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Roommate Roulette at Colleges and Universities

By Peterson's Staff updated on Monday, January 28, 2013

Start asking around and it won't take you long to find a few war stories about roommates in colleges and universities that will have you scratching your head over the things that people do. Taking into consideration that most large colleges and universities require freshmen to live in the dorms and choose your roommates for you, there's a good chance that you could have a few stories of your own to add to the mix as well.

However, even if roommate selection seems like a game of university roulette, you don't have to be on the losing end of things. No matter what differences exist between you and your roommate, most of them can be worked out with a good strategy of communication, cooperation, and collaboration.

College guide: Manage your expectations

While it's fair to expect your roommate to act like a decent human being, you shouldn't start off your college experience with expectations of a great and lasting friendship. Sure, it's possible, but if you expect it, you may be sorely disappointed.

Conversely, if you and your best friend have managed to enroll in the same school and get each other as roommates (which you can request), don't expect things to stay the same. Many a friendship has been tarnished by the realities of sharing a living space in a "bloom off the rose" sort of scenario. You may find you make better friends than roommates.

College guide: It's not all about you

Back in the days when kids shared a room with all four of their siblings, taking on a roommate might not have seemed so difficult, but today's smaller families raise a lot of students who are used to having their own space. If that's the case with you, be prepared for a big change. Learn to compromise on personal space, décor, lights out, privacy, everything… you can't call all the shots about the room unless you have an incredibly passive roommate who will let you have all the control -- and that's just not likely to happen. (And if it does, is that what you really want?)

College guide: Work it out

As with any successful relationship, communication is the key. Seems simple enough, but it can be a hard thing to do. It's necessary, though. You'll be sharing a pretty intimate space with someone you don't know, so NOT talking seems pretty ridiculous -- especially when you're lounging in your pajamas and scratching your nose.

You're both new to college, so search for common ground. Start the year off right by getting to know each other and expressing your needs. Lay out some ground rules and be clear about what things are absolute deal-breakers that will require some outside intervention or a request for a different roommate.

In college, information is key.

College guide: Start at the beginning

Before you ever set foot in your new pad, you can help defray the possibility of a roommate nightmare by being clear and honest in your housing application. The forms provided by your school give you the opportunity to spell out your habits (even your bad ones), likes, and dislikes. This is your chance to give the college info that is as thorough as possible so they can attempt to match you with as compatible a person as possible. So, if you're a slob, a Goth, a sports freak, or an obsessive-compulsive organizer, let them know! It may not lead to a perfect fit, but it could be a start of something that works.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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