Sharing a living space with your first college roommate can be exciting and intimidating at the same time. There’s a lot to navigate that exists outside of your control: habits, personalities, cuisine, culture, and a number of other lifestyle factors shared in a tight space.

You’re not alone in your concerns, though, and it’s likely your roommate has been thinking something similar. Finding harmony in your college roommate experience requires a number of soft skills to foster a positive relationship and safe living environment. And I bet that if thousands of students have successfully navigated this before you, you can do it, too!

Here are our tips for living with your first college roommate!

Benefits To Having A Roommate

I think every college student should experience dorm room life at least once during their time in school. It teaches skills such as how to navigate social situations and communicating differences. It also helps you better understand your own living preferences, while keeping you in close proximity to the places where you’ll spend most of your time.

Another glaring benefit of having a roommate is that it lowers costs, and this goes for living on or off campus.

Having a roommate can be also be helpful for sharing responsibilities, expanding your comfort zone, adding peace of mind in a new and unfamiliar area, and providing companionship. Though, I caution students not to expect their freshman roommate to become their best friend. Building a strong relationship takes time, and that’s okay!

Navigating Life With Your College Roommate

Getting along with your college roommate can be an integral part of your freshman experience. After all, it might be the first time you’re sharing living space with someone else, and that will naturally create opportunities and challenges to navigate together.

Here are the top 10 tips we have for living with your first college roommate!

1. Get To Know One Another

I think the best place to start is to allow time to get to know each other. In fact, the sooner you begin building a relationship, the better your chances of success.

You can even reach out before move-in day to schedule an introductory chat and start pinpointing what you have in common. A friend of mine did this with her assigned roommate freshman year, primarily to coordinate their linen colors, and they’re still friends 10 years later!

Related: How To Make Friends In College

2. Establish Clear Boundaries

It’s important that you and your roommate set clear boundaries at the outset of your time living together. Doing so will foster a harmonious living environment and help prevent future conflict or misunderstandings.

You’ll want to consider each other’s expectations for studying, sleeping, personal space, and sharing responsibilities around common areas. Even if your roommate is someone you’ve known for years, sharing living space can change things. I encourage you to still have this conversation with them!

3. Prioritize Effective Communication

Communicating openly and clearly is the best way to quickly address conflicts or other sensitive subjects and maintain a healthy, positive relationship. Practice active listening, keep a respectful tone, and stay open to feedback. This approach will help ensure your communication is constructive and productive.

4. Respect Each Other’s Space

When you were younger, did you ever hear the phrase, “Treat others the way you want to be treated?” That statement still rings true in college! Respecting your roommate’s space is key to building a healthy relationship and establishing a secure living environment.

Showing respect for your roommate’s space and belongings tells them you value their need for comfort and autonomy. When you’re setting boundaries with your roommate, go ahead and discuss which areas are off-limits, whether you should ask permission before borrowing something, and what level of organization they expect in shared spaces.

Related: Should I Get A Safe For My College Dorm Room?

5. Respect Each Other’s Schedule

In the same vein as respecting one another’s space, remember to be considerate of your roommate’s schedule. Coordinate your study times, set designated quiet hours, and give each other a heads up when obligations arise.

Being mindful of your roommate’s schedule indicates that you value their time and commitments. And by practicing open communication early and often, you can minimize disruptions and allow one another to balance personal, social, and academic priorities effectively.

6. Set Expectations for Having Guests

This is easily in the top three tips to keep in mind for your first roommate. When you have the “setting clear boundaries” conversation, you should also discuss the terms and conditions around having guests over. For instance, how many guests are allowed over at a time? During what times of the day? What spaces will they be in?

You’ll want to have clear boundaries for overnight guests and for noise levels in shared spaces. After all, you want to make sure your living space maintains its inclusive, welcoming environment for both you and your roommate.

7. Share Common Responsibilities

Not sharing responsibilities with your roommate can quickly lead to feelings of resentment. Conversely, sharing responsibilities can foster a sense of pride in your living space and create positive habits for routinely cleaning and caring for your shared spaces. You can even hang a white board and divide chores among roommates so they’re visible and can be done in everyone’s own time.

Related: Ultimate College Packing List: What To Bring To College

8. Cultivate Empathy

Empathy helps you understand someone else’s perspective, sympathize with their situation, and, hopefully, build a stronger relationship because of it. If you can put yourself in your roommate’s shoes, you can likely offer support and encouragement when they need it most.

On that note, I also want to encourage you to expect positive intent from one another. Offer a hand or an ear and simply try to be there for each other when things get tough.

9. Address Issues Early On

If and when conflict arises between you and your roommate, try to address it right away. Don’t let your frustrations fester and build and eventually turn into resentment toward one another. Instead, be proactive in finding time to work things out.

It’s okay to want to discuss something that’s been bothering you or making you uncomfortable. Just remember to stay open and honest if your roommate comes to you with the same need. Approaching your conflict with empathy and a goal of coming to the solution together will help prevent minor issues from becoming larger problems.

10. Whatever You Do, Don’t Be Passive Aggressive

I saved this one for last because I saw it time and time again throughout college. More often than not, it soured the living environment, spurred gossip, and made others feel like they had to take a side. So, my advice is to steer clear of it altogether!

I’d bet that the most common form of passive aggression in college students occurs via sticky notes. These are great if you want to notify your roommate of a schedule change, give them a heads up that you’re having friends over, or even to label a yogurt in the fridge because your roommate often forgets what they bought. Anything with positive intent is okay.

When your negative feelings start to arise is when you risk falling into the territory of passive aggression. Trust me, you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you instead confront the issue head on, keeping a calm demeanor, even-keeled tone, and genuine interest in finding a shared solution.

Questions To Discuss With Your Roommate In Your First Week

To help ease any anxiety around getting to know your roommate and establishing boundaries in your living space, here are some starter questions:

  • What are your hobbies and interests?
  • Are there any clubs or organizations you want to join on campus?
  • What is your typical daily schedule?
  • Are you an early bird or a night owl?
  • How do you like to unwind after a long day?
  • What are your study habits?
  • Do you prefer quiet time, or do you need background noise?
  • When do you tend to go to sleep and wake up?
  • How do you feel about sharing items in the common areas?
  • Is there anything you prefer not to share?
  • What are your expectations around cleanliness and organization?
  • Are there certain chores you would rather do?
  • How can we ensure that social activities in our living space are considerate of each other’s needs?
  • How do you prefer to communicate your concerns?
  • Can we agree to address problems directly and in a timely manner?

Don’t feel like you have to shy away from questions regarding finances, either, if that’s important for you to discuss. This will be especially important if you end up living with roommates off-campus.

Related: Roommate Scams: What To Watch Out For

Final Thoughts

Navigating life with your first college roommate can be an exciting and rewarding experience! You’ll undoubtedly encounter multiple opportunities for growth, and you may even end up with a lifelong friend. But remember to keep things in perspective.

Go into it with an open mind, understand your own boundaries, communicate your needs, establish expectations, and don’t expect your roommate to be your best friend from Day 1.

Remember that this is only part of your total college experience, and you can define what that means for you. Give yourself some autonomy by finding somewhere to study outside of your dorm and building friendships with classmates or other students with shared hobbies. Above all, remember to have some fun!


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