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How to Create the Best Transfer Roommate Experience in College

Successful transfer students take control of their college journey, right down to whom they live with. Make the roommate selection process easier with these tips!

When you hear about the transfer student experience, experts often offer tips on things like choosing the right time to transfer colleges, finding a program that accepts your academic credits, submitting transfer and scholarship applications, making new friends, immersing yourself in extracurriculars, and acclimating to your new campus. Do you notice a significant gap in student life tips there? As a former transfer student, I sure do: What about dorm life? Rarely do transfer students get resources to help them adapt to new campus housing, roommates, and resident assistants. Here’s all the advice you need on taking control of the transfer roommate and residence life process!

It’s not as intimidating as it seems

Surprisingly, your new housing situation will likely be one of the least jarring parts of your transfer experience if you lived on campus at your old school. Most colleges opt for similar housing themes, including placing transfers with their transition in mind. You’ll find all colleges will have RAs to support you, housing for upperclassmen if you’re transferring later in your academic career, and current students who are transitioning to new roommates at the start of a semester, among other commonalities.

Get connected ahead of time

First, figure out how similar or dissimilar campus living is going to be from your current school by getting in touch with the student housing department after you’ve been admitted. They can answer all your questions and likely offer some level of autonomy in choosing a roommate through a survey or other student pairing program. For example, Seton Hall University recommends students fill out their survey when they submit their housing deposits on their student portal.

Related: 5 Things Every Transfer Student Should Do This Summer

Which roommate experience do you want?

Before you can start the process of finding someone, you need to know what kind of roommate you want. Your college roommate experience should be just that: yours (and theirs, obviously). You should take any level of input your school allows regarding your roommate. The person you live with can have a major impact on the rest of your college life—so make sure that impact is positive. What kind of roommate experience would make you most comfortable in your new environment? Here are a few scenarios to consider.

Choosing a relatable fellow transfer

No one wants to feel like a fish out of water. Luckily, when transferring, you’re not the only fish from another pond in this seemingly vast new ocean. Your obvious first option for a roommate is a fellow transfer student. They’ll understand your feelings better than anyone else, including the stress and anxiety and excitement of changing colleges to find a better place to fulfill your academic goals.

If you’re a traditional fall transfer, most colleges will have you move in at the same time as first-years to participate in orientation and get to know the school with a smaller group of students. This means your roommate will be on campus with you from the jump, learning it all together. One potential downside to this kind of roommate is the situation may make it more difficult to make new friendships beyond other transfers who share your unique experiences.

Living with a knowledgeable current student

Maybe you don’t want to be constantly reminded that you’re a transfer student and would rather have a roommate who can help you integrate on campus as quickly as possible. In this case, work with your college or university to get paired with a friendly current student willing to show you the ropes. You may be able to get connected with a student in your new major program or at least a similar field! The University of Connecticut offers its transfer students many roommate pairing options, with separate housing application forms for fall or spring semesters, themed housing that groups transfer students together, and the ability to request to live with a current student.

Here’s the tough thing: Unless there’s a great roommate matching survey or your school has the option to request a current student like UConn, there’s no guarantee your new roommate will want to play mentor to you. While they might help you learn about campus a bit, you may find you need to be a little more independent in settling in than you expected.

Being your own roommate

Are you scoffing at the thought of a little independence? As a transfer student, you have an extra layer of experience and maturity compared to many of your peers—and maybe at this point in your academic career, you just want to get it done. Being your own roommate in a single room or getting an apartment are both great options for putting your head down and working as hard as you can on the rest of your degree without potential roommate drama. However, be wary that single rooms at colleges and universities are often a lot more expensive (and competitive) to secure.

Related: How to Be Smart When Picking Your College Roommate

Ways to make the transition easier

Once you get to campus, you may still be wary of what your new residential life is going to be like. Remember, you may be new, but you aren’t powerless here. There are a few things you can do to make life better for the long term.

Make friends with your RA

Resident assistants sometimes get a bad reputation for being stuffy about the rules even though they’re students themselves. Yes, being an RA is a job, but think of them as the bridge between not just you and your peers but also you and the school administration that makes the rules you live by on campus. Get to know your advisor when you get there. They can help you feel more comfortable, let you know what dorm life is like, step in during roommate conflicts, and so much more.

Create a roommate agreement

The college roommate agreement is the holy grail of dorm life conflict resolution; schools have even started providing their own templates as resources for students to use. Cornell College is a great example, offering a comprehensive eight-page agreement that up to four roommates can sign. It covers everything from guest rules, sleeping preferences, and study schedules to cleaning responsibilities and any kind of scenario that may cause conflict. This document could be especially helpful to you as a transfer student if you’ve learned from past roommate mistakes at your old school.

Switch roommates if necessary

Switching roommates again after just switching schools isn’t ideal, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of the question. Sometimes you get paired with someone you just don’t mesh with—and that’s not your fault or theirs. If unresolvable problems persist early on in the semester, talk to your RA about helping you with the process of switching to a new room.

Related: Good Vibes Only: How to Avoid Fighting With Your Roommate

Transfer students must learn the art of the transition and how to be masters of adaptability and flexibility. That doesn’t mean you have to settle for discomfort or a lack of power on the way to your new college. Take your time at every step—including the housing and roommate selection process—to ensure control of your comfort and success when you arrive on your new campus.

Looking for a simple roommate contract template? We’ve got you covered! Here’s How to Make Your Own College Roommate Agreement (which includes a one-page downloadable template we made just for you).

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