Tips for Living with Roommates in College


For many students, attending college is not only the first time they’ve lived away from home—it’s also the first time they’ve have to live with a roommate. Freshman dorms can be tiny, and living with a total stranger might sound daunting to some. Here are some tips for living with a roommate in college!


Communication is key


In order to have a successful roommate experience in college, it’s absolutely essential that you master the art of communication. That doesn’t mean you should talk your roommate’s ear off at inopportune times, but rather that you should establish a roommate situation in which each roommate feels comfortable discussing any important issues they may have related to the room. The last thing you want is a situation where something your roommate does really bothers you (or vice versa) that you avoid talking about for the whole year. By talking things out and creating a climate in which communication is possible, you’ll ensure the roommate experience will be peaceful and enjoyable for all!


Discuss what’s shared and what’s not shared


Some people love sharing their things, and some people hate when other people use their things without permission. There may be some items you don’t mind your roommate using—a televsion, maybe, or a microwave—but other items that you’d prefer your roommate not to use, such as your towels and toothbrush. If there any items you don’t mind sharing or don’t want your roommate to use, be sure to say so (politely, of course.) Likewise, you should also respect your roommate’s stuff and not use it without asking permission first.


Discuss schedules


What if you’re an early bird and your roommate is a night owl? You’ll want to know these things. It’s important to discuss schedules with your roommate so you each have a sense of when the other has class, extracurricular obligations, study times, and so on. Knowing when your roommate plans to go to sleep and wake up can help you be more mindful of respecting their need for a good night’s sleep. It will also help you know when the room will be free if you happen to enjoy your alone time. Ask your roommate about their schedule and let them know about yours. That way both of you will be on the same page and won’t disturb or annoy each other.

Discuss study habits


Some people like to study in the library; others like to study in their room or in a common area. Set up a policy with your roommate about studying. Perhaps it will annoy your roommate if you have a lamp on for studying while your roommate is trying to sleep. Perhaps it will annoy you if your roommate constantly blares loud music while you’re trying to sleep or study. The best solution might be to study in areas other than the room if your roommate requests that you do so. You should feel free to ask your roommate to study somewhere else as well. Whatever your policy toward studying is, be sure to establish it.


Discuss noise


Some people prefer quiet. Others don’t mind a bit of noise. There will be times you value quiet and times you don’t mind noise, and the same will be true of your roommate. Make sure your roommate knows that you’re always happy to reduce noise or use headphones, and ask politely if you need your roommate to do the same. The last thing you want is noise preventing you from having some peace and quiet for study or rest.


Discuss alarm clocks and light


If your roommate is the type to always hit the snooze button twenty times each morning, their alarm clock might wake you up much earlier than you need to get up. The same is true for you. If you’re a heavy sleeper, alarm clocks won’t bother you much, but if you’re a light sleeper and your roommate never wakes up to their alarm clock, there might be a problem.


Light’s another issue that might be worthwhile to discuss. Do you mind a lamp on while you sleep? Do you need total darkness? What about your roommate? Be kind and respectful regarding how much light you use, and ask your roommate about their needs and preferences.


Have a plan for when one roommate needs the room


Sometimes you’re going to want the room to yourself, and sometimes your roommate is going to want the room to themselves. It’s important to discuss your policy regarding alone time in the room and to establish what you’ll do when the other person needs the room (and vice versa) as well as set up how often such requests should be made. If your roommate wants the room to themselves every single night, that might be a problem! And vice versa. Set up reasonable guidelines for when roommates can have time to themselves.


Discuss cleanliness


You might be a clean freak and your roommate might be a slob. Or vice versa. It’s important to discuss how clean and messy each of you requires the room to be. You don’t want to spend all year nagging each other to clean, so figure out your cleaning habits and requirements right away so disorder will be a non-issue. Don’t be afraid to ask your roommate to clean up their trash if it’s preventing you from peacefully inhabiting your room. The same is true for dirty laundry. Don’t let your dirty clothes pile up and stink up the place!


Respect boundaries and use common sense


The main thing to know about living with a roommate is that they’re a person with needs, wants, and preferences just like you. Establish a pattern of communication, be polite and respectful, and respect the other person’s boundaries as you want them to respect yours. Use common sense. If you’re not sure whether something will bother your roommate, ask. Make sure they know they should do the same with you. If you both make a commitment to follow the golden rule and communicate with one another in a polite and respectful manner, you might even enjoy having a roommate!

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