Harvard Supplementary Essay: Letter to My Roommate
Dearest future college roommate,
As the doubtlessly driven and independent young student you are—I mean, heck, you got into Harvard—I’m sure that you’re eager beyond words to start this new chapter in your life. I don’t blame you. After all, college is your big opportunity to leave the nest and spread your wings for the first time, and, best of all, there’s no one else to please but you. That’s right—I’m talking complete freedom. Just think of the possibilities! You want to shut your door and turn up the music so loud that your eardrums atrophy? Sure thing! You want to leave your room looking like a tornado hit it and then a horde of intoxicated chimps came in and scavenged madly through the wreckage? Sure thing! You want to be a daredevil and—gasp!—go out without a coat? Sure thing! You want to skip your veggies and stay up until three in the morning eating cold leftover pizza you’re too lazy to microwave and a gallon of bubble gum chunk ice cream? Well, sure thing, but you’ve got bad taste.
But anyway, bad taste aside, listing the pleasures of total autonomy isn’t the reason I’m writing this letter…rather, I’m writing to break the news that everything I just said is kind of a lie. Or, at least, there’s an asterisk attached to it. Because the first thing that college is going to do to you when you arrive on campus and start getting excited about your room to yourself and your total autonomy will be to take away your room to yourself and your total autonomy. That’s right—they’re going to assign you to a room with other living, breathing, feeling human organisms whose backgrounds, interests, dispositions, pet peeves, and favorite ice cream flavors could be completely different from yours.
Congratulations! For you, one of those organisms is me.
That’s not to say that I’m not ridiculously excited to start at Harvard or to have you as a roommate—I’m just trying to prepare us both. College will be our first time on our own, but just like education teaches us how to use knowledge for others’ benefit, our new freedom will teach us how to function responsibly when we’re working with other autonomous people. That’s life, after all. So, in short, you and I are going to have a lot of decisions to make together, and I thought that maybe we should tell one another about ourselves beforehand so that at least we know what to expect.If you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail, am I right?
So, with all that being said, here’s the top ten things (in no particular order) that I think you should know about me before we share a room.
1. I am not a morning person. That doesn’t mean that I hate people in the morning; rather, I hypothesize that my neurons relax excessively during the night and it takes longer for them to tighten up and start firing again than it does for most people. As a result, my early-morning communicative abilities are usually reduced to Neanderthal grunting, slow blinks, improvised sign language, and the occasional clueless stare. My parents say that I have been known to smile at them once in a while, though, so there is still hope for you. Just go on with your day as usual and I’ll eventually start functioning properly again on my own.
2. I don’t participate in any social media whatsoever, so if you make a habit of initiating conversation by asking if I saw your latest Snapchat story or your friend’s tweet, I will smile politely and laugh at all your references but will generally have no clue what you’re talking about. In fact, I only know what a Snapchat story is because I just Googled it ten seconds ago. I apologize in advance for any inconvenience.
3. I’m introverted (NOT the same thing as shy, despite popular belief), so I like to get to know people before becoming completely open with them. When I do get to know you, though, I’m very warm and love to talk. Plus, I love stories and I’ll sit and listen to you if you ever need to vent.
4. If there is a spider in our room, you will probably have to be the one to kill it, because I’m going to be on the opposite side of the room cringing and telling you for the thousandth time how much I hate spiders.
5. I love books.
5?. If you think that Shakespeare, J.K. Rowling, Tolkien, and Mark Twain are literary geniuses, then we should definitely talk about books with each other. If you think that the best books ever written are those that have anything to do with teenage vampires, then maybe we should talk about something else.
5?. If you ask me to go to a party with you, be specific, because I actually have a shirt that says “I like to party, and by party, I mean read books” (I’ll show it to you sometime if you want to see it) and I will probably think that you’re referencing time in the library. Again, I apologize in advance.
6. While bubble gum ice cream—which does actually exist, in case you’ve never had the displeasure of trying it—really isn’t my thing, I am a die-hard chocolate fan, so if you ever need to bribe me to do something, chocolate-flavored anything (including ice cream) is your best bet for leverage. Dark chocolate is my favorite, by the way, but milk chocolate will do in a pinch.
7. I will constantly beleaguer you with the question “Is it cold in here to you?” because, believe it or not, my body’s heat-generating capabilities are almost as faulty as my neurons in the morning, so I am almost always cold. Also, if you ever walk into our room and it seems to be vacant except for a tubby little bundle of blankets with sock feet sticking out, check the bundle, because it’s probably me.
8. I’m really looking forward to being able to sit around with a bunch of smart people and talk about the amazing things they’re doing, so I’ll probably be attending a ton of community meals/study sessions/club gatherings, and I’ll likely be inviting you to them all the time. I also hope that all of us suitemates get to spend many evenings together sharing the discoveries we’ve been making, so don’t be a stranger. Besides, that’s the perfect way to end the day, don’t you think?
9. We’re probably going to be sharing a bathroom, so heads up: I take really long, scalding showers. So get in there before I do, and test the temperature before you just go hopping in—my little brother’s had to learn that the hard way over the years, bless his heart. Also, I may or may not sing in there. Don’t go checking.
10. My sources (a.k.a. my mom, dad, and brother) tell me that I have really weird tastes in food, so if we go to the cafeteria together, please be patient with me. For example, I will go straight to a sushi bar and pile my plate with raw seafood, squid tentacles, and fish-egg-laden rolls, but I will not touch any kind of fruit jelly with a ten-foot pole. Same for raw tomatoes (by themselves, anyway), American cheese, runny eggs, gravy, smoked sausage, and applesauce. Apparently my taste buds haven’t figured out how the American palate works. Good thing there’s going to be a ton of different cultural dishes available, because otherwise I would be in danger of missing out on the Freshman 15, and that would really be un-American.
Alright, so that’s my list; I hope it was informative and not too terrifying. And can I tell you something truthfully? Though I do hope that we end up having a lot in common, I would also be pretty excited if you differ from me on almost every point I listed. I don’t want to room with my clone. I want to be part of a community that’s full of living, breathing, feeling human people with different perspectives and amazing insights that come from just being unique. And that, thankfully, is a community that Harvard happily fosters.
Like I said, I love stories. Can’t wait to hear yours.
So, with that, I’m signing off! Take care, stay amazing, and whatever you do, don’t try any bubble gum chunk ice cream, because I have no idea how you’re supposed to swallow the ice cream and chew the gum at the same time without choking to death.
See you soon!