I learned some of the most important life lessons in college. But they weren't just how to do research or shoot video -- they were also how to deal with people.
I've had several roommates during college and heard countless other roommate horror stories, and I'm sure you've heard some, too.
But there's nothing like actually living with five different personalities and their pet peeves, habits and routines.
Some roommates can become life-long friends or they can become nightmares.
It's important to keep in mind that somebody is paying a lot of money for you to get this higher education, whether it be you, your parents, the institution, the government or a combination of all of the above, and the last thing you need in this crucial part in your life is coming home every day to a nightmare.
I spent too much time trying to resolve the unsolvable, but, eventually, I learned to let it go and instead have a study group session with people that I knew would stick around me after college.
But how do you know who is a keeper and who isn't from the beginning?
Take my good friend, whom I will call Emily, for example. From Day 1 of college, her roommate, whom I will call Jess, latched on to her as a friend. They had comparable personalities and did almost everything together. But Jess made almost no other connections with people, and Emily did. That was warning sign No. 1.
Your roommate can be a friend, but it's important to also branch out -- join school functions, etc. That's the way you find friends to help with schoolwork, support you when you need it and vice versa, and eventually share housing. Good friends tend to have their own connections that they are willing to share in the relationship.
Emily and Jess ended up renting an apartment together for their sophomore year. Things seemed fine, except for the fact that Emily started to feel a little smothered and judged by Jess for the choices she was making. Warning sign No. 2.
Jess felt that because she was so close to Emily, she could be overly honest with her. There's always a line, no matter how close your friends are, and good friends will know exactly where that is and respect it.
Then they made a horrible mistake. They signed a lease for another apartment for one more year together. Almost immediately afterward, tensions rose and bubbled over. Needless to say, they don't speak and can't stand each other. And they have to do it all over again next year.
It's a telltale reminder to look for the signs of people who don't respect your space and get out when you can.
Once you've passed the initial freshman trial run of the random roommate, and you have your chance at rooming with some friends you made on the basketball team, the school newspaper or in class, the hardest part has just begun.
When keeping a healthy relationship with a group of people you live with, it's important to remember communication and compromise. It's hard to be completely happy without a balance of both of them. When everyone is coming from different backgrounds and lifestyles, your habits are destined to collide.
Prime example: different perspectives on "clean." If you take your time with the dishes in the sink, but your roommate wants everything cleaned immediately, you have to meet halfway.
If problems do arise, don't hold back on confronting the person about it ... gently. Try to avoid any passive-aggressive looks, texts or notes. It's like a disease. The bad vibes spread around like a plague, infecting each person's mood.
So what do you do if someone is giving you the silent treatment? Easy. Try once to resolve it, genuinely listen to anything he or she says, and if it doesn't work -- this isn't worth your time. You're here for an education and to find friends who have mutual respect.
When you leave college, you'll know exactly who's going to stick around. It's going to be those people through whom you've met friends, who know when to stop pushing your buttons, who will meet you halfway and who will tell you when something's up.
Remember that you're not in high school any longer. Your friends should be a supplement to your education, not the focus of it.
As simple as it sounds, you know you're investing time in the right people when they take the stress away, not add to it.
Marina Weis, who was a summer intern at the Post-Gazettte, is a senior majoring in journalism and multimedia at Point Park University. She can be reached at email@example.com. First Published October 3, 2013 4:00 AM