If you have a college roommate who is struggling, perhaps because they can’t get used to being away from home, or they are finding their coursework too hard, it can have a serious impact on your own ability to stay positive. However, if you make an effort to encourage them to deal with their problems and get back on track, it will be beneficial to the both of you.
There are a number of ways that you can encourage a college roommate, without being patronizing or invading their private space too much.
Find out what the problem is
You can’t really encourage your college roommate to be more positive or perform better if you don’t really understand the root of the problem. Talk to them honestly. Say that you are concerned and want to know if there’s anything you can do to help. They may tell you to mind your own business, in which case, there is little you can do, but the chances are that they will be relieved to talk about what is bothering them. It could simply be a lack of confidence and a few words of comfort and support from you could really make all the difference.
Offer the hand of friendship
People sharing a room aren’t necessarily going to get on well. Hopefully, you will be sharing with someone that you can at least tolerate, however, so if you can see that they are unhappy and in need of encouragement, make an effort to try and be friends with them. This doesn’t mean you have to spend every moment of every day with them; rather that you occasionally include them in your plans when going out. Most importantly, let them know that you are there for them to talk to when they are feeling low.
Help them to make other friends
Many people find college hard because they aren’t used to being away from their friends and family. If your roommate is shy and finds it hard to make friends, then try and give them a helping hand by introducing them to other people and accompanying them to social events. Perhaps you could join a club or society together. It will increase their confidence and will give them something else to think about. Of course, this may not be appropriate if they need encouraging to buckle down and get on with their work, but in general, it can be beneficial.
Unfortunately, when people are feeling low and unconfident, they may find it hard to make sensible plans. Listen to what your roommate is saying and, instead of simply glossing over their issues by telling them to socialize more, or put more effort into their studies, talk to them about the options that they have. It is important to avoid being patronizing here. You may feel that their problems are easily solved, but if they are worried and confused, it may not be so obvious to them. Show some diplomacy and compassion, and your words will be appreciated.
Allow them study time
Sharing a room can be difficult for both parties. If your roommate is particularly quiet, or simply needs a lot of alone time in order to get their work done, then compromise by arranging to be out at certain points. If you are constantly in the room and bring friends back on a regular basis, their ability to study may be affected – especially if they are easily distracted. Alternatively, you could draw up a timetable so that you are both studying at the same time and therefore encouraging each other.
Encourage them to look after their health
The sudden freedom of being able to do exactly what you want at college can be overwhelming and often leads to unhealthy practices. You should, of course, look after your own health, but you can encourage your roommate to be happier and do better if they look after theirs too. You can’t stand over them all the time, but ensuring they eat decent meals a couple of times a week and to exercise regularly can make a big difference. If you are concerned about their drinking or drug-taking, then an effort to get to the bottom of their reasons for doing so in the first place may be in order.
Find the right people to help them
There may come a time when you realize that you can no longer help your roommate yourself. If you are concerned about their ability to make rational decisions, then you may need to help them seek the assistance they need. You can’t force them to go to anyone for help if they don’t want to, but you can at least find out who may be able to help them and give them a gentle nudge in that direction. If it is an academic issue, it should be easy to find the right person. If it is more personal, then do some research and ensure that you find someone who will listen to their issues and be tactful.
You cannot be entirely responsible for another human being. However, provided that you are willing to listen and make sensible, tactful suggestions, you should be able to encourage your roommate to go forward in the right direction.