Student Life

The 5 Rules of Being a Good College Roommate

Be respectful and communicate well with your college roommate.

Student Contributor, Charles Schnell

March 19, 2022

Are you following the good college roommate code? Find out if you're the "bad roommate."
The 5 Rules of Being a Good College Roommate
There is bound to be conflict between college roommates when they live together, especially when there is no interview process or forum tog present questions to ask potential roommates. This conflict can often be minimized by each roommate being a “good roommate" or working together on a roommate agreement. Here are the rules for such:
  1. Being respectful of the other’s property.

    Every roommate has their own items that they will not be willing to share. These could include toiletries, clothing, technology, musical instruments, and knick knacks. Problems can arise when roommates have different levels of willingness to share and when they have a different idea of what items can be shared and what items are too personal to be shared. For example, one roommate may be uncomfortable with sharing clothes, whereas the other roommate will see no problem with taking one of the other’s shirts without asking and wearing it on day 3 of the roommate relationship! (The lack of courtesy to ask to borrow anything leads to problems all on its own, but more on that is to come.)
    Thus, it is vital to have a conversation early on in the roommate relationship wherein the roommates disclose what they are comfortable sharing and what not, when it is proper to ask before borrowing an item, and establish an agreement to which they will both adhere.
  2. Being respectful of the other’s habits.

    Roommates can differ in preference on several key lifestyle choices, such as the level of illumination in the room when lying down to sleep, the level of noise when studying or doing homework, and the place for hanging out with friends (in or out of the room?). Some roommates may like to spend their free time participating in loud activities or activities that take up a lot of space in the room. These differences in choices between roommates can be problematic, often because the differences will lead to one roommate suffering the consequences including the inability to sleep when subject to too high a level of noise, the inability to sleep when subject to too lit of a room, or the inability to have some private time because of their roommate having a friend or two in the room. Additionally, the other roommate could be too loud of a partier or too long of a talker-on-the-phone.
    Seeing these unfortunate outcomes are possibilities, it is vital for roommates to have a discussion early in their relationship in order to iron out differences, set boundaries, and agree to what sort of behavior is allowable and in what circumstances (what time, what days, etc.).
  3. Being respectful of the other’s schedule.

    Both roommates will have classes, work, study groups, extracurriculars, clubs, and/or internships to manage. The odds are high that the roommates’ schedules will not align exactly. It is probable that the schedules will pose some conflict—one roommate may need to be an early riser for a semester or one roommate may need to be in the room to work in the middle of the day, for instance. Compromises will be necessary should problems arise due to scheduling conflicts. Comparing schedules early on and determining the optimal times for each roommate to go to bed, to awake, to be in the room, to be out of the room is a good idea.
  4. Being respectful of the other’s wishes.

    One roommate may wish to do things that are off-limits in the mind of the other roommate. Being respectful of these activities deemed to be out-of-bounds by the other roommate are essential. One roommate may want to have friends over, whereas the other roommate will object to it—for various possible reasons, including discomfort with having others in their personal space or discomfort with having so great a number of people within the small confines of a dorm room. The reason shouldn’t matter, unless it’s something reconcilable by the two roommates. One roommate may want to get an emotional support animal, whereas the other will object. One roommate may want to host a party, whereas the other won’t tolerate that. One may want to hang up a poster deemed too inappropriate or distasteful by the other. Talking about these issues before acting is a good way to avoid one roommate being angered by the actions of the other.
  5. Being communicative.

    Should any of the above or other problems arise, the general solution is to always be communicative. A good roommate should be courteous and respectful enough to ask their roommate before doing things that affect them, confident enough to voice their discomfort with an action desired or taken by the other roommate, and fairly open to compromise when necessary and appropriate.

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