills are skills they’ll need their whole lives,” Finney says. “You can't go to your boss one day and say, ‘I don't like working with Joe -- you need to give me a different position.’”
“Don’t just blindly side with your child,” Goffnett adds. “Ask them what their role in the dispute is. How they might change their behavior.
- “You and your roommate don't have to be best friends,” Finney says. But you might be. “Your roommate can be that person who helps you through the hard stuff of life.”