HomeArticlesSurviving the Freshman Year in College

Dear Estelle. What do you consider the most difficult challenge a freshman student will encounter in college? We are trying to discuss issues with our son but have probably been away from it far too long to be knowledgeable enough. It seems as if we are always having discussions with friends when we meet but would appreciate your expertise.  Parents, Denver.

There are many important issues to address when your child leaves for college such as money and time management, seeking assistance, campus safety, selecting a major, but probably the most important is roommate compatibility. Although difficult to quantify, roommate compatibility appears to be one of the leading factors determining student academic success and retention in college. In conversations with many current and former college students over the past decade a significant number had a story to tell about their roommates and the impact on their college experience. “Adjusting to my roommate was probably one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever had!” responded a young woman about her freshman year at college.

Roommate problems occupy a significant amount of college housing personnel’s time and effort. It is not unusual for students to want to leave school because of poor relationships. Roommate conflicts are not uncommon.

What can a new college freshman do to improve compatibility with their new roommate?

  • Fill out the rooming application honestly. Colleges depend on these to match you with your roommate.
  • Phone your roommate this summer to get to know him/her prior to the startof the freshman year. A call will give you an opportunity to coordinate belongings.
  • Establish some ground rules with your roommate shortly after arrival. Negotiate early and know what’s important to you without being judgmental.
  • Prioritize study hours.
  • Respect sleep habits.
  • What about overnight guests?
  • Define property rights. How acceptable is it for a roommate to borrow your clothes without asking?
  • Who’s responsible for keeping the room clean?

These are some of the questions you should be asking each other when you meet each other in person at the beginning of the school year.

If your college offers it, plan to attend their summer orientation program. Many colleges require new freshman to attend these programs because they give new students an opportunity to get to know one another. Roommate compatibility is definitely a key issue in college retention.

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