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How to get along with your roommate

Everyone’s got questions about college, but no matter how many CULPA reviews you read and Go Ask Alice! questions you browse, you won’t get an answer to one important question: What will your roommate situation be like and what do you do about it?

Without further ado, here’s some Q&A from someone who’s been through it before.

Q: What do I do if my roommate goes to sleep at strange hours?
A: You should get used to it. People in college are going to be up and about at strange hours. That’s a reality. But their odd sleep schedule should not interfere with your rest. If they’re doing something that prevents you from sleeping, you should tell them. A lot of times, roommates don’t know they’re doing something that bothers you.

Q: What if my roommate is messy?
A: You have two options here: Scorched earth (shove everything to their side of the room) or passive-aggressive cleaning (when cleaning, put their items away in obvious places).

Q: What if my roommate eats my food?
A: Let’s clarify one thing here: Your roommate will almost certainly end up eating your food at some point. There’s nothing wrong with that—you just need to establish some ground rules. Roommates who don’t eat each others’ food are not roommates, just people who happen to live near each other.  

Q: What if my roommate sexiles me?
A: In the moment, you should do whatever you feel will build the least ill will. (Which, let’s be honest, is probably letting them get laid.) It’s OK to be lenient about whatever rules you set out in your roommate contract/agreement/covenant so long as you’re not bothered by it (if you are, those feelings will fester). Afterward, make sure you should talk to them, because lenience one time can and will be misconstrued.  

Q: How do I tell my roommate that they’re doing something I don’t like?
A: That depends on your roommate, but being direct almost never hurts so long as they don’t view you as blaming them. If all else fails, put it into song form. (Or you can request a roommate transfer—a messy and complicated process, but sometimes necessary.)

Q: What if my roommate and I don’t get along?
A: You’re not always going to get along, and that’s fine. But if you’re perpetually unhappy with each other, that’s a problem.

People are going to tell you that this is normal, that your roommate is a completely random person whom you’ve been assigned to, so it’s OK if you don’t get along. That’s bad advice for two reasons. First, and most importantly: Your roommate isn’t “some rando.” Both of you (out of a very large sample size) selected Columbia and had Columbia select you. So you’ve already got quite a bit in common before any sort of roommate selection quizzes. Second: It’s OK if you’re not best friends. You don’t need to be. But you should do what you can to get along with them—it’ll make both of your lives easier.

This Q&A probably won’t answer half the questions you have, so you should direct further questions to our advice columnist.

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