By Mary Taylor
So…your student is about to find out who their roommate is, now what? Whether your student was paired through the housing portal, found their “perfect match” on Facebook or Instagram, or will be rooming with their BFF from high school, it’s still important for them to engage in open conversations about several topics. Aside from getting to know their new roommate and discussing what items to bring (more on that in a later post), your student should be talking about their living habits and discussing topics such as cleaning and sharing of items.
While it may seem like these are topics that students can wait to discuss when they arrive at UMW, talking about them beforehand can help ease the transition from home to college and prevent some conflicts right off the bat. As an Area Coordinator, the majority of roommate conflicts I come across stem from lack of communication and can easily be solved by the students having a conversation. However, the more time that goes by as students live together in conflict, the higher emotions run and a conflict that could have easily been resolved is now much more difficult due to the increased frustration the roommates are experiencing. This is all the more reason for students to have open discussions with their roommates that are ongoing: before and during their time as roommates.
Some simple questions to start conversations include: What are your thoughts on how the cleaning responsibilities will be shared? How do you feel about sharing items and what items would or would not be shared? What are your sleeping and study habits like? What are your thoughts on guests in the room? These questions shape the roommate agreement that students will complete once they’ve settled in at UMW.
The roommate agreement is a tool that allows for roommates to discuss the areas in which we often see conflict stem from and is used to not only discuss areas, but make decisions based on open discussion and compromise. We use the roommate agreement as a “living document” so that students can revisit it throughout the year and make changes as needed. Your student’s RA will go over the roommate agreement with them and their roommate when the time comes to complete those.
If your student will be living in a residence hall that is suite-style, a shared bathroom between two rooms, and have suitemates they may want to reach out to their suitemates as well to discuss cleaning responsibilities and who will bring what for the shared bathroom. Our suite-style first year residence halls include: Mason, Randolph, Marshall, Madison, and Custis.
Some students may be especially nervous or hesitant if they did not find their roommate through social media or room with someone they knew previously. The key here is to encourage your student to not make assumptions about their new roommate and to give them a chance. As you and I already know, you can’t determine someone’s personality or how they are from one photo you find through a social media search, but sometimes our students forget that and will make assumptions without getting to know someone. Just because your student’s new roommate’s Instagram has a bunch of photos of them at concerts doesn’t mean that they will want to blare music all of the time (even if they did, quiet hours begin at 10 pm on weeknights and midnight on weekends).
If your student is unable to find their roommate on social media, please ask them to reach out through the Housing Portal which sends an email to their UMW email account. Unfortunately, Residence Life and Housing is unable to provide contact information for any person. If you know your student may not be thinking about talking with their roommate now, their roommate may still be trying to contact them, so encourage your student to check their email frequently for roommate messages.
On the other end of the spectrum, students may have an expectation that their college roommate has to be their best friend based on depictions we see throughout television. Not every pair of college roommates will be like Ross and Chandler from Friends. Helping your student to understand that this is not the typical situation and that it’s okay for roommates to just be roommates will help to set them up for a successful living environment.
Finding out their new roommate is an exciting part of the transition to college for your student and means that their UMW journey is about to begin! With each passing day, your student approaches their move-in date and prepares to leave home. While this is both a happy and nervous time for your student, we know it is for you as well. Our goal, just like yours, is for your student to be successful. If you have questions or simply want to learn more, feel free to reach out to our office. We can’t wait to see you and your student very soon!
Hall, room, and roommate assignments will be sent to your student’s UMW email address in mid to late June.