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The semester is winding down you are probably celebrating the completion of finals and ready to unplug.  While you spent time developing in the classroom and you were also developing outside the classroom as well.  One of your daily development opportunities is your interaction with your roommate(s).  The end of the semester is a good time to assess how things are going with your current living situation and to start thinking about next semester.  You and your roommate should have developed a friendship and if you are lukewarm to friendship, there should be a level of respect.

How do you and your roommate communicate?  Do you handle disagreements in a respectful manner?  Are you prepared to complete another semester with your current roommate?  Do you have any concerns?  Are they major concerns like health, safety, and ability to comfortably use your room? Are you a positive influence on each other?  These are questions you need to consider as you enter the new semester.

If you are experiencing major issues, those that are preventing you from comfortably enjoying your room, are safety threats, or those that may jeopardize your success in school, you need to address them before starting a new semester.  You should attempt to talk to your roommate and see if you are able to resolve.  If you are unable to resolve, you should consult your resident advisor.  If there are major concerns, that may be not be resolved you should explore a room transfer. The room transfer may not be an option, as there are several factors that impact the transfer.  A transfer may incur a fee, there may not be anywhere to transfer you or your transfer options will be limited, and it will require you to pack and move all of your belongings.  Another major factor to consider before transferring is really evaluating your current situation.  It is good to know wat you currently have, as entering a new situation will be encountering the unknown.  All the work that you have put into your current living situation, will also be required in your new situation.  This time you will be coming into an already established living arrangement, you will need to get to know your new roommate(s), and develop a new system, learn expectations, and earn each other’s respect.

If things are going well (and even if they are not) while thinking about next semester you also need to consider next year as well.  Housing selection for next year will occur rather early in the semester and if you wait until the end of the semester you may run the risk of not having housing or not obtaining your top choices.  Housing options to consider upperclassmen building, Greek Life housing, on or off campus apartment, or stay where you currently reside.  Whichever decision you choose, you will need to make a commitment as early as February (this is typically priority deadline for on-campus housing) and some started back in October (off campus housing recruitment can begin as early as October).

While you gear up for your winter break.  Take a few moments to reflect on your housing situation this semester and think about your housing options for next year.  This will serve as a great discussion piece with your parents over the break.  Let them know how things are going, get another perspective, and discuss options for next year.

As you are nearing the midway point of your semester, take a minute and think about your relationship with your roommate. Do you love your roommate, you get along great and you have no issues? Or, like so many students, are you struggling with conflict with your roommate but aren’t sure what your options are? This is the time to truly think about how you feel, especially as you make decisions about roommates for next semester or next year, depending on your university. Don’t feel obligated to stay with someone if it isn’t working for you, and don’t feel like it’s too late for you to get a roommate if you’ve lived alone this semester.

If you lived alone this semester and you’d like a roommate for next year, talk to your RA or landlord. Sometimes just having a conversation can help them keep you in mind the next time someone is looking for an apartment, or your RA can pass on to the housing office that you would like a roommate. Many times throughout the year, residents move in and out of their rooms, and so it’s very likely that you would get a roommate if you remove the “live alone” option.

If you have a roommate now but it’s not working out for you, take stock of the situation. Why are you having these issues? If they are simple issues like they’re eating all your food, constantly having people over, or they aren’t sharing the responsibilities of cleaning equally, then first try talking to your roommate frankly. Explain to them how their behavior affects you, and you just might find that is enough to solve the problem. A lot of times, your roommate is not even aware that you are upset and they can be totally blindsided when you want to move on to another roommate. After you have talked to your roommate, if the situation does not improve that is the time to involve your RA. Don’t let this wait until the end of the year and during finals week start talking about how much you hate your roommate, go to your RA now and explain the situation. They can facilitate a meeting between you and your roommate that might help mediate the situation, and they can involve their supervisor if room changes need to happen.

The important thing to remember with roommates is that this is a learning experience, for you and for them. Depending on the set-up in your residential hall, you could be sharing a room and/or a bathroom with multiple people who all come from different backgrounds and have different viewpoints, and this can create conflict. The key to good roommate relations is communication. Don’t ignore problems as they arise, take the time to talk about them. Along with that, do not shut your roommate out if they come to you to complain about one of your behaviors. Take their complaint seriously and try to make sure your behavior is not creating a hostile environment. College roommates can either be cordial or friends for life, but there is no reason you should have to live in a battleground. Respect and communication will help make your roommate experience a positive one instead of a horror story.

Coming together to live as one sounds like a great love story, right? Well this is actually the tale of two roommates coming together to peacefully live under one roof.  You will encounter people from all walks of life and varying backgrounds.  When two people come together and begin to share parts of your world with someone else, conflict is inevitable.  Conflict happens and it is completely natural and normal.  The question you have to ask yourself, is the conflict healthy.  How you resolve the conflict can determine the successfulness of the roommate relationship.  When dealing with conflict keep the following points in mind:

  1.  Write down your issues.  Be sure to stick to the facts removing personal feelings from interfering with what the true issues were.
  2. Involve a third party.  Ask your RA for an impartial third party to identify the issues of both parties. If things get out of      control, the third party can help keep things on track.
  3. Give and Take. Be willing to bend on issues.  You will not be able to get everything your way and your roommate will not be able to get everything their way.  Know which issues are most important to you and which issues you are willing to bend.
  4. Fight Fair. Avoid cursing, name calling, and personal attacks. Attack the issues and not the person.
  5. Be willing to apologize.  Saying I’m sorry can go a long way.  It may be the only thing that matters to the roommate and their desire to resolve the issue.

It’s that time of year to start thinking about housing plans for next year! Are you going to live on campus or off campus? Do you have a friend in mind to live with, or are you searching for a new roommate? This is the perfect time to start making decisions about next year, especially if you are going to be signing a lease off campus.

Choosing a roommate is a very important task, but can sometimes be very tricky. It’s natural to think that you and your three best friends would have a blast living together, but living together is very different from just hanging out all the time. Does your best friend have an annoying habit that just drives you crazy? If so, living with them may cause you to notice that habit even more often, and can lead to fights. As Chapter 2 of the Freshman Survival Guide says, there are little things we ignore about our friends because we care about the friendship more, but when it’s a roommate doing something that bothers you, you need to feel comfortable speaking up.

With that in mind, think about how you’re going to choose a roommate. Does your university have a roommate matching service that you can use? Are you searching around on Facebook groups or planning to put an ad in the paper? Whatever method you use to find a roommate, remember that honesty is key. Tell your potential roommate things you do and don’t like, and what you’re like as a roommate. Don’t say that you keep your room spotless and like cleanliness when the truth is you clean your room once a week and let everything pile up in between. If there is something that makes you uncomfortable such as significant others spending the night or drinking in the room, say so! You owe it to both yourself and your potential roommate to be honest so that each of you can find a roommate that you will be happy living with, not one that will have you calling your mom every day complaining.

If you do end up living with someone you don’t already know, plan to get to know them before you move in together! If you live on campus, most universities will tell you your roommates ahead of time. Send them a message introducing yourself and asking about them. Plan together how you will decorate your room or which big items you will bring. If you have a fridge, could they bring a microwave? If they have a TV, could you bring your PS4? Having these conversations ahead of time will prevent an overcrowded room, and help both of you cut down on costs. Roommates are an important part of the college experience, so do your homework and plan ahead!

The time is drawing near and it is time to finalize roommate requests for the upcoming year.  Choosing a roommate wisely will help you avoid a lot of unnecessary frustration and drama throughout the school year.  There are several things to consider when selecting a roommate: are you friends, are you in the same major, and did you accurately complete your resident profile sheet. 

Rooming with your high school best friend seems like the perfect scenario.  You both know each other, you enjoy the same things, and you are already friends.  Ideally this would be the prefect criteria when selecting a roommate, however this is not the criteria you want to use to use when assessing roommate options.  It has been proven time and time again, that friends make the worst roommates.  As a student affairs professional and mediator in a multitude of roommate disagreements, friends often present the worst fights. Roommates that were friends first, know what makes each other tick and use that to their advantage.  The roommate fights are often personal and have nothing to do with typical roommate issues of using personal items, temperature control, and quiet hours.  These issues are usually tied to issues that stem from incidents experienced before rooming together. Another common reason conflicts arise among friends, can be connected to one of the friends making new friends and spending less time with the roommate.  Going to college, provides students the chance to branch out and meet new people.  This is a good when both friends are on the same page.  However if one friends does not want to share their friend with new people problems feelings will be hurt and problems will arise.  Lastly, college is a time for self-exploration. This poses a problem if one of the roommates begins to grow, change, and have new interests that do not include their roommate.  As you age, people grow apart and develop new interest.  When this separation begins to happen, friction occurs and then there is conflict.  Rooming with friends seems like the best scenario, but it often does not yield the best results. 

The second factor to consider: is this person in my major.  Again, this sounds like a good idea in theory.  You have someone that has the same career goals, you will be in the same classes, have similar schedules, and have someone to relate to what you are going through.  The downside of living with someone in your major is that they are in the same classes and you do have similar schedules which means you are with this person all day long. After a long day in class, you are then living with that person.  Being with the same person all day, does not give you a break and allow you time to yourself.  You will have a better chance of growing your relationship with someone you do not spend the entire day with.

The last factor to consider when selecting a roommate is did YOU accurately and honestly complete the resident profile sheet in your application packet. A large number of students will have their parents complete the application packet.  In doing so, the parents will answer the questions based on their knowledge of who they think you are and their knowledge may not be close to the reality of who you really are.  The questionnaire is really seeking truthful information about who you are, what your habits are, and what you enjoy.  The will help pair you with the person based on their truthful responses.  So if you smoke cigarettes and your parents are unaware you could be placed in a room with someone that is allergic to smoke.  This could and probably will cause issues for you and your roommate when they discover you bring the smell of smoke every time you enter the room.

Pairing roommates together is not easy, and the easy option is not always the best option.  You want to ensure that you enter into each situation with an open mind and mutual respect.  You will be exposed to people from different backgrounds and lifestyles.  Give the person a chance, find things you can do together, and try things they enjoy (and show them things you love).  It is great to get a roommate that is diverse and can share what happens in their family, in their major, and during their extracurricular activities. Having a roommate to share new experiences with will help make the transition to college more educational and exciting to all involved. 

It is almost Thanksgiving time; which means you have survived more than half of the first semester, midterms, and homecoming. By now, you and your roommate should have a good understanding for each other’s preferred lifestyle. For some your relationship is one that is great, while for others you may be at your breaking point.  It is at this time you have to realistically look at the situation and determine can you tolerate the situation and make adjustments or do you need to explore the options you have at the time. Thanksgiving serves as a time where roommates can go home take a break, regroup, and come back to school refreshed to finish out the semester.

If you are experiencing roommate conflicts, you may want to use the Thanksgiving break to relax, focus your energy on something else for a few days, and determine a way for you resolve any issues you may have.  You will need to be realistic and ask yourself, is my roommate violating my rights or are they just not meeting my standard.  It is one thing to have a roommate who violates your rights as a resident, puts you in harm’s way, infringes upon your privacy, etc. There is also a distinct difference in the two of you having varying definitions of what it means to be clean, quiet, or how to entertain guests.  Decide for yourself what is acceptable for your living environment and what is not acceptable for your living environment.  After reflecting on your experiences and detailing examples, confirm how you feel about the issues.  A room (suite or apartment) meeting should be scheduled with your roommate(s) to talk with your roommate(s) and create house rules or complete a roommate agreement.  If you feel like you and your roommate are past amicably resolving the issues you will want to enlist the help of your RA.  Your RA is trained to help residents talk through issues and resolve any tension they may be experiencing.

Before you decide that things are just not working out and want to move, consider if you have done everything that you could do in the situation.  If rights are not being violated, it is probably a rather simple situation where you will need to compromise and meet in the middle.  Relationships are about compromise and realizing that someone does things differently than you may do things can be difficult to adjust to. Evaluate if your requests are reasonable. It is reasonable to ask your roommate(s) to discuss overnight guest prior to them staying, but it may not be reasonable to ask your roommate(s) to never have guests in the room.  It is reasonable to request that your roommate(s) not disturb you while are studying, but it may be unreasonable if you do not reciprocate.  You will need to compromise and meet in the middle and find a solution that will work for both of you.

If you feel your rights are violated or you have exhausted all possibilities, you may want to consider changing rooms.  It is not reasonable to say “they’re the one with the problem so they should have to move”.  For the sake of happiness you may have to be the person to move.  If the staff interjects they will ask who wants to move and if no one volunteers then depending on the issues all roommates may be forced to move.  It is okay to move on after you have done all you can in the situation. Right before (or during if possible) Christmas break is a great time to change rooms. It will serve as a fresh start when the new semester starts. You want to make the moving out process and smooth as possible. You never want to burn bridges, it is a small world and you never know when you may come across that person or someone that knows that person in the future.

Not all roommate assignments will work out.  It is important to remember to give differences a chance and not to be judgmental and closed-minded.  It may be awkward and require more attention at first, but as long as you develop and display a mutual respect for each other, you should be able to make it work for the short time you will be living together.  When your relationship hits a little turbulence, do not run away, stick it out and do everything on your end to make it work.

Well I have about one week before I move back into the dorm for my last year as a RA.  I cannot believe I have been in college for almost six years and a RA for five of them.  I guess you could say that I have been around the Res Ed block a time or two.  I have some advice for incoming freshman as they start their journey in college.

 

1. Remember what you are here for

I have lost count on how many freshmen I meet that loose track as why they are at college.  They get caught up with their friends, trying to be popular, partying, drugs, and laziness. College is not like high school.  You are responsible for yourself.  Your RA will not wake you up for class, make sure you study, or get your prescriptions when you’re sick (I had this happen to me this past year).

Take control of your education and be responsible with your choices.  What you do on a Friday/Saturday night may come to haunt you the next day, week, month or years later.  The choices you make now will affect you’re the rest of your life.

Now you are probably thinking wow Kailynn you are getting super deep or why should I listen to this girl? Well let me tell you.  What I am telling you comes from personal experience. I have seen alcohol and drugs cause student to fail at classes, be arrested, drop or most likely fail out of school. I have seen the student who does not study or go to class and those students rarely make it to their sophomore year.

So please remember why you are at college.  Make smart choices.

 

2. Ask for help

I will tell you again college is not like high school.  Your classes will not be easier and you will have to study (gasp).  You may find out that you do not even know how to study since you never had to do it in high school.  Well then ask for help.  Talk to upper classmen, tutor, professors, or your RA.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. I had to learn this the hard way and you do not want to learn it the hard way.  Do you want to be the person who failed an exam or the class because you did not ask for help?  When you look back and think I could have passed that class if I went to my professors’ office hour.  Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Well because it is.

Asking for help does not always end in the classroom. In the dorm your RA is placed on your floor to HELP YOU.  So if you are having roommate issues do not wait till you are ready to murder each other. Bring your RA in.  I have been contacted by roommates who have been having issues since September and now it’s March and they cannot stand it any longer.  And I am always confused as why didn’t you tell me sooner? I could have helped.

So please ask for help. Whether if it is in your classes or dorm.  Talk to a friend, parent, professor, RA or iRA.  They are there to help you succeed in college.

 

3. Do your laundry/Take a shower

I think this point is self explanatory.  Your RA does not want to have the “You smell” conversation with you and neither do you.  It is very awkward for everyone.  Trust me everyone will appreciate you smelling good (and no frebreze does not count as a doing your laundry or showering).

 

4. Experience college life

Sometimes college can be really stressful. So take a break and breathe.  Experience college life. Make new friends, meet new people, join clubs, become passionate about something.  This is a time to grow and find out the real you.  Build yourself to become the person you want to be.

 

 

5. Don’t stress

Stress and college student really go hand and hand. If it is an assignment due tomorrow and you have yet to start, or your roommate’s music is driving you crazy, maybe your parents are hounding you about that grade you got on your biology test but the class average was a 52% and your were just below that average.  Annnd breathe….stress is there but it how you deal with it that makes all the difference.

Talk to a friend, RA, professor, or stranger on the bus.  Take time for yourself is important. Whether it is working out, spending time with friends, playing video games, reading a non-textbook, or just hiding out in your room.

That one class you got a C or D is really won’t make a huge impact on your life as a whole.  I remember when my advisor told me the “D’s” are for degrees.  I pretty much hated my life in one class and that statement really put things into perspective.  I didn’t settle for a D but it made me think that in 5 or 10 years this class will not matter.  I am not saying that you should make this your life motto (remember my first point?) but try not stress over the little things in life and enjoy the ride.

So here are a few points of advice and I hope that you listen and really take to heart what I have just said.  If you have any questions, comments, or would like to add more advice points please do so.  I would love to hear from you.  Oh and I wish all freshman and RAs a wonderful 2013-2014 school year an good luck!

 

-With much love

Kailynn, iRA

 

It is now almost a month into the Spring semester, for new roommates the honeymoon phase is nearing the end, and for continuing roommates you getting back into the swing of things.  By now, you should have a good understanding for each other’s preferred lifestyle. For some this may be working out perfectly, while for others it may be challenging to forge two different lives together.

You will need to be honest from the start.  Decide for yourself what is acceptable for your living environment, what is not acceptable for your living environment, and what are your nonnegotiable items.  Nonnegotiable are the deal breakers for you, these are things that you cannot live with.   After confirming how you feel about the issues you should schedule a time to talk with your roommate(s) and create house rules or a roommate agreement.  You should treat this meeting seriously and as you would any business deal.

Many universities have roommate agreement forms available through your RA to help walk you through the process. The roommate agreement allows you to talk about issues before they occur. The agreement should be taken seriously and done as soon as possible.  The agreement will help comfortably have tough conversations before an incident occurs. Even if your school does not have an official form, you can complete a roommate agreement on paper. Whatever method you use be sure to post it in the room to serve as a reminder to everyone.

Before you decide that things are just not working out and want to move, consider if you have done everything that you could do in the situation.  There are a few questions you may want to consider.  The first thing to consider- are my roommate rights being violated?  Each resident has rights in their room.  Each roommate has the right to be comfortable, respected, and to have privacy in your room.  If rights are not being violated, it is probably a rather simple situation where you will need to compromise and meet in the middle.  If rights are being violated, it is probably a more complex problem and you will need to discuss the issues with your RA during a roommate mediation.

Relationships are about compromise and realizing that someone does things differently than you may do things can be difficult to adjust to. Evaluate if your requests are reasonable. It is reasonable to ask your roommate(s) to discuss overnight guest prior to them staying, but it may not be reasonable to ask your roommate(s) to never have guests in the room.  It is reasonable to request that your roommate(s) not disturb you while are studying, but it may be unreasonable if you do not reciprocate.  You will need to compromise and meet in the middle and find a solution that will work for both of you.

The last thing to consider- did I do everything I could? After you have tried everything—an agreement, setting expectations, compromising, discussing differences, and an RA mediation, you may determine the living situation may not be the best and a move may be the best solution.  It is possible that things just will not work and nothing you do or say will help.  It is okay to move on after you have done all you can in the situation. Your RA can assist you in locating a new room. You want to make the moving out process and smooth as possible. You never want to burn bridges, it is a small world and you never know when you may come across that person or someone that knows that person in the future.

In the end, it may not work out and that is okay.  It is important to remember to give it a chance.  It may be awkward and require more attention at first, but as long as you develop and display a mutual respect for each other, you should be able to make it work for the short time you will be living together.  When your relationship hits a little turbulence, do not run away, stick it out and do everything on your end to make it work.