Selecting a roommate…

For first year students deciding what to do, or what not to do in selecting a roommate is often a source of concern.  Recent research on roommate success found that there is no statistically significant difference between the three options:  1) Living with someone you already know, 2) living with a roommate that you select, but don’t know, and 3) a randomly assigned roommate.   Of the three options, Living with someone you already have a relationship with was the best of the three and selecting a random roommate was the lowest of the three.  The research showed that by the end of the spring semester, students who were living with someone they already knew did slightly better academically.

The real message is that no matter who you live with as a roommate, you need to plan to put some effort into talking about your needs and expectations for each other.  People want to believe that if a sophisticated matching program, that everyone would be able to avoid having a bad roommate experience.  If you look at the track record of even married couples, it’s clear that all relationships take work.  Once you know who you will be living with, start working on getting to know each other.  When you arrive in August, your RA will give you a roommate agreement form – take it seriously and go over it together.  What happens most commonly is that many roommates that report problems, don’t communicate at all about the issues or behaviors that bother them.  One roommate is upset, but doesn’t want to be seen as “uncool” by complaining and their resentment builds and then everything is bothering them.  The other roommate assumes that everything is fine, or is just oblivious to the subtle hints the other one makes.  In most cases, simply stating what the problem is is enough to resolve the issue.  You need to give your roommate a chance to respond.  Most people, if they care at all about their relationship with you, are willing to adjust what they are doing.  In any relationship, learning how to work through conflict is a necessary step.  If you can’t do that, you won’t ever really be able to get along.  You need to plan for disagreements and talk about how you’re going to discuss issues with each other.  Lay it out so that it you don’t have to see it as a confrontation or something big and negative.

Anyway, my bias, is if you have a best friend, it’s fine to live with them if that’s what you want to do.  I would also ask you to think about living with someone you don’t already know -and have your friend as someone that you can go visit and hang out with you want.  It will force both of you to get to know a broader circle of new friends and give you each the space you need to make changes.  You will change more during your first semester away from home than probably at any other time during your adult life.  Some of the problems friends have as roommates come from expectations based on who you were in high school and from being in the same circle of friends.  As those things change in a new environment, that can also create stress on old friendships.


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