College Roommates: What to Expect

Will your college roommate make you or break you?

By Kathryn Knight Randolph

November 01, 2016

College Roommates: What to Expect

When you begin envisioning your college experience, your dream roommate likely makes an appearance. They’re perfect. They love the same music as you, go to bed at the same time and clean meticulously.

Unfortunately, that’s far from reality.

Sometimes, the college roommate can make or break your transition to campus living, and you’ll start out on the right foot when you have more accurate expectations.

1. It’s a shared space.

At home, you have the luxury to go in your room, close the door and indulge in a little alone time. Sadly, that’s not the case in college. Even if you love your roommates, you’re still going to want your alone time – but you can’t exactly kick them out of the room when the mood strikes.

And chances are, you two will be on different schedules. They may have an early class – or you may have an early bedtime. Instead of fuming from your bed about your loss of sleep, invest in a good sleep app that drowns out the noise of their getting ready or studying as well as a sleep mask. Same applies for guests that come over. It’s their room too – they have every right to have company over whenever.

If, however, you have a roommate that abuses the space, i.e. stays up until 3 a.m. making noise every night or always has friends over, you may need to have a frank discussion about boundaries. Work together on setting a schedule that benefits both of you.

2. It could get messy.

Wouldn’t it be nice if every college roommate was a clean freak? But a clean college student is a rare phenomenon, and their mess will just as likely offend you as your mess does them.

You can either have the discussion at the beginning of the year or until things get so messy you can barely see the floor. Either way, it’s a good idea to split up responsibility for cleaning. One roommate can dust once a week while the other one vacuums. If there is a roommate that thrives in mess, designate a space in the room where they can let the chaos reign.

Whatever the case, work together to clean the space every other week or once a month.

3. Use the experience to learn conflict resolution.

More often than not, there is tension at some point in the year between college roommates. Maybe they have a “what’s mine is yours” mentality that crosses too many boundaries. Perhaps they’re too loud. Or maybe they’re too clean.

Rather than live with it or act in a way that’s passive aggressive, find an opportunity to talk to him or her. If they’ve recently upset you, take a few days to step back from the situation so that you can communicate in a more effective manner. Start the conversation with traits that you like about them or what is working from a shared living space perspective, then talk about the big issue.

It’s also important to know when enough is enough – and act on it. If the tension or conflict between you and your roommate is affecting your academic performance, social life and overall well-being, it may be time to move on. You can always put in a request with campus housing to be moved. Granted, that might mean breaking in a new roommate, but if you’re so unsatisfied with your current situation, a move might be in your best interest.

Living with a roommate is as much a part of the college experience as studying for exams, writing research papers and pulling all-nighters. If it’s not perfect, you’re all the better for it. And if it is – count yourself as one of the lucky ones.

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