Getting along with your roommate, mediating problems and knowing when to quit

July 25, 2012

Unless you shared a bedroom with a sibling, it's probably been a while since you had to share such a small personal space. Our bedrooms are traditionally places to escape to, singular rooms where we can comfortably exist on our own and get away from it all. So what happens when you lose half that space to a stranger? (Especially a stranger with bad hygiene, insomnia or mood swings.)

Here's the good news. The overwhelming number of roommates are fine people - easy to get along with, fun and laid back with just as many tics and pet peeves as the rest of us. Then there are the rare few who will become your best friend, and the equally rare number who seem to have been put on this earth to make your life miserable.

In any case - but especially that last one - consider these tips for college students.

1. Dueling iTunes. Having your own space also means having your own audio space. While headphones are great, every so often we want to turn on the speakers as we get ready for a night out, do some cleaning or even finish up a paper. How do you share the room's audio space with your roommate? Come up with a system, show mutual respect, learn what there is to appreciate in every type of music, even raging hair metal.

2. Lights out hours. Considering computers, miniature lamps and flashlights, there's no reason you can't catch some shut eye while your roommate finishes up some reading or homework. More importantly, lights out should refer to when friends leave and things settle down for the evening. Consider earlier hours for any night when one of you has an early class the next day.

3. The roommate contract. The sticky situations you can get into with your roommate are by no means limited to music or getting proper rest. Before you and your roommate room together, consider drawing up a contract with terms set in place when a rule is breached. Many campuses require this of students rooming together and even keep copies with the Student Life and Housing office.

4. When to quit. Sometimes that diabolical individual comes along who won't listen to reason. When your roommate starts to affect your academic work or personal wellbeing, it's time to take the matter to the college itself.

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