Learning to cohabitate with a person, especially someone who may have different habits, routines, likes, and dislikes than you, can be both incredibly rewarding and challenging. Prior to coming to Vassar College, many students have not shared a bedroom with a non-family member before, so it can be quite an adjustment at first! However, a valuable part of the collegiate experience is learning to coexist with many different kinds of people, both inside and outside the classroom. It’s also important to remember that you’re not alone and there’s many resources here to help you on this journey!
Before coming to campus
Break the ice! We encourage you to reach out to your roommate(s) before getting to campus. It can be helpful to introduce yourself and be able to learn about each other's interests and your preferred methods of communication. Practically, this also gives you and your roommate(s) a chance to coordinate who is bringing what to campus (ex. microfridge, fans, etc). By taking the initiative to connect with your roommate(s) before arriving on campus, you can establish a foundation of communication, understanding, and mutual respect. This will contribute to a smoother transition and a more enjoyable living experience throughout your time in college! It will also mean that you already know someone when you arrive on campus to move in!
Once you get to campus
Open communication is essential between roommates and we encourage you to get off on the right foot by being open and honest with each other on day one. This begins with you and your roommate(s) establishing basic guidelines and expectations for your shared living space.
While we strongly encourage ALL students to complete a Roommate Agreement Form within the first few weeks of the Academic Year, First Year students will be required to complete a roommate agreement form to document the expectations you and your roommate(s) have of each other. These can (and should!) be revisited as the year goes on and as individual needs evolve.
Some topics you will want to discuss with your roommate include:
- Visitors: When would you prefer not to have people in the room? How do you feel about having other people spend the night? How much notice should you give your roommate before bringing visitors over?
- Sharing Items: What is considered a communal item? What is yours alone and should not be used without permission? Do you mind if your roommate borrowed your clothes? Or used your toothpaste without asking?
- Sharing Space: In the room, what is communal space? What activities are allowed in the room, or not? Consider activities such as exercise, meditation, prayer, eating, physical intimacy with partners, having overnight guests, etc.
- Noise: Do you study with music on? Do you like to watch TV or play games late at night? What are the earliest and latest times that a reasonable level of noise is allowed?
- Cleanliness: How often do you plan on cleaning the room? Do you mind if it’s messy, or do you prefer it stays neat?
- Sleep: What time do you generally go to sleep and wake up? Does that differ on weekdays and weekends? Does noise while you’re sleeping disturb you?
- Safety: Do you prefer the door to stay locked at all times even when you’re both in the room? Make sure you are both on the same page about locking the door when you leave!
As you and your roommate(s) discuss these guidelines, be honest about your likes, dislikes, schedules, feelings, and boundaries! Be clear about where you are willing to compromise and where you are not. Remember that compromise is always a part of sharing a living space with another person and you each deserve a room that you feel safe and comfortable living in. Ultimately, you should give your roommate the respect, consideration, and understanding you expect in return.
Dealing with Roommate Conflicts
Problems in a shared living environment are inevitable. Your success in navigating these will be determined by how you respond to these conflicts—not on your ability to avoid them. Good news: you don’t have to address them alone! Your Student Fellow, along with the House Advisor, are here to assist as you sort through issues and concerns.
At some point of the year, it is likely that you will have a roommate concern. You are not expected to be best friends with your roommate(s). The goal is peaceful and respectful cohabitation. The following tips may be helpful:
- Talk to your roommate(s) directly. Do not bring everyone on your floor or friends into the conflict to pick sides. It will get back to your roommate and will make the conversation much more challenging. Needing to vent is normal, but talking to specific support people like your Student Fellow or House Advisor ensures that the conversation is kept private.
- Be gentle, but direct. Remain calm and do not let emotions take control. There is a space to acknowledge your feelings while still focusing on having a conversation with a positive outcome. If you are not feeling calm, or sense that anger is clouding your ability to have a productive conversation, stop and reschedule a time to talk. You can also ask your Student Fellow or House Advisor to facilitate the conversation.
- Recognize that your roommate(s) may not know how you are feeling and likely have a completely different perspective on the situation. Refrain from making assumptions and allow your roommate(s) time to speak and offer their point of view. It may help you understand each other better!
- Use “I” statements and speak from your own experiences.
- Be open to receive criticism or feedback that your roommate(s) may have for you. Be open minded and remember that you may both need to compromise!
Seeking assistance regarding a Roommate Conflict?
If you have attempted resolving the conflict on your own, or if you are struggling to address your concerns to your roommate directly, your Student Fellow, along with the House Advisor, are here to assist you! Your Student Fellow will hold weekly open room hours and provide you with ways to contact them when you meet them during move-in. You can also reach a professional staff member by emailing your House Advisor directly to set up a time to meet both individually and with your roommate(s). In the case of an emergency or an immediate safety concern, you can reach the Administrator on Call by calling the Campus Resource Center at (845) 437-5221.
Some General Tips for Living with Roommates:
- Respect personal space and privacy: Everyone needs their personal space, so be mindful of your roommates' boundaries. Avoid borrowing or using their belongings without permission unless explicitly agreed upon in advance, and always knock before entering their room. Establish guidelines for sharing common areas and keep them as clean and organized as discussed.
- Be considerate and willing to compromise: Living with roommates requires compromise and understanding. Be mindful of noise levels, especially during quiet hours, and respect your roommates' need for rest or study time. Clean up after yourself, share cleaning responsibilities, and avoid monopolizing shared spaces. It’s also important to realize that people’s needs may change as you settle into the new college routine. It’s okay to voice if something in your roommate agreement isn’t working and might need adjustments.
- Be open to different perspectives: College is a time of growth and learning, and living with roommates from diverse backgrounds can broaden your horizons. Embrace the opportunity to learn from one another, appreciate differences, and be open to new experiences. Respect your roommates' opinions, cultures, and beliefs.
- Resolve conflicts calmly: Conflicts may arise despite your best efforts. When disagreements occur, address them calmly and directly. Listen actively, express your concerns without blaming or attacking, and work together to find a solution that is fair to everyone involved. If needed, involve a mediator, such as your Student Fellow or House Advisor to help facilitate the conversation.
- Be a responsible roommate: Take responsibility for your actions and their impact on your roommates. Follow the agreed-upon rules, give your roommate adequate notice before arriving with guests, and be accountable for your share of chores. Showing respect and responsibility will contribute to a positive living environment.
- Practice self-care: College life can be demanding, so it's essential to prioritize self-care. Take time for yourself, establish healthy routines, and communicate your needs with your roommates. Respect each other's need for quiet time or personal space, and encourage one another to maintain a balanced lifestyle.
Remember, living with roommates is a learning experience, and it may take time to adjust and find a dynamic that works for everyone. With good communication, respect, and a willingness to compromise, you can build positive relationships and create a harmonious living environment.
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