6 Tips for Living With a Roommate for the First Time

By Christine Ascher on November 14, 2017

Going away to college can be daunting, and perhaps one of the most intimidating aspects of moving away to school is living with a roommate for the first time. If you’re used to having your own room, it can be difficult to adjust to sharing a space.

Because your roommate situation can have a big impact on your college experience, it’s important to put in the effort to make it work. In order to ensure that you start your roommate relationship off on the right foot and avoid unnecessary conflicts, try following these six tips.

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1. Reach out before you move in

A great way to prepare for living with a roommate is by reaching out to them beforehand. It’s always a good idea to get to know your future roommate ahead of time so that you have an idea of what to expect when you actually move in.

Ask them about some of their general interests, where they’re from, and what they’re going to be studying; if you have anything in common, you’ll have grounds to bond right away. If you find that you’re pretty different, you can spend some time sharing your respective interests — either way, you’ll be able to have some conversation starters ready to go for when you meet in person.

This is also a good time to exchange information about what each of you are going to bring for your dorm and to coordinate for any items that you’ll still need.

2. Set ground rules early

The best way to avoid potential conflict with your new roommate is by setting some ground rules right away. Find a time when both you and your roommate are free to sit down and discuss any concerns that you might have and ways to avoid future problems.

Some areas that you’ll want to cover include how clean you should keep your room, how often you’re okay with having people over, and what time you each plan to wake up and go to bed. It’s a good idea to write down the rules that you come up with, as this will help ensure that you both stick to them.

Having some guidelines set up right away will hopefully save you the trouble of any disagreements later on, so make sure you bring up any issues now that you might be worried about.

3. Communicate

The most important aspect of creating a good roommate relationship is open communication. It’s always better to bring up any problems that you have with your roommate’s actions before things go too far and you end up angry. If you do have a concern that you need to address, make sure you pick a time when you’re both free to talk, and avoid sounding angry or accusatory.

Try suggesting a compromise in addition to raising the issue. If you have an idea ready to solve the problem, it will make your conversation a lot easier. Conversely, if your roommate brings up a concern that they have with you, try to understand their side of things and be open to compromise.

4. Be conscious of your behavior

Most issues that arise between roommates occur because one person is not conscious of how their actions affect the other. Especially early on in the semester when you’re both still getting used to sharing a room, it’s a good idea to be extra careful about allowing your behavior to interfere with your roommate.

For instance, don’t assume that it’s okay to play your music out loud in your room while your roommate is trying to study; if you don’t want to use headphones, ask them if they’re okay with listening to your music and be understanding if they answer in the negative.

In addition, because it can be difficult for both roommates at first to adjust to living with someone who has a different sleeping schedule, you should also be aware of how much noise you might be making when your roommate is trying to sleep — a lot of tension can arise if you interfere with each others’ rest. Chances are, if you put in the extra effort to make your living situation work for both of you, your roommate will do the same.

5. Exchange schedules

At the beginning of the semester, exchange schedules with your roommate. It’ll be helpful to know when you each have class or extracurricular activities, both so that you’re aware of when you’ll have the room to yourself and so that you know when your roommate has an 8 a.m. class in the morning and needs to go to bed early.

Once you know your roommate’s schedule, you can try to limit activities that they might find disruptive, such as talking on the phone, for a time when you’ll be alone. It will also be helpful to exchange schedules throughout the semester concerning when you each have exams or big assignments coming up; this way, your roommate won’t unknowingly have friends over late the night before you have a midterm.

6. Don’t force a friendship

When you start college, you might imagine that your roommate is going to become your lifelong best friend. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that this is not always the case, and that’s okay. You don’t have to be close friends with your roommate in order to get along and have a great relationship. As long as you’re friendly, communicative, and understanding, you’ll have a pleasant living situation. While it may be a bonus to be friends, it’s best not to force anything that doesn’t occur naturally.

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