So, you’ve packed your bags and kissed college goodbye. As you settle into a job (or maybe a job hunt), you think: Roommates? No sweat, I’ve lived with other people for the last four years, I got this.
While at first it’s going to feel like the same thing you’ve done all through college — sharing living space, making frozen pizza, lots of Netflix — it’s not a carbon copy. As you settle into this new season of life, you’ll start to realize the differences, both subtle and unavoidable. When you’re entering a new co-living situation, it’s important to know what factors might get in the way of a successful relationship. Here are some things to consider when comparing post-grad and college roommates.
The working world can be a terrifying place at first. There’s business casual dress codes, meetings, awkward happy hours — oh, and there’s also a paycheck! Depending on your new roommate and your new job, this could mean a lot of things:
- You both have paychecks and you can afford nice things. (Like cloth napkins and DVR!)
- You make more money than your roommate. You feel weird asking for money when you swipe for pizza or ask about that bill.
- You make less than he or she does. It’s hard to explain why you have to pass on a cruise with your buddies or a weekend getaway.
- You both are short on cash and coming up with rent is hard. See? Lots of room for different finances as you get on your feet.
Jeremi Gill, 22, works in public relations in Manhattan and lives with four college students. As the sole tenant on the lease, he says paying for rent can be a stressful time of the month. Since his roommates aren’t in the same financial situation, he’s been known to spot them for rent here and there. Had it not been for their open communication, things could have gotten ugly.
“I had to pay it for him and check in with him every few days to see when he was getting his paycheck,” Gill says about one of his roommates.
“That created some stress, as he guaranteed me there would be no problems, and already on the first month I was having to cover for him with my own finances. But no love lost.”
Remember how you could skip class as a student to sneak in a nap? Those were the days! As a big kid, those options are few and far in between. If your roommate is not on the same schedule as you, his or her activities could affect your precious sleep, and showing up at work groggy isn’t an option. (Luckily we have some expert tips on how some simple redecorating can help you get better sleep.)
For Gill, his daily work routine drastically differs from that of his college roommates — which, on one hand, isn’t so bad.
“Once I started spending my entire day at work, I started having a desire to make the most use of my mornings,” he says. “Instead of sleeping in until work, I started getting up a couple hours earlier to work out and eat a decent breakfast. I’m always the first one up. On the flip side, once I come back from work the evening is mine to rest and relax. While my roommates are all bent over their books, flipping through flashcards and writing papers, I am trying out new recipes in the kitchen and writing letters to my friends.”
Without sounding like a camp counselor, be upfront about the time you need to catch better Zs. Laying down some ground rules in a roommate contract is a good idea. Coming to an agreement that any coming-and-goings after a certain time should be ninja-like will avoid conflict at home and ensure everyone gets their beauty sleep.
If you have a significant other and he or she is going to be spending time around your place, lay it out upfront. If you’re one to have guests drop in often, that’s good to know too. College living situations tend to be more forgiving when six of your besties from high school visit for a football game or your boyfriend is a regular.
But things are a little trickier in the post-grad life. Whether or not you’re seeing someone seriously, it’s always a good idea to have the “overnight guest talk” and let your roommate know who’ll going be to coming in and out — especially if they’ve got a spare key.
Strange, New Frontier
Perhaps the biggest difference in post-college roommates is the sheer variety of people you might end up living with. Learning how to share a home with different characters can be challenging at times. Mackenzie, another PR professional from Manhattan (who chose to stay partially anonymous for this article) knows this quite well. She rents a room on Long Island and lives with an older roommate. They both rent from a family friend, but their age gap makes for some well-meaning, but awkward moments.
“Occasionally, it still feels like I’m a kid, because my roommate has two children that are both older than I am, so, as she put it once, I’m ‘still a baby,’’’ she says. “It wasn’t meant to be condescending, but it certainly highlighted a stark difference in our positions and ages.”
When you come home and need to vent about your coworkers or something going on at work, you may be disappointed with the lack of sympathy from your roommate if you can’t really relate — and that goes both ways. Be understanding and avoid belittling if your roommate needs an ear. In the same vein, find a confidant on your path if your roommate’s not interested in listening to your play-by-play of office life — after all, you don’t have to be best friends.
On the other hand, distance can be a good thing. If you’re both doing your own things on different schedules, there’s less overlap in social circles. Fewer connections often equals friction. Plus, hearing from someone whose days are completely different than yours can lend a whole new perspective.
What differences have you experienced living with a college versus a post-grad roommate? Tell us in the comments below!