What to Discuss With Your Future Roommates

One of the undeniable perks of Gregory is that each Gregorian has their own bedroom, a rare situation on campus at Penn, particularly for first-year students: more space for your things, more privacy for your sanity, excellent.  That said, all but a few Gregorians have roommates, and indeed the majority have three roommates. In popular media, college roommates usually end up best friends or worst enemies; in reality, both extremes are unusual from our experience. But what is essential to everyone’s happiness isn’t a lifelong, irreplaceable friendship anyway—it’s a successful arrangement built on mutual respect and open communication.

Respect is crucial. Penn is an extremely diverse, international environment. Your roommate may be from a place far from your home, and might be very different from you in terms of values, ethnicity, religion, habits, orientation, diet, lifestyle, you name it.   In any quad with four roommates, you are likely to find a wide spectrum of people.  Like the private bedroom space, this is also excellent. College is a time to expand your horizons outside of whatever limited social sphere you might have experienced so far, and one of the missions of Penn and the College House system is to prepare you for the multitudinous world you will face in post-college life. Listening to your roommates, trying to understand where they are coming from and working with an open mind to find compromises when necessary are essential steps in building a harmonious suite.

Of course, to do that you need to talk. Open communication is essential, and ideally that process will begin long before you all meet up in late August. Here are some matters we strongly suggest you discuss before arrival and over your first few days. 

  1.  Don't Succumb to Room Resentment.  One of the wonkier architectural decisions behind Gregory is that within most every quad (with the exception of the handful with living rooms), the bedrooms vary in size. Though all are ample by Penn standards (especially compared to Hill, or most rooms in the quad), two are the same size, one is a bit larger, and one a bit larger still. Groups returning to the House for later years can select which bedrooms they want, but for new students the bedrooms are randomly assigned by the mysterious housing computer (and your penncard will only give you access to your assigned space).  Keep in mind that your roommates haven't somehow backstabbed you for the bigger space; it's just fickle fate... and we find the size of your bedroom doesn't really impact most anyone's experience here. 
  2. Cleaning the common spaces, most crucially the bathroom. It’s awesome not to need to use a common bathroom down the hall, shared with countless other people.  Visit one of the bathrooms in the Quad sometime over the weekend and the whys of this will become quite clear.  The flip side is that no one will come clean the thing for you.  People tend to have different standards of cleanliness, but devising a cleaning schedule and set of expectations (and splitting the cleaning supply cost) is essential.  Not following through with your end of the arrangement often causes unnecessary friction between roommates. Note that maintaining bathroom cleanliness will be essential during the 2020-2021 year and roommates must be diligent to clean up after themselves.
  3. The common fridgeSome students still bring their own, but there is a microfridge unit in the common hallway of every quad and double, which is quite convenient. Nevertheless, each year plenty of our staff are called in to address the following dramatic accusation: My Roommate Drank My Milk. Discuss whether items in the fridge are shared or individual; if little signs are necessary, so be it. As a rule of thumb – if you don’t know for certain whether you are allowed to help yourself to something in the fridge that you didn’t buy yourself, don’t do it. Little matters can often snowball into major disputes.
  4. Entering your roommate’s bedroom. Here’s another common sticking point between suitemates.  Discuss whether your roommates are allowed to pop in your room when you aren’t there; whether they can borrow anything; and especially whether their guests can use your bed if you are away. And let’s be clear on this one: without prior permission, you are not allowed to enter your roommate’s room, borrow any of their items, eat any of their food or certainly use their bed.  Some folks are perfectly OK with a more open environment, which is totally fine so long as this has been previously discussed and agreed upon by all parties.  Note that our bedrooms all have individual ID locks, so students have complete control over access to their bedrooms when they aren't present (provided they remember to close the door!). 
  5. GuestsCollege is pretty social, which is swell. But coming to an agreement about how often guests can be present, particularly groups and especially overnight, is crucial; and if you have a romantic partner, they can’t simply unofficially move in. Roommate permission is required for you to host guests; familiarize yourself with all the other policies regarding guests.  Note that guests access will likely be extremely limited during the 2020-2021 year.
  6. NoisePenn students keep wildly different sleep and study schedules, and some have higher tolerance for noise than others. Discussion of hours, volume, sleep schedules, etc is key; and headphones can be a lifesaver. Of course, noise can be an issue for the larger community, not just your roommates; note that the college houses have campus-wide rules for quiet hours, and Gregory in general tends to be a quieter community where noise is particularly bothersome for our residents. If your volume is impacting the well-being of other residents, we will address the issue. See more college house policies on noise.
  7. Cleaning your own bedroom. Some people are neat, some are clean; this is the basis of many a popular sitcom. Since you have your own bedroom, this is not as much an issue as it might be in a shared double, say. But your cleanliness or lack thereof can definitely impact your suitemates.  This is an urban environment; if you leave ample clutter, crumbs, trash and unprotected foodstuffs in your room, you are likely to attract some new roommates of the creepy-crawly pest variety.  It is likely they will pop in on your more fastidious suitemates too, and that’s not fair to them. So remember to maintain a respectable level of cleanliness, and this expectation should be discussed from the start. 


See more pointers here!