How to be a Great First-Year Roommate

Whether your student has shared a room with siblings or had their own space for their entire lives, living with a fellow student (or students) can be a huge adjustment. This week on our social media pages, we’re looking at what makes a great roommate, how to handle conflicts as they arise, and we’ll celebrate roomie wins. We’ve got a special guest blogger with us today, sharing her perspective and advice on how to be a great first-year roommate.

How to be a Great First-Year Roommate

by Brooke Radi

After four years of college and a year in a soviet-era dormitory, I’ve had a LOT of roommates. Some started strangers and became friends. Others were friends that have become strangers. But I will say that, as I look back on my cohabiting years, one roommate stands out as setting the bar for the rest of my roommates and housemates. I was also so lucky that she was my first ever roommate.

The first thing to note about my living situation during my freshman year was that I was somewhere in between a random placement and deciding to live with a friend. I met Kylee during our first year orientation a mere two months before move-in and after assessing the situation with our fellow students, I knew Kylee would be a great roommate. She was kindness personified, wise beyond her years— and we realized our dorm decor would match. I floated the idea to her and we sent the email to our housing coordinator the following Monday. We’d known each other only a few days but were excited to live together for the next nine months. 

A personal note to Kylee: To this day, those character traits I saw during orientation remain true. You are the best roommate I’ve ever had. That’s not to say we never disagreed but even still, I look back on our days in Carpenter Hall with joy and gratitude that we semi-randomly agreed to sleep five feet apart our first year away from home. 

I’ll be the first to brag about how great my first year roommate is. Not only are you kind, you’re whip-smart and have impeccably-timed humor. You love people, and you love Jesus more. Some of my favorite memories involved the two of us and your guitar and a few worship songs on a random weeknight to ease the stress of looming exams. You’re a dependable and loyal friend who shows up for her people over and over and I’m so grateful our paths crossed. 

Here are a few things that made our relationship so successful, which can definitely be replicated if all roommates are on board: 

  1. We communicated our needs early.
    You were a night owl, I was a morning person. This was a surprisingly easy fix. I’d leave your desk light on when I went to bed so you wouldn’t have to stumble into a dark room. You occasionally needed a nudge to wake up for our 8:00 lecture. It all worked out. This is one of many examples. I think the biggest thing that people take for granted in a healthy roommate relationship is how much of it is looking out for each other. And I’m so glad we did. 
  2. We had things in common.
    Not only did we share our faith, we shared our love of music, our love of reading, travel and majors both in the journalism school. We had enough in common that we could relate to one another well. We’d hashed most of this out by the time that we decided to live together, but this isn’t so hard to find out. Do you like the same sport? What about movies or music? Sometimes those little commonalities can help you find deeper common threads that you can come back to when the going gets tough. For example, if you do have a disagreement, a pizza and a shared favorite movie can be a great way to find common ground again or give them a boost when they’re feeling low. 
  3. We also had our separate activities.
    You were involved in on-campus ministry, I was in my sorority. We had different majors and areas of interest. We had other friends. We didn’t force ourselves to become carbon copies of one another, but I think that’s what made us such a good fit. We allowed each other to have our own space. She loved me for who I was and I loved her for who she was. Your roommate doesn’t have to be your best friend, but give them a chance at being who they are and you might just find you enjoy one another’s company.
  4. We approached difficult conversations with love and respect.
    I’m a clutterbug. I know it. You know it. My mom definitely knows it. Thank you for being gracious when asking me to put my laundry away, even though this was the third time it had happened this month. I think we were rare in that we didn’t have any roommate drama, but I attribute this to our compassionate approach to minor conflict. Address little issues kindly and early enough to avoid an explosion when the small irritations inevitably become consuming. 

This might be a hot take: I don’t think the perfect roommate relationship exists, but if everyone is on board with the four items above, you’ve got a really great shot at making it work— and you might just make a few new friends in the process. I’m so glad Kylee and I semi-randomly decided to live together that one hot day in June and for all the lessons we got to learn together over the following academic year. I’m grateful that this was my first experience living with another person and I’m so glad that after those months in Carpenter Hall, I walked away with a new friend, who over the years, maintains a special spot in my heart. 

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For more information on roommate relations and setting your student up for a successful first-year college experience, get yourself a copy of Out to Sea: A Parents’ Survival Guide to the Freshman Voyage today! It is THE go-to guide for parents as they navigate the high school-to-college transition with their teens.

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