How to Survive College: Roommates

Before college, I always had my own room, so to end the How To Survive College series, I’m focusing on roommates. Whether you’re moving in with friends or strangers, learning how to navigate a shared space can be a big transition. Keep reading to learn what questions to ask each other and how to handle any issues that may come up. (If you’d rather watch the tips, check out the video below!)

Before Moving In

You may be tempted to stalk your roommates online before moving in (I’m basically the FBI when it comes to finding people online, so I did this and it’s okay). However, after initially contacting each other, it’s best to stay focused on logistical things like who’s bringing the fridge or the microwave. Provide basic info like your hometown, your major, or what Netflix shows you’ve been binge watching, but don’t put too much effort into befriending them before move-in day. Once you hit campus, you may become friends, you may hate each other, or they may go out so much you almost never see them. You’ll get a better idea of what your relationship will be like once you get to school. Wait until then so you’re not disappointed if you don’t become besties after bonding so much online.

Setting Expectations

Within the first few weeks of moving in you’ll probably be asked to fill out a roommate contract. Although it’s supposed to encourage dialogue regarding how you’ll manage your shared space, in my opinion…

You’ll probably never look at it again until you’re moving out at the end of the year. Even if you don’t have the pleasure of filling out one of these lovely documents, you and your roommates need to discuss your expectations for the dorm. You can start with the four categories below and continue the conversation from there.

#1 Cleaning

Create a weekly schedule with one of your names next to each chore that needs to be done. Here’s an example I created based on something I found online. You can download your own blank copy at the end of this post 😉

Putting names next to each chore creates a clear sense of responsibility. Instead of hoping the bathroom will get cleaned every week, you’ll know exactly who’s responsible for it each week. You can rotate the names around with tape or push pins as shown above, and be sure to place it where everyone will see it. Another thing you have to also realize that not everyone was raised as you were. Some people may not have had to clean at home, so they may not know how to do so. Do your best to make sure they know what to do (writing more detailed descriptions beneath each chore might help).

#2 Guests

Here are some questions you can start with regarding guests:

  1. What hours are you okay with guests being in the room?
  2. How far in advance to you need to know if someone’s coming/staying over?
  3. Are you okay with members of the opposite sex staying over?
  4. How will we let each know if we need the room to ourselves (ex. in the case of a significant other visiting or an important phone call) ?

As the year goes on, you may even drop some of these rules, but it’s great to discuss initially.

#3 Belongings

You need to decide on some rules regarding your belongings and things that you pay for/bring into the room. Here are some example questions to ask each other:

  1. Are you okay with borrowing clothes?
  2. Am I allowed to eat whatever’s in the fridge as long as I replace it?
  3. Am I allowed to use your basic items (ex. scissors) without asking?

Basically, you need to establish what items you don’t want them to touch, what you’re okay with sharing as long as they ask, and what you couldn’t care less about them using.

#4 Sleeping, Schedules, and Sleeping Schedules

This can be a major issue (especially if you’re a light sleeper like me). Establish your basic sleeping schedules and discuss how much noise/light is okay while you’re asleep. Things like alarms, eating, and music (even in headphones if it’s loud enough) can be bothersome to some people while they’re sleeping. Also, get to know each other’s class schedules so you’re not in the bathroom when they need to take a shower and get to class.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

Having a roommate is practice in conflict resolution, so even if you’re friends, you might have disagreements. This is an opportunity for you to learn how to speak your mind respectfully. If something bothers you, don’t keep it to yourself because otherwise you can’t solve the problem. Talk to your roommates about an issue first to see if you can resolve the issue amongst yourselves. If not, then you may need to contact your RA. Don’t talk to the RA first unless you feel it’s absolutely necessary. Give your roommates a chance to fix the problem before throwing them under the bus to your RA.

Living with a stranger can be awkward or uncomfortable at times. You may have to answer questions about yourself you’ve never faced before. If you’re living with someone of a different race, religion, or sexuality, you may deal with microagressions that you didn’t have to deal with as much back home. Colleges and universities usually try to emphasize diversity in their students’ experiences, so be prepared for all that comes with interacting with people who aren’t like you or don’t share your beliefs.

If you and your roommate(s) don’t mesh well, at least be polite and hope that they do the same. At the end of the day, you’ll probably have to be together in your dorm at some point, so just be respectful of each other. If the problems become really difficult, reach out to your RA or look into your school’s system for changing rooms if necessary.

Have a Great Year

Most of the roommate horror stories that I’ve heard could have been avoided by taking the steps above, so definitely consider them when moving in this year. If you have any other tips for getting along with roommates, leave them below. I hope you’ve enjoyed the How to Survive College series (Check out my professors and classes posts if you haven’t). Don’t forget to download a  FREE Dorm Chore Chart and have an amazing school year!

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