College roommates—unless you’re one of the “lucky ones” who gets a single room, everyone has them sooner or later. Throughout the years that you spend living with others, the two of you are bound to make a lot of memories together, both good and bad. And though sometimes it may seem like the bad outweigh the good, especially when you’re angry with them, there are a few surefire signs that indicate whether or not you found yourself a good roommate.
So, if any of these four characteristics describes the relationship that you and your roomie have, then you’re in the clear; even if you two are mad at each other now, or even if you have seriously contradictory philosophies about life, you’ll be able to make it as long as your relationship has these qualities.
1. You Get Along
Seems simple, right? The basic component of a good roommate is getting along. You don’t have to be best friends, but a friendly relationship is always important. Most times, over the span of the first few days, especially freshman year, you cling to our roommates, as the rigor of the transition from high school to college creates a mutual “we’re in this together” bond.
But, college is much longer than those first couple of new weeks, and the shared experience of going to college together won’t be enough to keep you together for the entire semester. Instead, this relationship attribute has more to do with your tact than your personal preferences. Simple courtesies, such as being polite, asking about your roomie’s day and being quiet when they’re sleeping, go a long way in conveying the message that you want to do right by them. By expressing a desire to get along, you communicate to your roommate that you’re willing to put in a small bit of work if it means having, in the aggregate, a less dramatic home situation.
College is likely the first time you’ve lived with someone outside of your family, which means that your first roommate experience is teaching you how to live, intimately, with another human being, something that you likely haven’t done before. When you were in high school, your parents were tasked with taking care of you, but you had little responsibility for their well-being or for treating them graciously; it’s a very selfish four years, something you’ll realize more as college goes on. But, now that you’re living with another human, you can’t be all about yourself; you have to make intentional, sometimes painful efforts to accommodate their way of life, their moods and their life challenges. If you’re prepared to be a little more selfless than you had to be in high school, you’ll be a great roomate.
2. Your Communication Is Strong
Ever hear the saying “Communication is key”? That annoying platitude will come in handy in college, because communication is definitely important when living with someone. You might think that a quiet roommate is a good roommate, but that’s not always the case. When you’re trying to finish a book, take a nap or study, yes, having a meek roomie is amazing; but, what about when you want to have a conversation?
It’s important to remember that just as you’re learning to live with someone for the first time, so is your roommate. Sometimes, they might need a little encouraging when it comes to conversation. So, instead of waiting for them to ask about your day and brooding when they don’t, start the conversation. Ask about their classes, their family and their social life. At the same time, though, be sensitive to how they respond. It may just so happen that your roommate is naturally kittenish, or that they have conversational boundaries that they don’t want crossed. Both of those are fine. But, unless you start that conversation, you’ll never know whether your roommate is a potential best friend or just someone you share a dorm with.
Plus, communication is critical when it comes to setting boundaries and standards. Just as you want to accommodate your roommate, so too should they be willing to respect your reasonable requests. For both of you though, the first step to respecting your roommate’s wishes is vocalizing your own. If something makes you uncomfortable, speak up, even if it’s a tiny issue that you think might be inconsequential. You’re going to be living with this person for months, so make sure to voice your domestic concerns in a calm, polite way, and be prepared for the result of such a conversation to be a compromise, not an all-out victory. Half-wins are better than full losses when you’re sharing a room.
3. You Have Similar Interests
Similar to the saying about communication, there’s one about interests too. Everyone’s heard the phrase “opposites attract,” and though the mantra can be true in some situations, it’s false here. Your differences may seem cool in the beginning, especially in that they can teach you new things and you two can develop new interests, but such an exchange doesn’t always mean you’ll both like the other’s hobbies. Let’s be honest, there’s not a lot to talk about with opposites after a while. Besides the polite “How was your day?” greeting, the chit-chat quickly diminishes.
Isn’t it better to have something in common to obsess over together? Whether the similarity is a band, movie, TV show or even a class, it’s nice to have something. My favorite memory with my roommate is watching our favorite shows together. We’d break out the pico de gallo and chips, huddle around the TV and watch the latest episode of “Quantico.” The ritual made Sunday nights a bit less dreadful before Monday came and the week began.
4. You Have Fun Together
Nothing is amusing and enjoyable without some fun, especially in college. Stressful days turn into stressful weeks and then months. A supportive and fun roommate can definitely relieve some of that stress. My roommate and I would leave encouraging Post-It notes on each other’s doors whenever one of us left for the weekend or had something major going on. Sometimes when we were super stressed about an exam or paper, the other would come back with a coffee or cookie.
Those little things are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Along with little gifts, we took a break from classes by decorating our rooms and common area for holidays, always creating an entertaining environment. The little things like that always made me laugh, even for a second, on those terrible days. So, finding activities that you both enjoy is paramount, and you should make efforts in the first few weeks to find out what you two can do together and have fun. It’s one thing to have a shared interest, like hip hop or Wes Anderson movies, but you need to find an activity that you can actually do. If you find that, and you both have fun doing it, you’ll always have a stress-relieving activity that you can share with someone you like, and that tiny consolation can be really helpful somedays.
Still Not Working Out?
Not every situation works out and that’s okay. If you find yourself in a negative roommate situation, adjust the setup. It takes a while to figure out the dynamic of living situations, so use that time to try different approaches. Try talking things out, maybe with the help of a mediator, like an RA. Situations can change dramatically overnight, so make sure not to overreact. If you tried and things still didn’t work out, don’t worry, your living situation is not permanent. Different schools have different policies on how long students have to stay roommates before they can switch rooms. Talk to your RA about options.
Whether or not you think you found the perfect roommate, disagreements and obstacles come up, there’s no avoiding that. Consider this list and remember the signs of a good roommate. If you’re entering college this fall, look back here and recognize how to act toward your new roommate. It can be as simple as following basic mantras like, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Living with someone can be tough, whether or not you have done so before. It’s a learning experience on both ends, remember that. Roommates are important in college, because at three in the morning when you’re freaking out about your love life, an exam or anything else, they’re the ones who will be there for you. There’s no perfect roommate because no one’s perfect, but there are really great ones.