Dos and Don'ts for New College Roommates

All across the country, a new crop of college students prepares for a brand new way of life. Adjusting to a roommate (or roommates) can be one of the most difficult parts of that new life. It’s always stressful dealing with another person’s quirks and idiosyncrasies, but now the solution isn’t as simple as just telling your mom to shut up. You actually have to consider this new person’s feelings. After all, they’re under no obligation to love you unconditionally and they’ll be spending a lot of time near your stuff when you’re not around. Time they could spend selling things off piece by piece out of the back of the van they bought using money earned from selling a previous roommate’s possessions. I’ve seen it happen to too many people. Plus, believe it or not, you’re likely going to do things that bother them, too. Like existing, for example. So you can either try not to do that or review this helpful list of dos and don’ts on the drive to campus in order to reduce some of the inevitable anxiety.

DO ask where your roommate is from. DON’T lie about where you’re from to make it sound more interesting. When you start off with a lie you’ve immediately put the relationship on shaky ground. You have to be yourself if this person is ever truly going to get to know you and grow to like you. Not to mention, there’s no way you can convincingly keep up that Irish accent for four years.

DO find areas of shared interest. DON’T immediately accuse your roommate of stealing from you. Hey, you have creamy peanut butter. I brought some of that, too. That’s funny. Huh, same brand, too. That’s interesting. What a strange coincidence. Same taste in non perishable food items, I guess. Haha. Unless this one is mine. Is this one mine? It is, isn’t it? ISN’T IT?!

DO offer to bring a DVD player. DON’T tell them that it’s actually a VCR. No need to get into semantics.

DO introduce your roommate to friends from home. DON’T do that if your friend is actually a ventriloquist dummy. You and Theodore have known each other for years, so your roommate will already feel like the weird outsider. Then, when you’re not there, Theodore will barely speak, making things even more awkward. But you’ll all have to learn to live together now, so it’s important that everybody feel a certain level of comfort with each other. Just try to remember not to get upset when your roommate calls Theodore a puppet. Not everyone grew up around dummies, so your roommate is likely not being insensitive as much as they’re just ignorant. It’s their parents’ fault really.

DO add your own personal touches. DON’T do so by putting up baby pictures around the room. It doesn’t even matter that nearly a third of them are of you.

DO find out if your roommate smokes. DON’T confront them about it when a pack falls out of their jeans as you’re doing the wash. Your roommate would likely say that they’re just holding the cigarettes for Billy, a friend who lives down the hall. And you’d have to take their word for it. But you should be sure to get in contact with Billy’s roommate so they know what he’s been up to and can punish him appropriately.

DO bring things that remind you of home. DON’T ask if it’s cool if your dad crashes on your floor for a while until he can get back on his feet. You know very well that it could be days until he sobers up enough to be able to stand again. And besides, that’s where Theodore sleeps.

DO ask what your roommate’s major is. DON’T yawn loudly as they answer. Social norms dictate that you at least pretend you’re interested in what others are saying. Of course, social norms for your average college student have also come to include planking, so they can obviously be ignored. But you still want to do so delicately. Try sending subtle signals like repeatedly checking your watch or pretending to shoot yourself in the head with your finger as they’re talking. The subtlety comes when you leave out the explosion sound effects.

DO set boundaries and respect each other’s privacy. DON’T leave neckties on your room’s doorknob for days at a time so your roommate cannot enter. I’m assuming that your school is located in the 1950s and a necktie on a dorm room doorknob is a still the universally agreed upon, binding do-not-disturb signal amongst male roommates. According to a quick Google search, the female equivalent is apparently a scrunchie. So in either case, formal wear on the doorknob is a clear call for privacy.

DO find out if your roommate plans to pledge a fraternity or sorority. DON’T ask them to reveal the secret handshake. Are you trying to get them killed?!

DO ask about your roommate’s schedule. DON’T ask what time to wake them up. Instead, take the initiative. Set an alarm at whatever time you think they should be up for class. Your best bet is to set the clock to an AM radio frequency that’s nothing but fuzz, turn it up to a deafening volume that’s guaranteed to jolt a person from even the deepest, most restful sleep, then place it across the room and pat yourself on the back for an act of such selflessness. One day, your roommate will thank you. Just likely not today, so try not to be in the room. Don’t worry. All will be forgiven by the time you tuck them in later that night.

DO ask what kind of music your roommate likes. DON’T get upset when they mention the volume of Now That’s What I Call Music! that you clearly consider to be the weakest. Even though it is completely ridiculous for someone to suggest that Volume 26 is anywhere close to the same level artistically as 9, which is when anyone with any taste agrees that the series peaked.

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  • Hilarous! Reminds me why I opted to live along after college. Sadly I lived with several of the dont's.

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