Roommate Survival Skills

Being a college student isn't easy. In fact, it's a rather difficult task. So, in order to help you progress smoothly through your college years, here are some suggestions to assist you in the common challenges all students face.

My Roommate...My Friend?

The first challenge for most students is learning to share a small space with someone else. This is the beginning of a great adventure in communication, friendship, personal growth and interaction. Living in a close-knit community provides you the opportunity to learn about yourself and others. Sharing a room with others is similar to other relationships. To be successful, it requires openness, flexibility and respect for your roommate. It's a place to sleep, study, and live. However, the room can be so much more. It can be a gathering place, a haven for intellectual thought or a place to relax. The quality of life in your room directly relates to the relationship developed between you and your roommate(s).

You -- You are an individual with a wide range of characteristics and interests. You have your own habits, opinions, likes and dislikes. Your family background, career plans, cultural and ethnic identity, religious convictions, as well as personal abilities add up to your unique individuality.

Your Roommate -- Like you, your roommate is a unique person. The same elements that make you unique apply to your roommate(s). We all have our own opinions and attitudes. Some of your attitudes and values may be challenged. Think about your own values and how they affect your behavior. Your roommate may have very different values that impact his/her behavior.

Personal Preferences, Habits, and Characteristics

To gain a better idea how much you and your roommate are going to be alike and how much you will have in common, the following questions may be asked:

1. How much sleep do you need? When do you like to get it?

2. What are your study habits going to be like this year?

3. How do you feel about your possessions – for example, what's O.K. for me to borrow and what's not?

4. How important are grades to you?

5. How important is it to you to have a neat and orderly room?

6. How do you feel about drugs and drinking?

7. What do you like to do in your spare time?

8. What do you like to spend your money on (when you have it!)?

9. What is your health like most of the time?

10. What are your favorite foods?

11. Do you find it easy to get to know people?

12. How do you feel about having other people in the room? How about overnight guests?

13. What are your hopes for dating this semester?

14. What kind of music do you like?

15. What kinds of exercises do you enjoy?

Background -- Talk to each other about your backgrounds so that you may understand where your roommate is coming from. Some things that you could ask in order to get to know your roommate better include:

1. What can you say about your family (parents, siblings)?

2. Describe the area you grew up in (neighborhood).

3. What would you like to say about yourself?

4. Describe the people you spend a lot of time with at home?

5. What were you most involved in before coming to Henderson?

6. Why did you decide to come to Henderson?

7. What religious faith do you adhere to?

Conflict & the 3 "Cs"

Because every relationship may involve some conflict, you are encouraged to concentrate on the three 'Cs' for success. 'C'ooperation, 'C'ompromise, and open 'C'ommunication. You will need to be assertive (not aggressive), tactful, and communicate your needs. These concepts are basic to all healthy relationships. Experience has shown that the following are common conflicts that may arise between roommates:

  • Study time in the room
  • visitation and guests
  • Noise level in room
  • purchasing household products
  • cleaning room/apartment schedule
  •  taking out the trash
  •  use of stereo, TV, phone
  • different sleep schedules
  •  Food - purchase, consumption, clean-up
  • appropriate time for get-togethers
  • Use of personal items, clothes
  • bathroom schedule

Basic Rights of a Roommate Include:

  • The right to study free from undue interference in one's room. Unreasonable noise and other distractions inhibit the exercise of this right.
  • The right to sleep without undue disturbance of noise, guest of roommate, etc.
  • The right to expect that a roommate will respect personal belongings.
  • The right to live in a clean, safe and healthy environment.
  • The right to free access to one’s own room without pressure from a roommate.
  • The right to privacy.
  • The right to host guests with the expectation that guests are to respect the rights of the host's roommate and other residents in the hall.
  • The right to settle conflicts. RAs can assist in settling roommate conflicts.
  • The right to be free from fear of intimidation, physical harm and emotional harm.
  • The right to expect reasonable cooperation in the use of room-shared appliances and a commitment to honor payment procedures agreed upon.

Roommate Contract – This is a helpful tool in communicating with your roommate(s). To use the contract, all of the roommates sit down and discuss each category. It may be that each roommate agrees not to turn on the light when the other person is sleeping, etc. You can create a roommate contract with the help of your RA or hall director.