Keys to Living 'Happily
Ever After' in the College Dorm
A new year in college brings with it many stresses. One key area where there can be issues is dealing with roomates... After all, you may have experience dealing with brothers and sisters... but it's very different from a stranger with whom you must suddenly live.
(ARA) - Boxes are scattered all over the floor, contents spilling
out. The closet is packed with clothes, and the rest are hanging
on the bathroom shower rod. Stereos, televisions, CD storage boxes
and computers crowd desktops, dressers and even the beds. A futon
blocks open the door, also piled with boxes and clothes. Four college
freshmen survey the utter confusion, each thinking, "Now what do
The months of college preparation are over and it's finally moving
day! This fall, 75 percent of college freshmen will move into dorms,
the majority living with a roommate for the first time in their
lives. Strangers thrown together from different worlds, they need
to adjust to each other's quirks, habits and schedules without driving
each other crazy.
Adjusting to roommates and dorm life is easier when expectations
are realistic, explains Paul Bradley, dean of residence life at
Northwestern College in Saint Paul, Minn. "So many times we've seen
students come into the dorm believing their roommates will be their
friends for life, their best buddies. The roommates, on the other
hand, may see the room only as a place to sleep since they already
have a social network. Then it's a mess; there's hurt, confusion
While some colleges attempt to match roommates based on information
gathered on housing forms (majors, hobbies, regions of the country),
a match is never guaranteed. It's not unusual to end up with roommates
who are stiff and structured, social butterflies and nose-in-the-book
academics -- all in one room.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
A key to successful adjustment is communication, Bradley says. "Communication
is vital to any relationship, even roommates. They need to share
openly on such issues as cleanliness, visitation, music, study time
and lights out."
best to talk about issues early," says Joy Santee, a 2000 Northwestern
graduate who lived in residence halls for two years. "Agree on perimeters
and talk through issues before they become problems and get out
Resident hall assistants (RAs) sometimes provide opportunities for
roommates to meet with each other to discuss expectations and issues.
If not, Bradley advises, take the initiative and have an informal
meeting with your roommates.
Once perimeters are established, it may be necessary to make adjustments
as new issues arise. "We had a roommate who never did dishes, so
we sat down as a group and initiated a policy about doing dishes,"
Bradley says another key to successful communication is setting
up protocol for information exchange. "I suggest a message board
near the phone with a calendar that can be filled in with who's
going to be gone on weekends or overnights, when visitors are coming,
parties, work schedules. Be sure to write legibly all messages from
visitors and phone calls."
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