5 Must-Know College Roommate Rules

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Have you ever been dropped onto an island with strangers? I haven’t either, but it reminds me of the whole roommate thing.

It also reminds me of the television show Survivor, but you are not necessarily trying to out wit, out play and out last someone before voting them of the island. Although, you might be tempted to with some roommates. If you are reading this, you are either deciding whether to live in a dorm, are in a dorm or are headed toward a dorm on a college campus. Dorm life can feel a little like being placed on an island with strangers, but you do get to leave the “island” every day if you choose.

Dorm life can be an amazing opportunity to get to know lifelong friends, laugh lots, work through conflict and build your character. You will discover a lot about people and what makes them tick. There will be things you like about dorm life and roommates and things you will be glad only took place for a short time.

Living in a dorm is more than simply a place to keep your stuff and sleep. You will have a box to live in with one or a few other residents, but it is also a “laboratory” where you will find your college community.

This is an awesome experience.

It is amazing in your first few weeks of college how some living in the dorm, including your roommate(s), could become great friends almost overnight. Maybe you are a little fearful of what is about to happen to you.

Throughout my college experience, I had a few roommates and later housemates. My first roommate and I did not see eye to eye about what to store in the refrigerator and who not to let spend the night in our dorm room. My housemates held to a variety of beliefs and lifestyles, but one in particular was a good friend throughout my college experience. Today, he is working with a prominent Christian missions organization after serving on the mission field for several years.

Roommates can be tricky to navigate. Some will work out and some will not work out. This is a normal part of dorm life.

Living with a roommate or two is good training for real life. It is a laboratory for useful communication, compromise and conflict resolution. It can be a little concerning thinking about living in a tiny room with someone you do not know. Many graduating from high school heading off to college living with an unknown roommate for the first time have a little fear. This is normal. You are not alone if you feel this way. Nearly everyone who does not know their roommate has some reservations at first. Remember this, your roommate probably feels the same way about you. Here are some thoughts to help you along the way.

1. Talk about cleanliness.

You might have different expectations about what the dorm room will look like in three weeks. If neither of you care about that, then press on, but if you do, it is worth communicating. Be honest about your personal housekeeping habits or you might just regret the smell later.

2. Do not share everything.

It might seem like a great idea to share the TV, hairdryer, shampoo, popcorn and forks, but you will begin to discover that bad things happen. You do not need to feel guilty about having boundaries about your stuff. As a Christian, be loving and kind, but sharing everything is not an expectation of living for Jesus. Think about the kinds of things you feel comfortable with sharing ahead of time. Have a conversation on the phone prior to arriving on campus about this area.

3. Work on your friendship.

As the saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover. Below the surface might be a fantastic friend. You might find out that you where meant to be together and will become best friends. Lots of great things can happen if you take the time to get to know your roommate.

4. Pray for your roommate.

Even before you arrive on campus, pray for your roommate’s experience in college and for your relationship with him or her. You will be amazed how God goes before you in your relationship with your future roommate before you meet them face to face.

5. Discuss your expectations for privacy.

It is always good to have a secret code with your roommate related to privacy in the dorm room. It could be something hung on the doorknob or a time of the day you agree upon. Sometimes, you or your roommate might need a little peace and quiet.

This is going to be an exciting and stretching journey. Take the time to over-communicate expectations and have a blast getting to know someone new. When conflict arises it is always easier to handle when you know the person, rather than dealing with a stranger. With God’s help, this roommate has the potential to be a lifelong friend.

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Jeff Baxter has a doctorate in Youth and Family Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary and more than twenty years of experience on staff in local churches. He’s written The Ultimate Guide to Being Christian in College and Together: Adults and Teenagers Transforming the Church, and he’s a frequent speaker and consultant with Ministry Architects. He is currently the Lead Pastor at Light & Life Church in Lakewood, CO.