Certain aspects of your college roommate experience will always be out of your control. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the day I walked into my first freshman dorm room— my new roommate was nowhere to be found, but I had the pleasure of meeting her entire stuffed animal collection that she’d unpacked and displayed all over our tiny shared space. I later learned that she called them her “stuffies,” and that there were roughly fifty of them crammed into our dorm room. And let me tell you, going to bed every night with a bunch of stuffies staring at you while you try to fall asleep is a really strange kind of scary.
Aside from those odd things and moments you can’t control, it’s absolutely essential to put effort into the areas that you can. Like when you meet your new roommate for the first time! First impressions are so important — some would even argue that first impressions are everything. Read on for some helpful tips about starting the school year off on the right foot with your new roomies!
1. Get to know your new roommate before even arriving on campus
Random placement or not, if you’re able to get to know your new roommate(s) before even getting to campus, you definitely should. If you chose to go the random roommate route, you may have to put in a little extra effort to get to know your assigned roomie or roomies. Once you’re given their names and want to find out who they are, a little social media searching should do the trick. Or maybe your school even provides you with their email! Establishing some sort of contact before actually getting to the dorm room will help make move-in day immensely less awkward and a much smoother process.
Finding your future roomie on Facebook or Instagram is great for establishing that initial communication and connection. However, even if you’ve stalked your future roomie’s Instagram so many times that you’re feeling like you already know everything about her…you don’t, and that’s a good thing. Social media is such an amazing tool for making new friends and keeping in touch with old ones, but you have to remember there’s more to a person than what meets the eye, so don’t let what you see on social media make up your mind about them before you actually meet. After you’ve decided to move forward with your chosen roommate, there are many other ways you can begin to break the ice before the start of school.
2. Keep the conversation going
Whether it’s DM-ing, starting a snap streak, or just texting back and forth a handful of times before move-in day, it’s super helpful to start chatting with your new roommate or roommates right off the bat. Julia, a freshman at Wayne State University, found that reaching out to her roommates before they moved in really jumpstarted their friendship and made the move in process a lot less awkward. “Having started a group chat and talking to each other prior to meeting and moving in made the first few days so much more comfortable. On move-in day, I actually ran into one of my roommates at the check-in table and it immediately felt like we already knew each other,” she explains.
Don’t know what questions to ask your roomie before move-in day or what to talk about in general? You can talk about anything: common interests, how you each spent your summers, back-to-school nerves, or who’s bringing what for the dorm room. All are wonderful places to start!
If you’re able to swing it, meeting with your roommate in person before move-in is a great way to break the ice. If distance prevents you from doing so, set up a facetime call instead! Meeting up or just talking face to face is very important, because some people are completely different versions of themselves when talking to you from behind a screen. Hanging out in-person or via talking over the phone is a great way to get a better sense of who your new roommate is as an individual, while simultaneously making the transition from strangers to friends much, much easier.
3. Don’t be shy! Do some activities together
Once the two of you (or maybe even three or four of you) actually get to campus…let the bonding begin! Your new roommate is usually one of your very first collegiate friends, after all, you are living together. There are so many things you can do as roomies to get to know each other better. One of the best ways to start is by decorating the dorm room or apartment together!
Bridget, a sophomore at Siena Heights University, loved setting up and decorating her room with her roommate. “I feel like we really got to know each other better when we went shopping together for our dorm room,” she says. “We got to see how our unique styles matched up, what our favorite colors were, and, once we started unpacking, we saw all the fun things we’d each brought to school that we valued or that held special meaning to us.”
Once the dorm decorating is complete (and it never really has to be), it’s time for you and your roomie(s) to widen your new, college friendship circle. What this really means is—drumroll please—meeting more people! It may seem awkward or daunting to go out and talk to even more complete strangers, but at least you can step up to the challenge with your new roomie. Walk the halls with her and be sure to leave your door open from time to time to let other new people come to you. The great thing about dorm life, or even on-campus apartment life, is that most of the other students living nearby are in the exact same boat as you: they’re all college students who want to make new friends.
Looking for something else to do on campus with your roomies during the first few days before school? Explore with them! Whether it’s walking around and mapping out your new routes to classes or discovering the best hangout spots or best places to eat on or around campus, go out together and explore your new home.
4. Establish boundaries
Usually the subject almost every new roommate duo, trio, or quad wants to avoid, or at the very least tiptoe around, is the establishment of boundaries. No one wants to be “that guy”, a.k.a. the person who lays down a bunch of rules and ends up sounding more like a second RA rather than your roommate. However, some general boundaries or rules have to be put into place to keep you and your roommate living in a healthy environment and headspace.
Zoe, a student at the University of Michigan, opened up about her boundary-crossing roommate and the problems that arose in their shared space. “So, our room was a square and we had put a cute carpet in the middle of it. My roommate would lay on the floor, across the entire carpet, with all her books, pencils, and stuff everywhere,” she explains. “I had to walk across the carpet to get to my bed every night, so basically I’d have to step over her all the time…and she would never move! I guess it would’ve been better to divide the room in a way so that one person couldn’t take up all of the space. Also, she would always listen to [recordings of] her lectures out loud—even if she saw I was trying to study or if it was really late at night—but that’s a whole separate issue.”
Boundaries will look different for each individual roomie, so it’s important to have a face-to-face conversation about what rules should be put in place. You should talk about things like how you both feel about sharing clothes, inviting people over, bedtimes for school nights, cleaning and chores, sexiling, etc. It might not be a bad idea to create or fill out a roommate contract, too!
5. Be honest when dealing with conflict
Much like the establishment of boundaries, conflict can be another thing most roommates just want to completely avoid. But if issues do arise over the course of the year, it’s important to know how to handle them.
The first thing to remember is to deal with any and all conflicts right away. Small or big, issues are issues and they’re going to remain that way until they’re resolved. Try not to get too freaked about confrontation! It’s completely normal for roommates to have little disagreements as time goes on…you’re not alone at all, it happens to everyone.
Grace*, a student at Pepperdine University, emphasizes that communication is a key component to maintaining a healthy roommate relationship and dealing with any and all conflicts that may arise. “There was this one week last semester when my roommate and I were just both extremely busy with school, so we were each doing our own thing. The minute I had some free time, I spent it hanging out with friends. When she wasn’t invited, my roommate got pretty upset. We hadn’t really been talking all week because of how busy we were, so my friends and I didn’t even know she was available! Long story short, always make sure you and your roommate are communicating—it’ll help you avoid any misunderstandings.”
6. Just do your own thing!
Your roommate may be your first friend at college, however they should not be your only friend! Meeting new people together or even being in the same friend group as your roomie is great, but remember that it’s important to spread your own wings and be your own independent self, too.
Calyssa, a sophomore at the Oklahoma University, speaks on how her and her roommate stayed close throughout the school year while also living their own lives. “Your roommate does NOT have to be your ride or die best friend in college. My roomie and I rushed different sororities, had our own friend groups and majors, but we totally got along great! We had our own different schedules, but it was so fun to get back to our room at night and tell each other everything that happened during the school day,” she explains. Having your own friends and extracurricular activities will also keep you and your roomie from getting sick of each other as well.
Dorm life is meant to be one of the best parts of your college experience. The memories you make with your roomies over the course of your time together will be ones you treasure forever. That being said, starting off on the right foot with roommates and every new person you meet away at school really is important. So, have fun breaking the ice and have a wonderful school year!
*Name has been changed