Chapter 7: Managing Relationships
While college is a time to grow academically, it is also a time to refine your social skills and to form valuable relationships with different people. These may be romantic or friendly relationships, home-life relationships with a roommate, professional relationships through an internship or research project and more. Understanding how to form quality, lasting relationships in college can enhance your life well after you graduate.
Getting Along With Your Roommate
Some college roommates cannot stand to be around each other, and this creates a very unpleasant home experience for both individuals. Other roommates become very close and may even develop a solid relationship that lasts a lifetime. Even if the two of you grow to become good friends, there are bound to be at least a few rough patches.
Setting Up Your Ground Rules
When you both get settled into your new space or even when you are talking before your move-in date, discuss the rules that you both want to abide by to ensure your comfort. This may include rules about study hours, visitors and more. It is helpful if you both print out a copy of your schedule so that the other person knows when you are coming and going.
A roomate contract is a written agreement between you and your roomate that helps set the rules for your shared space. It can be loose and short or detailed and lengthy. In many cases, simply drafting this contract together can bring you both closer together and help you learn more about each other. Remember that this contract can be customized specifically based on your preferences, but there are some templates online that can help you to get started.
Some of the factors that are included in a solid roommate contract include:
- Quiet hours for studying or sleeping
- When visitors can and cannot be in the room
- How many visitors can be in the room at one time
- Cleanliness requirements
- Noises and other distractions, such as from a TV, visitors or music
- How shared items may be used, such as a microwave or a TV
- When the door should be locked
- How to handle romantic relationships and related private time
- How to handle any disagreements
- Borrowing items from the roommate
Talking Things Through
Many people prefer to avoid confrontation, so talking things through can seem stressful and awkward. However, it can also easily resolve a situation before it gets truly problematic for both individuals. Remember that each person is a unique individual, and you both need to respect each other’s habits, desires and property. Always treat your roommate how you would like to be treated if the situation was reversed.
The best time to discuss an issue is as soon as it develops. Letting an issue grow and your unhappiness about it fester can create a major conflict. Conflict usually cannot be resolved if you and your roommate do not discuss it calmly and openly. Avoid being confrontational, and simply explain what your grievance is and how the roommate’s behaviors or actions are disrupting your life. You can always bring your RA into the discussion if you and your roomate cannot reach a resolution. An RA is usually trained in conflict resolution strategies, so he or she is a great resource to rely on.
Getting to Know Each Other
Getting to know your roommate better can help you feel more comfortable sharing your space with someone who may otherwise be a stranger to you. These are some of the topics that you may wish to discuss.
- Learn more about your roommate’s high school friends and family.
- Ask about reasons behind their decision to enroll in this school or their major.
- Many people are interested in clubs, sports or other activities, and these interests can tell you a lot about your roommate.
- Some people lean more toward the sciences or math, and others lean toward liberal arts. Learn your roommate’s interests and strengths.
- Learn about other activities or educational areas your roommate interested in.
- Your roommate may have special hobbies or interests that you are also interested in or that may impact your shared living space. For example, the two of you may share interests in movies, TV shows, music and more.
- If your roommate has a job, you may need to know about work hours and how this may affect their use of the shared space.
Bonding With Your Roomate
Your roommate may be one of the first friends that you make in college, so it makes sense to bond as much as possible early on. These are some ways to get to know each other.
- Attend Orientation Activities. Attending Welcome Week and other orientation activities is a great way to kick off your relationship.
- Explore the Town. If you are both new to the area, you can venture off campus to explore local attractions and venues.
- Decorate Your Space. You may want your new space to feel like home. Decorating the space together is a fun way to blend styles and to learn more about each other.
- Go to Parties. Parties are a part of the college experience. It is not safe or fun to go alone. Your roommate is the perfect person to hang out with at parties.
- Host an Event. Planning a movie night or another event in your dorm or apartment complex is a thoughtful way to bond as well as a fun way to meet new people.
- Share Meals. Few people enjoy eating alone. When you head to the cafeteria, ask your roommate to join you.
- Try Something New. You can develop a great friendship with your roommate if you both find a shared hobby or interest. Be open to new things.
- Watch TV. If you both find a TV show that you want to start watching or that you may have already been watching at home, you can share this time together to bond.
- Make a Bucket List. College is a time to expand your horizons. Creating a roommate bucket list is a wonderful way to share experiences together throughout the year.
Making Friends in College
You understandably want to make friends with other people besides your roommate. Remember that many people who are around you each day may be in your same position and may be eager to potentially develop a friendship with you. There are many places to make new friends while in college.
- Dorm. Many students find friends right there in their dorm. When you venture outside of your room and spend time in common areas, you may join in on a study group or simply watch TV with some other people. Some dorms host planned events, or a spontaneous group event may break out. Be willing to join in on the fun to meet other people.
- Classes. Your classes also present you with a convenient place to meet new people. You can form a study group to develop new friendships as well.
- Campus Organizations. From Greek organizations and sports clubs to volunteer clubs, music clubs and more, there is a wide range of organizations that you can get involved in on campus. These present you with an opportunity to meet like-minded people.
- Campus Events. Many colleges host themed dances, music festivals and a wide range of other events throughout the year. These are great places to strike up a conversation with someone new and to potentially develop a great friendship.
- Around Campus. There are many recreational or social areas around campus where you can meet people. For example, you can strike up a conversation with classmates while you are waiting in the hall for class to start, in the student center or even in the school’s fitness center.
- Jobs. If you work on-campus or off-campus, you may make friends with other students or with people who are not enrolled in school. Having work friends can make time fly when you are on the job.
College comes with its own set of dating rules. Here are some general DO’s and DON’Ts.
- DO head out of your dorm or apartment to meet new people.
- DO date people from your classes.
- DO have your first few dates in public areas. Remember to take things slow when you are spending time with a new person.
- DO understand that it is OK to be single. College is a time to learn about who you are and to focus on yourself. Avoid feeling pressure to find a significant other.
- DO feel confident about any decisions you make to be in a romantic relationship with someone or to be alone for a while.
- DO take a risk and start a relationship with someone who you feel a special connection with.
- DO be aware that some college students are looking for a one-night hookup. Be aware of the intentions of others before you get attached or make decisions that you may regret later.
- DO have fun, and avoid feeling pressured to rush into a relationship.
- DON’T be timid to make the first move.
- DON’T make a rash decision to hook up with someone in your dorm.
- DON’T make a snap judgment about someone who you just met.
- DON’T continue talking to your high school sweetheart who you already broke up with. College is a time to move on.
- DON’T make plans to go out every night of the week. You can intrigue others when you are not constantly on the scene, and you also need time to study.
- DON’T lead people on.
- DON’T fall victim to the pressure to have sex on a first date. Anyone who is worth having sex with is willing to wait until you are ready.
- DON’T feel frustrated if you cannot find a quality partner right away. The best things in life are worth waiting for.
- DON’T let your friends leave you at parties or other places alone. If you arrive with your friends, leave with your friends.
Juggling Your Relationship and Studies
Many college students find it difficult to balance their studies and love life. These tips can help you:
- Find a Partner With Similar Goals. Ideally, your new partner will be equally interested in spending some time studying.
- Plan Your Week. You need to have time to attend classes and to study outside of classes. These should be priorities over a relationship.
- Share Your Meals Together. Everyone has to eat, so it makes sense to make dates out of your meals.
- Have Study Dates. You do not necessarily have to study apart from each other. However, if you do study together, make sure you study in public so that you actually get things done.
- Work on Assignments Together. If you need to attend a play or watch a movie for class, for example, you can do these activities together.
- Spend Special Time Together. While your studies take priority, remember that you need to reserve some special time for your partner as well. Plan a date night once a week to ensure that you have that special time that your relationship needs.
Developing Better Relationships With Your Family
While your parents may understand that college is a time when you become an adult, they also may not be ready to completely let go. It is important for you to let your parents know how they can continue to support you, but at the same time, give you space for personal growth. Here are some tips to make this transition easier.
- Communicate Often. Worried parents may easily call or text you too frequently, and this can be bothersome. With all the techology available today, you easily check in and let your parents know how things are going. You should also plan to have a lengthy phone all or video chat at least a few times each month.
- Set Boundaries. Make it clear to your parents that you need your space to study, make friends and simply enjoy college life. Explain to them that you do not want surprise visits, and do not feel guilty if you cannot come home every time they ask to see you.
- Avoid Going Home Constantly. When you go home, you may have delicious meals prepared for you, a quiet place to sleep and even a parent who is willing to do your laundry. However, plan infrequent trips home so that you can adjust to college life on your own terms. A lengthy conversation can help you to ward off homesickness without losing the independence and personal growth associated with being on your own.
- Become Financially Independent. If you want to be treated like an adult, you should plan to be as financially independent as possible. Your parents may pay for main college expenses, but you should try to pay for all other expenses on your own.
- Take Control. College is not the time to run to your parents every time an issue arises. Instead, take responsibility for the problems that you may be facing, such as overspending or having an issue with your roommate. Look for solutions on your own, such as turning to the RA when you have a roommate issue. Only bring your parents in on serious or major issues.
- Allow for Personal Growth. In college, you will be exposed to many people with different backgrounds, beliefs, lifestyles and more. While you want to respect your family’s values and traditions, you also should be open to learning new things and even exploring your personal interests in them. You can become your own person while still respecting your family’s views.
Relationships in college can be challenging to make and difficult to maintain. Having the right approach can help you develop truly wonderful, meaningful relationships without losing sight of your own goals. In the next chapter, we’ll deal learn more about the Greek system.