I am not that overbearing prick who's too cultured to humble down to reality. I am an only child and socially awkward introvert. When it comes to sharing a room I tend to come off as standoffish with new people. I don't mind sharing with my close friends, but I cant rely on them. Can someone advise as to how I should prepare myself?


Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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Nedda gives you some great specific advice. Have you filled out a rooming questionnaire? You might if you haven't yet. It's really important when (and if) you fill one out to be as specific as possible about your concerns. Sometimes students want to appear more outgoing than they are naturally, only to be paired with somebody that isn't a good fit.

To echo what Nedda has said, be honest and direct as soon as you can. It might be uncomfortable at first, but you may very well save yourself frustration down the road. If your roommate is not a good fit, tell an RA or somebody in Housing after you've given the relationship a good try. Plenty of people switch rooms (and of course roommates) at the semester's end.

All of that being said, I think your concern is perfectly natural and honest. As much as you can, try to look forward to this experience. It will stretch you socially. As Eric said, your roommate could turn out to be a lifelong friend, regardless of any first impression.

Nedda Gilbert, MSW, Educational Consultant, and Author

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Being a socially awkward introvert and an only child (I guess you're suggesting you don 't share space or things well), could make for challenging dynamics in a roomie situation. But it need not define your experience. Here's the awesome thing - it's great you know yourself and your limits. It probably makes sense for you not to stray too far from your comfort zone, at least initially. Stick to your socially awkward guns. Don't share your stuff. And don't feel you need to become unduly outgoing in this situation.

Most college students assume they have to become friends with their freshman year roommate.They do not. It can happen, but even for outgoing types that's typically a pretty high bar. Living with someone can be stressful, especially in the close quarters that make up school dorms. What makes a roomie situation work is a complicated brew: one part compatibility, one part respect for each other, one part leaving the cap ON the toothpaste - or sticking to your own tube - and finally, not having sex in your room while your roomate is there, (and other stuff like that). Of course, there's dealing with someone coming home at all hours of the night making it impossible to study or sleep, snoring, eating whiffy, maloderous foods, avoiding germs (this is also if you identify as germaphobic), the point is - the list goes on and on. There is a reason why they invented "singles" in dorms. Some freshman houses offer them. Consider investigating whether this is an option at your school. If doesn't make you anti-social, just practical. You will make friends elsewhere in your classes, school clubs, etc

Your goal as a roomate is to peaceably co-exist. All a roomate needs to be is the person you can live with, not your BFF. With that in mind, you are socially off the hook. Think about this relationship more in terms of mutual respect, boundaries and negotiations. Hopefully this moves the situation away from one where you have to worry about friendship and sharing belongings, and more of one about mutual consideration.

Here are some guidelines for establishing and maintaining a positive roomie relationship:

  • Be thoughtful and considerate.
  • Be respectful.
  • Establish roommate rules early on. It's easier in the beginning to have a plan than to deal with problematic behavior as it comes up. But when something problematic does come up - deal with it head on. Don't wait until it becomes a pattern or brood about the issue silently. Try open, honest communication.
  • If you can meet your roomate before school starts via facebook or email, start a dialogue. Consider dividing up what you might want to purchase for the room. You buy the fridge. He gets the microwave. This is the beginning of a working relationship.
  • Try to be the first one to arrive in the dorm room. Consider arranging the bed and your desk in a way that gives you some privacy without totally building a barricade.

Above all else, keep an open mind. Living with someone does force you to be social. You may find yourself experiencing a level of camaraderie you haven't felt as an only child. Additionally, your life will be so full at school with other academic and social activities, you may find you hardly spend all that much time in your room. Or said another way - you have the option of spending very little time in that shared space.

I'm hopeful you may become friends with your roomate. But if not, at least the above may help you avoid an unpleasant experience.

Anonymous, Former graduate student

It can be difficult rooming with a complete stranger for the first time. You have no idea whether they will be inconsiderate, unclean, a smoker, etc. There is always a chance of that. Many universities have you take a survey when applying for a dorm, which helps lessen the chance of being paired with an undesired roommate, but nothing can be guaranteed. I was fortunately lucky enough to be paired with a freshman roommate that is one of my best friends today.

I guess the bottom line is that you should try to be as open as possible as to who you will get as a roommate. Try to reserve judgment as much as possible and ultimately, don't think about it too much! It's a great opportunity to make a new friend and experience what it's like to have a roommate! Best of luck!

Amy McElroy, Former Attorney, Writer, Editor, parent of a junior high and high school student

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Roommate situations can be hard no matter what kind of personality you have. So you are not alone in your fears. I have some advice about what not to do. After trying to follow the good advice above, do not let the situation dissolve into a stalemate where things go sour and tense until no one is speaking. If there's a problem, address it before that point because there's nothing worse than going away to college and feeling like you don't want to go back to your room. I lived through this, but knowing ahead of time, you can avoid my mistakes.

Speak up to someone. If you can't talk your problems through to your roommate (but please try), consult your RA or RD and have someone sit down with you--even a friend--and try to intervene to work through the issues. Or do try to switch rooms. But do not wait until the problems are beyond repair and your living situation is miserable. No one deserves to live like that, so confront any issues you have, in one way or another, before they get out of control.

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