Being in college provides many more challenges beyond the educational spectrum that require plenty more than booksmarts. I’ve compiled the lessons I’ve learned living in a college dorm and an on-campus apartment to provide you with some insight on how to be a great roommate to your new roommate and tactics to avoid awkward and uncomfortable situations in your new home!
1. Take initiative to clean, even if you know that all the crumbs on the counter are from your midnight-munchin’ roommate. And DON’T be a jerk about it. It’s gross, it’s a hassle. I get it. But it can be a difficult thing when there are four people living in such a small apartment (thankfully this fall, it will be reduced to just one roommate!). Even if you all have your own bedrooms, there’s going to be some overlapping in the common areas (inevitably), and with that comes headbutting over where items should be placed. You’re not all going to come into the apartment with the same kind of living style in mind (that would be too easy!)! You’re not always going to have time to clean up after yourself if you’re in a rush to get to that exam you forgot to put on your calendar, but taking the time to clean up, even if it isn’t always your mess, shows your roommate that you’re happy and willing to put in the work to keep the space up to par. They’ll be thankful that you’re avoiding a roach infestation as much as they are (usually). Nobody’s saying you should follow your roommates around with a mop and scrub behind them, but if you see leftover crumbs and dirty spots, wash it down. It’s two extra seconds of your time, and even more importantly, a month without cockroaches!
- If the mess is a recurring problem, try to sit down and discuss it with her rationally. Without yelling, throwing things, accusing, instigating, holding a grudge, or talking smack. Keep it chill. Don’t use accusatory language, and if you’re upset about the issue, wait until you’ve cooled off before you confront her. Open communication starts with listening, and if you’re angry, you’re not going to hear her out and be able to reach a conclusion.
- Keep cleaning supplies in or near the kitchen for quick cleanup.
- Set an example. If you’d like her to keep her dishes and other items in the common area clean, make sure that your stuff portrays that. Often just setting an example helps avoid the situation altogether.
2. Consult (or warn, if need be) your roommate if you have the full intention of stumbling into the apartment with a dude. I’m going to be honest. The walls in college apartments are like tissue paper. I can practically hear you blink. The sounds that you make, no matter how loud, can probably (very likely) be heard from the apartment next to yours. It’s important to voice when you’re going to invite someone in the apartment so your roommate doesn’t end up having the awkward encounter of confronting the dude in a towel or quite possibly running into him, butt naked, in your shared hallway. Who knows, the heads-up might give you the apartment all to yourselves for the night or at least for a few hours. She’ll appreciate the courtesy call you gave her beforehand tomorrow.
- No last minute warnings. Be courteous and don’t spring it on her.
- Have a conversation beforehand, like way beforehand, discussing bringing people home. She may be uncomfortable with it, so it’s important to discuss and compromise before the situation arises. You don’t want her to feel like an outsider in her own home.
- I feel like this is common sense, but let the guy know that if he’s going to use anything or eat anything out of the fridge, it’s going to be something of yours. That would be a major line that shouldn’t ever be crossed unless stated otherwise.
3. Offer to cook some of their food for them as a treat! College brings on more challenges than you’d think (aside from the endless homework, excruciating exams, and involvement in clubs), and after a merciless day, nothing tastes better than a home-cooked meal (aside from Chipotle, which is always a nice alternative if you’re a “toast burner”). When your roommate sends you a down-in-the-dumps text, take that as a queue to be her superhero and do something nice for her. And if you can’t cook, don’t worry. I bet the ramen noodles you’ll make in the microwave for her for when she gets home will still be highly appreciated. At the end of the day, it’s the thought that counts. Make the thought worth it!
- Fillet mignon doesn’t have to be on the menu (unless that’s your best dish. Then you’re obligated. Kidding!) She’ll appreciate whatever you make her (as long as it’s not something you made consciously knowing she’s allergic to it).
- Brownie points for preparing dessert, too! Maybe have a sundae night in with her? How cute would that be?!
- If you can’t cook for your life, give her a listening ear. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to hear you out. I know that on a really bad day, there’s nothing that comforts me more than getting to say what I’ve been thinking about without getting automatically judged. Good friends are hard to come by, so do what you can to be that genuine person she can confide in if you feel like you guys could be on that level.
4. Introduce her to your friends, family, boyfriend, whoever. It may seem silly (and a little awkward) at the time (you haven’t even taken her on a date and she’s already meeting your family?!), but it’s important for her to know her roommate (yes, you’re HER roommate, too!) well enough to be comfortable at home with you. It’s a significantly strange feeling to arrive on move-in day, piles of boxes in hand, and introduce yourself to the person that you will be cohabiting an apartment with for the next year, or maybe even two if it works well between the two of you. That’s a lot of pressure for a good first impression. But if you start off friendly right off the bat, that’s what she’s going to perceive of you. You’re friendly, sociable, and open. Giving her the opportunity to meet the people that are closest to you (and that are probably going to be helping you move in) will make her feel like your new apartment is more like a home. It will feel more inclusive, and she’ll probably be more inclined to be open to you as well, and willing to accept you enough to introduce you to the people she holds close. And, if she’s awkward and doesn’t want to be a part of that whole socialization process, then at least you know that you put your best foot forward.
- Hugs almost always work better than handshakes. She doesn’t want to feel like she’s going into a business deal when you arrive. The first thing I always say is, “I’m a hugger, not a shaker” and I go in for a hug before it gets weird. It usually breaks the tension pretty nicely.
- Keep it casual. Don’t push yourself on her. Remember, friendly and sociable, not pushy and obsessive. You know?
- Make her feel like a friend, not a stranger. She’ll be a stranger at the time, but don’t make her feel like she’s outside of the bubble while you have everyone in your little group going in and out of the apartment unpacking your things. Include her in conversation if she’s up for it!
5. Don’t eat her food or use any of her stuff without asking her. I can’t stress this enough! Nothing is worse than a roommate that just digs through your stuff and picks out what they want. More often than not, when I’ve been asked for either in the past, I’ve often said “yes”. It’s all about communication. It’s your home that you share. I doubt that, at your “home home”, you have to hide your stuff, so treat this new place in the same way. Anything she keeps in common areas has the same rules as the items you leave in the common areas, unless stated otherwise!
- If you buy some of the same foods, either label them or have both of you pitch in to get the food to share. If food goes unlabeled, how is she supposed to know whether it’s hers or not if it’s something she buys, too?
- Bring a mini fridge if you don’t want to share fridge space or would like to keep some stuff in your own room. There’s no problem if you have your own space for some stuff, but I wouldn’t suggest taking up the shared fridge’s space, too. Just be courteous.
- If you borrow anything (after given permission), return it in the same condition.
Do you have any tips for first-time roommates? Share them below! 🙂