I spent four years living in a dorm when I attended Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, from 2003 to 2007. I grew up sharing a bedroom with my younger sister, so I didn’t think sharing a dorm room would be too hard. Looking back, there is one piece of advice I wish I would have received: never dorm with a friend from high school.
It seemed logical as a senior in high school. I was traveling to a city I wasn’t familiar with, so seeing a friendly face every day would be comforting. When I discovered Katherine, another girl in my graduating class would also attend Lycoming College, I asked if she wanted to dorm with me the first year. She said yes. We were quickly the envy of other seniors. So many students told us they wished they could dorm with someone they knew from high school. As often happens, the reality of the situation turned out vastly different than the fantasy.
I’m sure there are plenty of people who’ve roomed with someone from high school and had a perfectly happy first year at college. My experience was not so. We soon discovered that, although Katherine and I got along well in high school, our personalities were very different. I am a night owl and a late riser, she liked to go to bed early and rise early. I tend to be a little messy, and to Katherine, my definition of a clean dorm room was to her a disaster zone. We also liked different television programs and music, and had different study habits. In hindsight, it was a recipe for disaster.
The comfort of knowing each other caused us to overlook these issues at first. In fact, during the first weeks of the school year, we relied on each other too much. I didn’t seek out new friends as hard as I might have otherwise, because I knew Katherine already. By the time we realized we needed to branch out, social groups had already been established and it was difficult to break into them. By Christmas of our freshmen year, our relationship was on the rocks. Our different personalities grated against the other and we’d discovered we didn’t have as much in common as we thought. By the end of freshman year, we barely spoke. We went our separate ways after that, barely acknowledging the other. The year we spent rooming together ruined what might have otherwise been an amiable friendship.
This is why I advise any upcoming college freshman to let the college pick your first roommate. Yes, it will be terrifying, but colleges generally try to match you with someone with similar interests and habits. Perhaps the person will be a nightmare, but they might also become a great friend. And if you know someone from high school, they can still be your friend, even if you aren’t rooming together. If I did it all over again, I would never room with someone I knew the first year.