College Question: Setting Up Boundaries

Setting up boundaries in college is very important. I received this question from Sydney all about boundaries and I am answering it today on the blog.

How do we establish personal boundaries between suite mates (i.e. boys in the room, who does what chores, etc.) without sounding like control freaks?
— Sydney
College Questions: Setting Up Boundaries | Are you afraid of setting up personal boundaries? Do you want to know how to set them up without feeling like a complete jerk? I got you covered with this blog post all about setting up boundaries so they are established early and you can relax.

The boundaries question. This is important because going to college is one of the first times a lot of people have had to share the room with someone in a very long time. Most of us have grown accustomed to sharing rooms much bigger with just our snacks and laptops so it is very different going to college and living in a small residence hall. Boundaries are important for the sanity to both you and your roommate. So to this question I give you the following advice.

Set Boundaries Early

During my first year at UCA we all had to have roommates and stay on campus for the year. Me and my first roommate were eager to do other things and experience all the things that welcome week had to offer--so we didn't take our roommate rules seriously at all. After all we'd had a few conversations over the phone, on Facebook, and via text message. We were bound to be fine! Big mistake. Set the boundaries as soon as you sit down to do your roommate rules. If your resident assistant doesn't make you turn in a roommate rules form like mine did, suggest that you both sit down to create one. Roommate contracts are essential. Please try your hardest to create these in sync with one another so there is no bad blood later on if your roommate was bitter about the rules.

If your school doesn't require a contract or you are looking for another contract check out this Her Campus article. Beware that a lot of crazy things could happen on campus so a contract might not catch every gritty detail so be prepared to communicate.

Discuss Things As They Happen

Whatever you do, don't let things get salty and crusty with time. If you can do so peacefully, discuss things as they happen or a little bit later. Don't have a filing cabinet in your brain labelled "Things my roommate did last week that pissed me off." If it's something extremely rude, you don't have to let it go, but try your hardest to forgive and forget the small things like forgetting to wash a dish or leaving the television on. Leave passive aggressive games at home and communicate with your roommate. If you only complain in your head you can't expect anything to change.

Be Realistic

This is hard for me to do, especially when I might live a different life entirely than some of my roommates have. If you are a quiet person, but it's a Saturday, be a bit more understanding if your roommate is a bit louder. If it's welcome week and your roommate is up a bit later than normal, be kinder because after all you have nothing you need to get to in the morning. If it's consistent just explain that you have an early day or you had a bad day and would like some peace and calm for the evening. Your roommate will be sure to understand.

If Problems Persist, Talk To Your RA

The resident assistant is a wonderful person there to help you out however they can. Your resident assistant will be able to talk with you about the situation, and help you take a new course of action if need be. They can let you know if you are being too harsh about your boundaries, or if your roommate was truly doing things wrong. If you both signed a roommate contract this would be extremely helpful to bring to a meeting with your RA so they know even more about your case.

Final thoughts

I hope these tips helped any future college students who are looking to help make their college roommate experience even better. Don't worry about sounding like a control freak in this situation. Students are all trying to make sense of living together in a room with people we don't know. Having a contract to keep everyone accountable, communicating, and keeping an open mind with your roommate might be the best way to establish boundaries and keep them.

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