About two years ago, right after I had moved on to campus at the beginning of my sophomore year, I received a flurry of texts from my younger sibling Katherine, a high school senior. A picture flashed across my screen of Katherine jumping in the air with a piece of paper in her hands. “I got in,” read the following text. My sister had officially been accepted to Wake Forest University, the same college that I currently attend.
To be completely honest, I was so happy with the news that I cried. Katherine and I are extremely close, so I was ecstatic to find that we would live in the same place once again. Flash forward to today: My sister just completed her freshman year at Wake, while I am a rising senior.
Living on the same college campus with my sibling has undoubtedly had its ups and downs. For anyone else that has found themselves in a position like mine, or for those who are just curious, here is a list of my findings from a year of going to college with my younger sister.
1. It’s Like Having a Built-in Support System
I realize that not everyone is close with their siblings. Levels of closeness vary from relationship to relationship. However, no matter what the relationship between yourself and your sibling is like, I’ve found that attending the same college provides a huge benefit for both parties: a built-in support system.
This past year, my sister and I had a mutually beneficial relationship. If either of us needed someone to eat lunch or supper with, the other was just a phone call away. We were able to help each other with tasks that would take longer if we were by ourselves. For example, freshman parking was off campus, so Katherine would often call me asking for a ride since I had an on-campus parking pass. Although I sometimes felt like a chauffeur, our car rides together were a great time to catch up and see how the other was faring.
Having Katherine with me at Wake Forest also allowed me to share some of my favorite things about my college with her. I gave her the inside information on the best studying spots, how to avoid the busiest times in the cafeteria and the words to all the chants at football games. Getting to pass down Wake traditions brought us closer together and was just plain fun.
Since I had already been through the tough experience of acclimating to college, I was able to serve as a source of support and advice for Katherine. As anyone who has gone away to college can attest, it can be a difficult, and sometimes lonely, process. I was glad that I was able to help my sister with any questions she had about Wake, especially since I didn’t have an older sibling looking out for me my freshman year.
2. It’s Important to Have Separate Spheres
As much as I wanted to guide my sister and help her navigate college, it was also important that I let her have her own space. Whether you’re the younger or older sibling, it’s just not healthy to have your sibling breathing down your neck.
Since college is a key time for exploration, experimentation and finding out one’s interests, siblings need to situate themselves in their own individual niches. Joining different clubs, starting unique hobbies and running in different circles is extremely beneficial for both siblings.
As the older sister, I must admit, I’m protective over Katherine. No one wants to see their younger sibling make bad friend choices or watch them be academically irresponsible. But ultimately, taking a generally hands-off approach will be best for both you and your sibling, unless they ask for help.
In my case, my sister was afraid that, because she was going to the same college as me, people would think she was just copying me or that she was too afraid to forge her own path. The last thing she wanted was to live in my shadow or to have others comparing her to me. Separate spheres and friend circles are necessary to prevent this from happening.
So, a piece of advice for anyone who has a sibling as an incoming freshman: Let them figure most things out for themselves. The only way you can figure things out in life is through trial and error, so let them make some mistakes. Trust me, they’ll turn out better in the long run because of it. Plus, you’re not their parent, so it’s not your job to boss them around, even if you are the older sibling.
3. Yes, They’re Still Going to be Annoying Sometimes
It doesn’t matter the age difference or how close you are to one another, it’s a fact of life that siblings get on each other’s nerves. This still applies when you go to college with your sibling.
Although we’re technically adults, Katherine and I fought over petty things. As sisters who wear basically the same size in clothing, we fought over who borrowed whose clothes without the other’s permission. We bickered over who got to use which car at what time. I got upset when she tried to get me to do her homework, while she got angry when I interfered in her personal life.
So, just as with everything in life, the relationship wasn’t always sunshine and butterflies, but we got over our disputes quickly. Just realize that conflict is inevitable.
Having your sibling with you at college is a completely different experience from just living with them at home. The relationship dynamic changes and with each person seeing the other in a new environment, you gain a new appreciation for each other. You see each other struggle, overcome obstacles and eventually grow as people, which is both scary and refreshing. After a year together at Wake Forest, I can confidently say that I wouldn’t trade my experience of going to college with my sister for anything.