Whether you’re moving into the dorm as a freshman or a senior looking for a nice house close to campus, chances are you’ll be living with roommates. There are very few college students who live alone, mostly because it’s too expensive. In college towns, rent for an individual apartment can reach $750 a month. It may not sound like much, and it may not be if your parents pay for it, but for most students $750 a month is not reasonable. The solution to lower rent is to live with roommates. In this article I’ll talk about the pros and cons of living with roommates, how to find roommates, and share some of my experiences along the way. This will be a two-part post due to its length. Part I will discuss life in the dorms, while Part II will discuss life after the dorms.
Since I just graduated from college in April 2005, I consider myself an expert on college life. Not much has changed in the few months I’ve been alone. I am living alone for the first time in my life and let me tell you, it is quite different from being in college.
Most students begin their college experience living in dorms. When I moved, I chose to live in an old dorm. Twenty strange rooms on the floor with a large common bathroom. The boys’ section was separated from the girls’ section by a living room/kitchen with a stove, oven, some cloaks, and a television. It is not the same as living at home with your own bedroom and bathroom. Most dorms (at least the older ones) don’t have individual rooms. Everyone has a roommate and sometimes there are triples in a room. Most schools give you the option to choose your roommate or they randomly assign you one. My first year, I would like to live with a friend. Make sure you are good friends with this person or else they may end up wanting to kill each other. I have so many friends who ended up hating their roommates. They were friends on the outside, but in the room it was hell.
I was lucky in the first semester of college. I got along with my roommate for the most part. We led different lives, which was good. I was on the meal plan and he was not. We take different classes at different times and hang out with different people too. In my opinion, this is how it has to be if you choose to live with a friend. You can’t get too close or your friendship will fall apart. (Note that the dorms I’m talking about are the ones that are roughly 12×12 with two single beds and two desks and enough standing room. New age dorms where people have their own bedrooms and bathrooms are totally different.) My roommate ended up transferring to a new school after our first semester for various reasons. I thought he had done it in the shadows. Wouldn’t the school know? Would I get the room to myself? The answer was no.
Enter Kraut (my new roommate from Germany). He was American, but grew up in Germany on a military base. This was one of the best and worst experiences of college. Living with a complete stranger who is the complete opposite of you. This is every incoming freshman’s worst nightmare. Andrew (whom I referred to as Kraut… please don’t be offended by this. It was just a friendly joke between us) moved in with me because his previous roommates moved him out of a triple room. wow. After living with him for a semester, I know why he got expelled.
First of all, I was in ROTC. I have nothing against being a proud American and wanting to serve in the military, but when you have to get up at 4:00 am every morning to go for a run with that squad, that’s when I start to lose my mind. His alarm went off at 3:45 am every day and he slept for about 30 minutes. He never went to class, so he was there to annoy me in all my free time. He played Counter-Strike (which I’m sure you all know what it is. Counter-Strike is a terrorist/counter-terrorist video game). He played it all night with the loud sound. You would think my bedroom is a war zone. I tried to take him with me, or have lunch with him in the cafeteria, but I just couldn’t stand it. I learned a lot from Kraut and I will never forget it. My most memorable moment is when I turned up the volume on my PC and played the theme song from Salute Your Shorts right in his ear while he was sleeping. I captured everything on video. He waved me off and went to bed. I haven’t seen Kraut since I moved out of the dorm.
Some pros and cons of living in dorms (again, I’m referring to vintage dorms, not apartment-style ones).
Pro – Right on campus. You can get up 5 minutes before class and walk there in boxer shorts.
Pro – Right on campus. Food is close (especially if you’re on a meal plan).
Pro – Social life. You meet a lot of new people who live in the dorms. Some become friends for life. Dorms often have mini-parties and social events where everyone hangs out.
Pro – It’s new. College is about experiencing new things. The dream life is one of them.
Pro – It’s cheap. It is not as expensive as renting an apartment.
Pro: It is very easy to find dating games for sports.
Pro: there is an Ethernet computer network. High speed internet access and everyone is connected. Awesome for playing video games. (When I was a freshman, things like Napster were brand new. People were downloading music back and forth on the high-speed web and sharing music like you’d never seen it before. And as far as we knew, it was all legal.)
With – Without privacy. People will randomly enter your room. Keep it closed.
Con: Dirty old bedrooms are no fun. I got sick once a month living there. I still have trouble breathing.
Con – The bedrooms are very small. You will not be able to fit everything you have in your closet.
Con: Having annoying roommates that you can’t do anything with.
Scam: Internet Firewalls. Some dorms are very strict now about what you can and can’t do on the internet at school. Sorry guys, you can’t download music here.
Scam – Cooking food can be a big deal. You don’t have a fridge or oven in your room.
With – Insects and rats. Depending on how old your bedroom is (I think mine was built in the 40’s), you may find rodents running around. We had a rat problem for a week. I saw one run across the floor of my room and then it disappeared into the wall.
Well, that’s all I have for today. Check back tomorrow (or Monday) for Part II of College Roommates. If you have any questions, email me at [email protected]