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Articles / Applying to College / Help .... My "Non-Smoking" Roommate is a Smoker

Aug. 6, 2008

Help .... My "Non-Smoking" Roommate is a Smoker

Question: On my roommate-matching questionnaire, I wrote down that I do not smoke and expect to live with another non-smoker. I found out that the college always respects that preference, and I was assigned a non-smoking roommate... or so I thought. But then I met my roommate at orientation. She seems really nice, but later that night I saw her outside having a cigarette with some other kids. I was shy about asking if she really does smoke. Maybe it was a one-time--or just occasional-- thing, or maybe she is going to start smoking in college. I really DON'T want to share a room with a smoker. What should I do?

You have "The Dean's" sympathy. I, too, had a freshman roommate who took up the nasty habit in our first semester. Back in those days (1969) I must admit I was pretty oblivious. But if it happened to me now, I'd be ready to jump out the window. It's possible that your roomie was just trying to fit in with some new friends she met at orientation, and there will be no butts about her when she starts school for real. On the other hand, it could be that she's been a smoker all along but had to fill out the housing questionnaire under close parental scrutiny. It seems that your only options are to:


-contact the roommate pronto to tell her what you saw and how you feel about it. Maybe you'll get a "I don't know what possessed me that night" reply, and you can breathe a (smoke-free) sigh of relief.

-prevail upon the Residence Life coordinator to find you a truly match-free match

-suck it up (the situation that is, not the smoke) and hope that the roommate only smokes elsewhere (is the dorm itself smoke-free?) and keeps her stinky stuff in a separate closet

None of those approaches are ideal, but--if you've got the guts for it--the first one is probably the place to start.

Good luck!

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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