Learning to Live with Roommates in College

Wave Learning Festival
4 min readDec 20, 2022

by Puja Sarkar, Press & Written Media Team

When you enter college, you might find yourself living with roommates. Shared responsibilities, division of expenses, conflicts and friendships are part and parcel of having roommates. However, roommates aren’t your mother nor are they your siblings, they haven’t known you your entire life. Sharing the same space with them comes with a few challenges, compromises, the occasional anxiety and stress, good memories and bad ones. Nevertheless, the transition from living at home to living with roommates requires some effort.

Here are some tips to make this transition smooth:

Be honest from the get go

In most cases, your roommate(s) will be someone you don’t know. You can’t expect them to know what your boundaries are, what bothers you and what you are or aren’t okay with. It’s crucial to be upfront and honest about your expectations from the start if you want to get off on the right foot. Discuss issues including the overall level of loudness throughout the day and at night, when it would be ideal to have visitors over, sharing belongings and so on. If you want to prevent problems with your roommate, don’t simply agree with what they say to avoid conflict, especially if it’s something that you aren’t okay with. Instead, be open and honest about your feelings in each situation. Setting expectations early on aids in laying the groundwork for a peaceful cohabitation.

Be open to compromises

Remember, you aren’t the only one living with a roommate. While you and your roommate might discover that you have similar lifestyles, it’s likely that you’ll be locking horns at times. Try to meet them halfway by compromising, rather than escalating a minor issue into a full-blown battle. Be open-minded and come up with practical solutions which you both can agree on.

For example, a compromise might be for you to study in the common area if your roommate prefers going to bed early and you prefer staying up late to study. If your roommate enjoys entertaining guests but you prefer silence, you could find a solution by designating some times of the day for guests.

Communicate everything

Bring up everything and anything that is bothering you instantly and be clear. Don’t let things fester. Moreover, don’t expect your roommate to know things without flagging them. Being passive-aggressive would only make things worse for both of you and make the shared space more toxic and uncomfortable. If necessary, ask the resident assistant for assistance.

Lay ground rules

You can prevent unpleasant and frustrating situations by laying down some rules; a shared understanding of chores, timetables, visitors, noise and food. Setting ground rules can include who does the dishes on which days of the week, whose turn it is to do the vacuuming, when the lights go off, if you can go into your roommate’s room without their permission, if you can use their things and so on. One suggestion is to write out a set of rules that each roommate may sign on. In this manner, in the event of a disagreement, you will have a card to play to remind your roommate of their duty to you and the household. If a contract sounds too official, having a discussion prior to moving in can have the same results.

Pick up after yourself

Your roommate isn’t meant to clean up after you. Like you, they have their own responsibilities to uphold and study to do. Don’t expect them to clean up after you. If you cook for yourself, be sure to clean the kitchen (and maybe even save a helping of food for them too). If you’re sharing a bathroom, give it a sweep after using it. This will make living together easier and establish a sense of respect and understanding between you and your roommate. A good shared living environment will be greatly enhanced by mutual respect. Remember that respect is a two-way street, so be considerate of your roommate’s privacy and belongings.

Get to know your roommate

You’re likely to be spending some (if not a lot) of time with your roommate. It might be worth trying to get to know them better — what their interests are, their background etc. Living with someone you can get along with would make conflict resolutions easier and ease the tension.

Don’t force a friendship

Having a roommate can make it easier for you to have at least one friend in college. However, sometimes that isn’t the case. You and your roommate might not be compatible as friends or maybe, your roommate simply doesn’t want to hang out with you. In this case, there’s nothing to stress over. There are many other people in your classes and the building who can bond with. The goal with your roommate is to live amicably and peacefully and sometimes, friendship doesn’t come with it.

Overall, with a little maturity and understanding, living with a roommate can be pleasant. There’s no guarantee that things will always be perfect, but equilibrium can be achieved.

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Wave Learning Festival

Wave Learning Festival is a nonprofit committed to combating educational inequity. Learn more about us at wavelf.org.