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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 10/16/2009

“The Naked Roommate” And Other Trials of College Life

By Valerie Strauss

True or False: “The Naked Roommate” by Harlan Cohen is required reading at some colleges and universities.

You knew the answer was going to be “yes” or The Answer Sheet would not have brought it up.

The Sheet was surprised to learn this, but found that it made sense after students and school administrators persuaded her to read the advice it offers for negotiating naked, smelly, noisy, and mean roommates, as well as for dealing with professors, how to read a college textbook, and how to think about sex, drugs, laundry, diet, and other stuff.

Some of the stories Cohen tells are hilarious, and he has helpfully divided his advice into easy to follow categories. For example, there are categories for:

*The "I’m Naked, Look at Me” roommate, who likes to walk around nude.
*The “I’m Naked, Do Not Look at Me” roommate,” which is self-explanatory.
*The “I’m Naked, But Didn’t Mean for You to See Me (Or Us)" roommate, which explains what to do if you find your roommate in a sexual situation, alone or with someone else.

There are, of course, many books offering advice to help college students get through their first year well enough to want to return for their second—which is not automatic. At least 30 percent of American freshmen don’t come back for their junior year, and it is safe to assume that many don’t because they were ill-prepared for college life.

“I call this the 10 percent rule,” Cohen said in an interview. “College is 90 percent amazing and 10 percent rough. And the student who doesn’t know the 10 percent is coming will be consumed 100 percent of their time trying to work through these issues.”

Other helpful advice books include “How to Survive Your Freshman Year," a collection of helpful tips and stories from hundreds of college students who give different sides of an issue.

It is Cohen’s book, though, that is required reading in a one-credit semester-long freshman seminar at the University of Texas at Dallas, and that Southern Illinois University at Carbondale just ordered in bulk (2,500 copies), and that is required at Massachusetts’ Endicott College in its one-credit freshmen transition course.

Beverly Dolinsky, vice president of student affairs at Endicott, said the topics “are very real,” and written in an engaging style. To choose which book to use, Dolinsky said she collected a number of books on the same subject and put them on a table during busy Accepted Students Day. The only book that parents AND students consistently picked up was “The Naked Roommate.”

“The laughter and real-life honesty of the book’s presentation helps students realize that their experiences are not unique to them and that everyone is in the same boat,” she said.

Here is a list (Friday is the day for lists on The Sheet) of some of Cohen’s advice, in his words:
*Avoid judging your roommate on first impressions.
*Say something to your roommate immediately if there is a problem or it will only get worse and worse. Don’t be afraid to speak up!
*Don’t sweat finding a major right away. And don’t worry about changing it should you find out that your heart’s not into it.
*Don't date anyone on your floor in your [dormitory] hall.
*Watch out when you go drinking; you never know who is watching or what they may put in your drink.
*Drugs take up too much time--there's finding them, doing them, talking about them, and then recovering from them the next day.

By Valerie Strauss  | October 16, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  College Life, Higher Education  | Tags:  "The Naked Roommate, college life  
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There is another solution to the roommate problem--stay at home and go to the local community college for the freshman year, or even the first two years. Then, sophomores and juniors have much more choice in housing--even renting an apartment with a friend, using some of the money they saved by attending the lower-tuition, no-board community college. And most community colleges offer the same freshman courses you would get at the state colleges. I personally know several students who have done this; in one case the student stated openly that she wanted to avoid living in a dorm so she was not going away to college until she could find her own living arrangements!

Posted by: opinionatedreader | October 17, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

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