A long time ago in a university far, far away, I was the person who looked at all the first year housing preference forms and made roommate matches. I would joke that I was responsible for making best friends or worst enemies. This is the time of year when first-year students begin receiving e-mails or letters from their college with a name of a stranger who will soon be their roommates.
For them, I offer some unsolicited advice about living on campus for the first time.
1. Talk to your roommate– This is huge. I would get so many calls from students or their parents that went something like this; “I don’t like my roommate” “Why?” “I can tell we aren’t going to get along because of his facebook profile” “Have you talked to him yet?” “No, but I don’t need to.” Classic! Talk with your roommate(s) before you move in together, even if it is just to say hi or talk about who is going to bring what (because you don’t need two TVs or microfridges). Once you two have been living together for a couple of weeks, you might get into a disagreement. I know, it is shocking to hear. Again, it is important to talk to your roommate. If you don’t know how to do that, there are many people who can help you with that conversation, especially the RA. Talk to your roommate before the small problem becomes a nuclear disaster.
2. Move-in Day– Bring one car. If you feel like you need two, you need to re-evaluate what you are bringing. But what about Grandma, she’ll need a seat in the car. Nope. As much as Grandma would love to come and see the college, she does not need to come on move-in day. There are hundreds of people trying to move into one building in a matter of hours. Don’t like the set-up of your room? Wait to re-arrange the room when the parents have gone. That way, you and your roommate can decide together (see #1) where to put things, and there aren’t four extra people around. Expect there to be a lot of people around to help you move in. The classic Pauley Shore movie Son-in-Law might provide what the best glimpse of what move-in day is like.
3. The RA– The RA is neither your friend nor your enemy. Contrary to what hundreds of TV shows and movies may have told you about RAs, they are actually there to help you adjust to life in college. Yes, at times they will need to be enforcers, but that is done to make sure the residence hall does not burst into flames. Trust me, they want to be an RA because an RA helped them their first year of college in a variety of ways. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they are there to help you, not to destroy fun.
4. Don’t go home until Fall Break– This doesn’t matter if you are 20 minutes or 6 hours from home. Do not go home until Fall Break. You might be asking yourself, Why does Jason hate the idea of me spending time with my family? A lot is going on during those first few weeks, a lot of different emotions about if you’re fitting in or not, if this is the right college for you or not. You need the time to sit with that feeling of uneasiness without just returning to the comfort of home. There are many people feeling the same way, but nobody wants to talk about it. You made a brave decision to go to school and to live on-campus. Give yourself the time to get used to both the disappointments and highlights.
5. Enjoy it- do you know what happens when 200+ first year students are living together in a confined place? Drama. We are trying to go from a crowd to a community and not everyone will get along. I always remember the time an older student was put into a room with two younger students. They did not get along at first, I mean, really did not get along. But eventually they began talking and learning more about each other, became great friends, started a religious order, and became saints. Anything can happen, so enjoy it.
This article originally appeared on August 18, 2014.
Cover image: Fox Meadows Bedroom | Flickr User UWW ResNET | Flickr Creative Commons