Getting Started Right: Practical Advice for First-Time Roommates

By: Georgia Schumacher

September 10, 2015

Ask a group of students starting college about their concerns and “having a roommate” is likely to top their list of answers. So, for those preparing for college and those just getting started, we caught up with two Resident Advisors (RAs) from The Art Institutes system of schools to get their advice on building a good roommate relationship.

Start by getting to know each other.
Before moving in, chat with your roommate online or, if you can, in person, but avoid the temptation to form assumptions immediately. Instead, ask questions and look for shared interests. Talk about what you’re studying or why you chose The Art Institutes, and save the details of dorm room decor and necessities for your next conversation.

“When it came to figuring out what my roommates and I had in common, I found that the best way to go was movies,” suggests RA Jackie Hanratty.* “Most people really enjoy movies, and letting my roommates introduce me to their favorite movies and introducing them to some of mine was a good way to bond.”

Remember, even if someone seems different from your other friends, you might still be great roommates, and you may form an unexpected friendship that leads to new ideas and experiences!

Be honest from the beginning.

Discuss your preferences, pet peeves, and quirky habits early and openly. “This is the best way to start off when moving in,” says Dominick Flowers, another RA from The Art Institutes.** “It gives you and your roommate the opportunity to get a better understanding of one another and to prevent problems that might otherwise arise in the future.”

Of course, keep the conversation respectful and polite so that your preferences don’t sound like demands. Also, be ready to compromise and understand that your version of loud, messy, or late might differ from another’s definition, so offer examples to make sure you’re in agreement.

“I can't stress enough how important it is to compromise,” says Jackie. Whether it’s simply being quieter in the morning or finding a new meeting location for your study group, she says, “Everyone is capable of making little changes for the greater good of the apartment.”

Address concerns before they get big.
While it’s tempting to ignore small annoyances, Dominick advises, “It is always better to address your feelings about a situation that is upsetting you rather than pushing it to the side. The longer it happens, the more upset you will become, and then a little issue will have turned into something huge.”

Instead, when you’re both calm and have free time, bring up the issue in person, one-on-one. Avoid texts or online messages, which leave too much room for misinterpretation, and focus on finding a solution that works for everyone.

“Your roommate used some of your toothpaste?,” poses Jackie. “It's probably not a good idea to go in, guns blazing, and start an argument over toothpaste. It'd be better to stop, let the anger fizzle out, and go talk to them rationally.”

Be considerate.
According to Jackie, being considerate is largely about understanding that “We all come from different places.” What’s important, she says, is respecting each other’s beliefs regardless of whether you share those beliefs.

Being considerate also means being thoughtful—like wishing your roommate luck on a big presentation or not bringing people over the night before a test. Really though, you can’t plan for every situation, so expect to figure some things out as you go, striving to stay polite, kind, and forgiving. You’ll both mess up eventually and have days when you’re rude or easily annoyed. When this happens, admit responsibility, apologize, and move on.

Accept that you might not be best friends.
Some roommates become best friends. Others don’t. Either way, suggests Dominick, “You’ll meet many people in housing who will be your friends until you graduate and maybe longer.” So get out of your comfort zone and start talking to others in your classes, at lunch, or around campus! As long as you get along, it’s not that important how close you are to those you live with.

Excited about joining The Art Institutes? Follow us on Facebook and use #AiConnect to find other new students!

*Jackie Hanratty is an RA and student in the Bachelor of Science in Digital Cinema & Video Production program at The Art Institute of California—Hollywood, a campus of Argosy University.

**Dominick Flowers is an RA and student in the Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Food & Beverage Management program at The Art Institute of California—San Diego, a campus of Argosy University.

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By: Georgia Schumacher

September 10, 2015

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