Depending on how much you have started looking into the dorm life experience (if you are an incoming freshman), you have probably heard some horror stories about how people have terrible roommate experiences which made them never want to have another roommate again. Often times, these situations occur because roommates don't take the time to get to know each other and assume that they can be best friends right away and do everything together without problems. Being realistic (as I just finished my first year with roommates) you won't have a great experience if you don't get to learn about each other and understand how to live with each other.
It's also worth me taking time to clear up a huge misconception people have about roommates. You do not have to be best friends with your roommate. If you don't feel comfortable or think you can be the closest buddy to your roommate, that's okay! You just need to both be civil enough to live together for the school year, and respect each others boundaries. In this blog post, I share my top 6 top things to ask your new roommate to help make the transition period easier and to hopefully prevent you have having any tense or anger-inducing roommate conflicts occur due to poor communication. Who knows, maybe talking about some of these things can cause you both to become really close and hopefully lead to a great friendship during the year.
Ask about their sleeping habits
Sleep is important in college, so you want to be making sure that you are both respecting each others sleep times. Good things to talk about here would be can the TV or music be playing while someone is sleeping? Can the overhead lights be on, or can the person that is still awake use a less intrusive desk lamp? Can friends be over while the other is trying to sleep? What time do each of your prefer to go to bed and wake up each day? Taking time to ask some of these basic questions can ensure no one is going to bed or waking up angry due to a lack of proper sleep.
Ask about their study habits
Just like sleeping, the second important "s-word" is studying. Similar as above, ask if the TV or music can be on. Can friends be over for study groups? Ask about overall noise level policies you both want to establish. I did have some issues of where I would like to study with just jazz music quietly, but then my roommate would want to watch TV, so just be sure to get this differences squared away before the semester starts.
Discuss Pet Peeves
Often pet peeves do not get noticed until they are too late because someone accidentally did one of them. It may be weird to ask about these on the first day of you moving in, but the sooner you address them and compromise on them, the better off your potential friendship and living experience will be.
Policies on friends coming over
This one was touched on in the first few talking points, but it is really important to emphasize. Determine what times of the day can friends come over. Can they be over during study time or sleeping time? What kinds of head up needs to be given to the other person? What are your policies on friends spending the night in the dorm? Are these friends just limited to the roommate who invited them items, or can they use the other roommates stuff as well? Does the other roommate have the right to ask the guest to leave if they become too loud or disruptive? Be sure you are both clear on how you want to handle guest in the dorm room.
Policies on sharing items
Just because you are sharing a dorm room with someone does not mean you have to share everything with them. As soon as you move in, talk about what items (if any) you are okay with your roommate using with or without permission. Can they borrow school supplies from your desk? Can they use some of your sweaters? Be sure to establish your borrowing policies so both of you know what is off limits. Also, do not be offended if you roommate does not really want to share anything right away. Often times if you both become close friends and get a better bond, you will become more okay with sharing certain items.
Decide on the cleanliness State of your dorm
This was huge for me and my roommate because we were definitely on two different sides of the spectrum when it came to keeping our room clean. I was definitely a neat freak and she was okay with the dorm getting a little messy. If you find yourself in this situation, be sure to discuss a cleaning schedule and talk about what things are okay to be messy and what things you prefer to stay clean most of the time. This is your living space for the year, so you want to be sure that you are happy with the environment you are in every day.
Hopefully these will be good starting talking points for you and your roommate to establish boundaries and expectations you have in the dorm room. You are going to have to compromise. That's that. But, be sure that both of you are equally compromising if you come across a talking point that you disagree on. No one should be compromising more than the other. A final note, it is okay if your roommate situation does not work out. Some of my friends had to switch rooms during the semester due to the fact that their roommate wouldn't compromise or be respectful of their things. If this happens to you and you end up moving, don't feel like a bad person. You need to make sure you are surrounded by people who you feel safe living with and can focus on school in the space you are in. Most of my friends and I had good roommate experiences, so hopefully this can be you too and you can make some awesome first year dorm memories with your roomies!