Archive for December, 2012

Roommate survival guide: Part 1

Posted: December 28, 2012 by UI Upward Bound in Uncategorized

So I thought today we could depart from the usual academic topics and instead talk about roommates. It’s near the end of the year, you are probably on Christmas break and don’t necessarily want to think about school right now (although quick plug: FAFSA filing starts January 1st!) Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about roommates.

If you plan on going to college, chances are you will have a roommate at some point. Maybe you will luck out and be matched with that perfect roomie, the Bert to your Ernie, the Lennon to your McCartney (pre-Yoko of course), your new best friend who never makes messes or uses your toothpaste or starts hoarding pizza boxes.


Now, I’m no expert, but the number of people I knew in college who had that “perfect” experience were less than two. One year I got stuck with a girl who insisted upon playing her bassoon at all hours of the night. She claimed that it was a “creative time” for her, which may have been true, but was still highly inconsiderate. A friend had a roommate who consistently ate all of the food in the house, regardless of who purchased said food, and then lied and hid the evidence (once even going so far as to claim that a “burglar must have broken into the house and eaten all of the groceries!”). That’s the funny thing about roommates — most people have a story to tell about a terrible one, but almost no one is able to say “all of my college roommates were awesome and not weird or inconsiderate at all!”

Weirdos and food burglars aside, let’s talk about some ways you can deal with roommates and prepare yourself for that time when you might be sharing living quarters with a stranger. I thought for the next few entries, we might do a survival guide about how to prepare yourself in advance for that weirdo who leaves their floss on the floor or dances to Ke$ha every morning at 5 am.


Today’s topic is: COMMUNICATION

For the love of Pete, TALK to the person you live with. There is nothing more awkward or horrible than sharing a room with someone you never talk to the entire year. Most roommate issues arise from a lack of direct communication. This is totally natural, because most people want to avoid confrontation with their roommates.

Here’s how it usually starts: your roommate is sitting on your armchair, eating a scrumptious burrito,  and some grease drips out and onto the cushion. You notice but say nothing, because hey, that chair was old anyway. Your roommate thinks since you didn’t object, you might be okay with it and doesn’t clean up the grease spot. The next week, the same things happens, and this time they leave the wrapper on your chair. Again, to keep the peace, you don’t say anything and throw the wrapper away yourself. Cut to three months later, your roommate has claimed your armchair as their own personal garbage pile. Your grandma gave you that chair! You are furious. You go on Facebook and write a bitter diatribe against your roommate, listing their flaws and telling an exaggerated version of the “grease stain story.” Your roommate sees this and is dumbfounded — why didn’t you ever say anything? Why did they have to find out this way? Now neither of you will speak to each other, and have a very uncomfortable living situation; far more uncomfortable than it would have been to initially confront them about the stain on your chair.


So how do we avoid this? Laying out ground rules when you first begin living with your roommates goes a long way. While it may seem lame to create a contract with your roommate(s), this one conversation at the beginning of the year can lay the foundation for fewer misunderstandings for the rest of the time you live together. The following is adapted from The Naked Roommate’s First Year Survival Workbook.

The Uncomfortable Clause

If you do something that makes me uncomfortable or irritated, I must tell you within 24 – 48 hours or I will NOT be allowed to tell you. If I do something that makes you uncomfortable or irritated, you must tell me within 24 – 48 hours. If neither roommate expresses him/herself within this timeframe, we are NOT allowed to talk to ANYONE about the problem (this includes “the internet”). We all promise not to fight, but we will listen, respect each others’ opinions, and try to get along.

Some common issues include (but are not limited to):

  • Being too loud
  • Having friends over
  • Sharing food
  • Body odor/hygiene
  • PDAs with boy/girlfriend in room
  • Being messy (cluttered)
  • Being dirty (moldy food, not doing dishes)
  • Getting up too early/staying up too late
  • Wearing your roommate’s clothes
  • Using roommate’s things without asking first
  • Not respecting your roommate’s belongings
  • Your roommates background, political views, values, religion, etc.
  • ??

If you address issues in a timely manner with your roommate, chances are you will be able to resolve it and get on with your lives, rather than let it fester and bother you for months.


If you have any tips for getting along with roommates, or ways you have successfully resolved conflict in the past, please feel free to leave a comment!





By Michelle King

Most of the college application process is pretty cut and dry. Mom’s name? Easy. Date of SAT scores? Simple. Any additional information you’d like to add? Um, what? For many pre-collegiettes, this can be the trickiest part of the application process. If you do fill it out, will your college even look at it? Will they be annoyed? How much can you fill out? If you don’t fill it out, will you look uncreative and lazy? What if your first choice college doesn’t have an additional information section on its application? Can you still send something? Breathe easy, pre-collegiettes. Her Campus is here to help you figure out what to attach (and what not to attach) to that confusing little section.

additional info section common app, common application, additional info app

DON’T Send Additional Information Just Because There’s a Section to Do So:
If you don’t have something you really feel your college should see, don’t just send anything. “Colleges don’t want to feel like you’re wasting their time and just including additional information for the sake of including additional information,” says Karen Siegel, a college counselor in South Florida. “It’s like when you’re assigned a four page paper and wind up writing six just because you want to impress the teacher. Ask yourself, ‘What does this add to my application that isn’t somewhere in there already?’ If you can’t come up with an answer immediately, don’t include it.”

DO Send Additional Information Even If There Isn’t a Place To Do So — But Ask First:
The Common Application has a place for Additional Information, but what if your school isn’t on The Common App? Can you still send the op-ed you wrote for your town’s paper? Yes – just ask first. Siegel suggest calling up the admissions office and asking if they accept additional information. If they say no, don’t push, but if they say yes, ask where it should be sent and how it should be packaged. If you’re sending a DVD, clarify that this is okay. You wouldn’t want to send the documentary you made last year only to have it chucked in the garbage.

girl holding books, common application, additional info section, additional info section common app

DO Send Something Related to Your Area of Interest:
“If you know what your intended major is, you can include something related to that, especially if it’s a major in the arts,” says Siegel. “If you’re a journalism major, include your three best clips. If you plan on studying photography, include your three best photos. You can even attach a resume if there wasn’t already a place to do so. Additional information is not the same as additional essay. Don’t write three pages about why you love to take pictures.” You can use the personal essay section of the application for that. Siegel stresses that you don’t need to send your whole repertoire. The admissions staff is more likely to look at one article you wrote that you’re really proud of, rather than 20 articles you wrote for your school’s paper.

DO Show Your Personality:
If you have no idea what you want to major in yet, don’t stress. You can send something that shows how multi-faceted you are. When applying to Emerson College, Alyssa Altman, now a junior marketing major, felt that her application didn’t show all the sides of her personality. “In high school, I was president of my school’s Operation Smile Club and designed a t-shirt that was printed and distributed nationally. I sent in one of the shirts and included information about how much they raised and how we sold them,” says Alyssa. “I was hoping Emerson would see that I had more to me than what appeared.” Achievements in a club you’re active in or a community service group you work with are great to include. They show your personality and areas of interest, while still keeping your application professional. Siegel suggests calling your school before you send something tangible and making sure it’s okay. Every school has a different policy.

common app, common application, common application additional info

DON’T Send Something Completely From Left Field:
Stephanie, a junior at the University of Florida, sent her first choice college a mix CD of all her favorite songs when she was as senior. “I don’t necessarily think that’s why they rejected me, but it probably didn’t help my case,” says Miller. “In retrospect, it made me look ditzy and unfocused. Why was I making a mix instead of working? It felt random and colleges want focused students.” You want to show your college your personality in your application and display what would make you a unique addition to their school, but remember to stay professional. Listing your favorite movies or sending them your childhood stuffed animal might catch their eye — but not in the way you want. Use the additional information section to show off your talents, not your awesome taste in music (unless you are a professional DJ).

DO Explain Any Mishaps in Your Transcript:
College Confidential, a college admissions counseling company founded in 2001, suggests, “The additional information section can be a handy, catch-all place to explain the sorts of things that the rest of the forms may not cover. Are there irregularities on your transcript, such as a repeated class–or a skipped one–that require clarification? Did your parents go through a nasty divorce that torpedoed your sophomore grades? The additional information space might be just the spot to provide insight into such anomalies.” But be careful! According to Siegel, it’s easy to read like a pity party when you start talking about why you got a C in Spanish class sophomore year. “If you’re going to explain a poor grade or a dropped class, make sure you have a real reason,” she says, who clarifies by saying, “And ‘the teacher didn’t like me’ is not a real reason.” She suggests only doing so for major, red flag issues — a C plus does not need an explanation, but repeating a year of school? That might need some explaining. When Elizabeth’s* dad died her freshman year of high school, her grades plummeted and she was forced to redo freshman year. “My dad’s death wasn’t something I wanted to talk about for my personal essay, but I wanted to explain why I had to redo freshman year,” says Elizabeth, who now studies at Fordham. “I wrote two paragraphs explaining how I felt repeating freshman year benefited me.” If you want to explain something in your transcript, just do so in a two to three paragraphs and explain what you learned from the situation.

Karen Siegel, College Counselor
College women nationwide
College Board:
College Confidential: