How to Live with a College Roommate 101


College roommates talking near dorm room

So you’ve made the huge decision to go to college and pursue a degree. Most likely you don’t know exactly what you want to study yet but you’ll be learning lots of different important information. However, one thing you probably won’t learn in class is about how to live with a roommate. Well, I’m Professor Eric and welcome to How to Live with a College Roommate 101.

Some of you have already lived with a roommate for your whole life or for an extended period of time so you think you have nothing to learn. I was roommates with my younger brother growing up and let me tell you: it is completely different having a college roommate than having your sibling as a roommate.

First Lesson: Cleanliness

College student's clean and tidy dorm room

Colleges often require you to fill out housing forms to try and pair you with a similar roommate. However, you can still run into many issues with whoever your roommate ends up being. My first piece of advice would be to say that you are clean or very clean in these forms, it is better to have a roommate that is forcing you to be clean than one who is an absolute slob. Trust me, I am speaking from experience. No matter what I tried my freshman year, I could not get my roommate to clean up the seemingly endless piles of trash located on his side of the room. It was so bad that I never had any of my friends over and almost requested to leave my dorm.

Second Lesson: Study Hours/Similar schedules

College student's study schedule in dorm room

It is very helpful to establish a time during the day where you are quiet and studying in your room. Obviously, libraries are available but it’s easier to study in your dorm. If you dedicate specific hours to studying you will be far more productive. This can be very helpful because many people manage their time poorly in college due to an abundance of free time. Furthermore, having similar schedules overall can be very helpful. While you cannot guarantee this, colleges often ask how late you stay up and how early you wake up. If you are trying to find a roommate this is also a good piece of information to find out. You don’t want to have a roommate that comes home from parties at 1 am if you’re already asleep or vice versa. Or a roommate that wakes up for an 8 am class and wakes you up when you don’t have class until 10 am.

Third Lesson: Establish Guidelines

College student's roommate contract at Rice University

It is super important to establish some general rules/guidelines with your roommate about your day to day activities and what you are comfortable with in your dorm. At the end of the day, this is a shared living space between basically two strangers so it's very important to ensure you are both comfortable with the living environment and each other’s behavior. Probably one of the biggest guidelines to establish is other people in your dorm. How often that is and at what times. Even though you may want to bring your friend over to hang out, you should ask your roommate first because they might be busy or simply not want anyone in the room right now.

Fourth Lesson: Choose your roommate

Texas A&M roommate selection portal

Texas A&M Roommate Selection Portal

Some colleges allow students to choose their roommates. I would highly recommend trying to find someone on your school’s Facebook page or housing portal that seems similar and reach out. If you like talking with them and feel like you are similar people, then you should consider rooming together. Living with a random roommate is a complete shot in the dark. You can either be like me and have a horrible freshman roommate you never talked to or you can be like my two best friends who were randomly paired together. However, people who choose their roommates are far more likely to end up being good friends and have a good roommate experience.

Fifth Lesson: Address Problems

Roommates talking outside of dorm room in winter

If your roommate is waking you up early in the morning or late at night when they are coming into or leaving the room, you should talk to them about it. Or whatever other problem you may have such as cleanliness in the room or them eating your snacks. Do not let your issues continue to build up until you explode on your roommate. This will lead to an unhealthy relationship and your roommate will not take your anger well.  It is much easier to address little problems and have a respectful conversation about them.

Sixth Lesson: Be Respectful

College roommates who respect each other

It is important to remember that your roommate is also a person and deserves to be respected. They have as much of a right to the room as you do. If both roommates treat each other with respect, the experience will be far better. Nobody wants to have an angry roommate.

Seventh Lesson: Try to find similar Interests

College roommates spending time together in coffee shop

Do you both like to workout? Like the same TV show? Like sports? Whatever it is you should try and find something you and your roommate both like to do. Then you can make plans to do it together and try and become closer. Who knows, maybe this shared interest will make you guys the best of friends. At the very least, hopefully, it makes you a little closer.

Eighth Lesson: You DON’T have to be best friends

Two college roommates walking away from each other

While it would be great to be best friends with your college roommate, you don’t have to be. As long as you are both respectful of each other and don’t bother each other it would still be a good roommate situation. Sometimes it isn’t good to live with your best friend because their living habits/standards are very different from your own. Remember that your roommate doesn’t have to be your best friend to be a good roommate. Don’t force yourself to try to be best friends but just try to be good roommates and it will all be fine.

Conclusion on Living With a Roommate in College

College roommates laughing and exploring their university's campus

Congratulations! You’ve passed How to Live with a College Roommate 101. I hope that you bring all this information with you into your freshman year and have a successful relationship with your roommate.