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Media Advisory: How to get along with your college roommate

Wake Forest University expert says it’s all about communication

By Stephanie Skordas, 336-758-3826, skordas@wfu.edu Office of Communications and External Relations

Starting a new year at college marks a major transition for freshmen. Not only will they often be far away from family, but for the first time they may share a room with someone else – and that roommate is usually a stranger. That’s why using the weeks before orientation or move-in day to get to know your roommate is so important.

“You may check out their Facebook profile, but you should really pick up the phone and call them or Skype them.  Start with what each of you is bringing to the room and go from there,” said Donna McGalliard, dean of residence life and housing at Wake Forest University. “Do more than just look at their profile online and think you have insights into their life.”

McGalliard says you should be honest about what is important to you about your living space and arrangement, and willing to compromise where you can. Some questions to think about before you move into your residence hall:

  • What times do I prefer to have visitors to the room? Are there times that are off-limits?
  • Do I mind sharing my personal items with roommates? If that’s okay, which items are for common use and which are not for sharing?
  • How do I like to receive phone messages?
  • Am I very neat, messy or in-between?
  • What time do I study? Day or night?
  • When do I usually go to sleep? Can I sleep with other things going on like lights, music, guests, talking, etc.?
  • How much noise is acceptable in the morning when my roommate is getting ready for class?

McGalliard says the roommate agreement doesn’t have to be as complex as the document that fictional Sheldon Cooper of the show “The Big Bang Theory” has devised, but it should give roommates a place to be honest about what works for them, what doesn’t and where they can find middle ground.

When it comes to sticking points, McGalliard says there are three that seem to rise up every year.

  1. The use of the room with guests or TV/gaming
  2. The use of personal property
  3. Cleanliness – how your lifestyle shows up in the space.

But McGalliard also says that these three problems are usually solved with honest and open communication.

“Developmentally, it’s important for students to work through these issues,” McGalliard says. “As an adult, you need to learn to talk to other people about what’s important to you. You need to learn how to compromise and how to live and collaborate with someone else. You’ll use these skills after graduation both at work and at home.”

About Wake Forest University:
Wake Forest University combines the best traditions of a small liberal arts college with the resources of a large research university. Founded in 1834, the school is located in Winston-Salem, N.C. The University’s graduate school of arts and sciences, divinity school, and nationally ranked schools of law, medicine and business enrich our intellectual environment. Learn more about Wake Forest University at www.wfu.edu.

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