In Praise of an Extra SemesterConnie Lissner
Maybe you were expecting it, or maybe not. The roommate seemed like such a nice person on move-in day…! But there it is on your phone (possibly in all angry caps).
Though not a happy message to receive, it's a common sentiment when young adults share space for the first time with a stranger or even a friend.
Schools use information provided on student housing questionnaires (preferences relating to room cleanliness, study habits, music, sleep routines, etc.) to make the best matches possible and often require students to complete roommate agreements when they arrive on campus. But inevitably — as students move far beyond parental oversight — rules will be broken, limits stretched and established habits discarded. Some personalities just don't click even when everything looks good on paper.
We all have to learn to navigate unpleasant interpersonal situations whether it's an annoying roommate or a difficult co-worker. Talking with your student about ways to cope is key. If you have a chance before conflict comes up, talk through some scenarios to help your student anticipate how they might respond in certain uncomfortable situations.
Ongoing interpersonal conflict in what’s supposed to be a "safe space" will wreak havoc in your student’s academic and personal life, so if the roommate situation becomes hostile or causes emotional or physical problems, it’s time to step in. You can help them with the process of changing the living situation, whether that means requesting a new roommate or moving into a single room if one is available and expenses allow.
Even with bumps along the way (your student has quirks, too!), most roommate relationships are successful or at least tolerable. Stress and drama will be minimized if both parties are willing to communicate and respect one another. The hated roomie may become a dear, lifelong friend after both have grown up a bit during the challenging early months of college.