How to Be a Good Roommate

By Meredith Sweet on September 22, 2017

In the age of the Internet, it's easier than ever to connect with people, even those you haven't met yet.

When you first received a friend request from your new roommate, you were excited. Then came the hard part: starting the conversation. Now, as you pack up your things for move-in day, you feel like you've set a solid foundation for a promising friendship.

But you know that things can change. In the topsy-turvy world of college relationships, roommate dynamics are among the most difficult to navigate. Just one night of arguments can lead to two semesters of awkward silence.

Five Steps to First-Semester Ground Rules

Don't let the stress and pressure of college life disrupt your friendship with your roommate. Here are five practical ways to be a good roommate, so you can stop fights before they even start.

1. Set expectations early.

Meet with your roommates before classes start. This is where you get to answer the most pressing questions. When do you like to go to sleep? Will you set a cleaning schedule? When is it okay to have friends over? If you address these problems now, hopefully, you can avoid more tears or anger in the future.

2. Respect each other's privacy.

Don't assume that everyone has the same boundaries as you. When it comes to changing, showering and other matters, keep your thoughts to yourself. Remember, you and your roommate are still virtually strangers. If they don't want to share every detail with their life with you, that's okay. You can build up to that.

3. Don't wait; speak up.

In the event that someone breaks a ground rule, or does something that you didn't even address, you need to talk about it immediately. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to discuss it in the long run. Before you know it, you'll let it slide, and that's not okay. Don't let yourself become a doormat; stick up for yourself and the rules you both agreed upon.

4. Ask permission.

The rules are simple: if it isn't yours, don't touch it before asking. It's easy to think that a splash of milk here or a hair band there won't be missed, but the truth is, you're still taking or using something that doesn't belong to you. Contrary to what people say, when it comes to college roommates, it's better to ask for permission than for forgiveness.

5. Be empathetic.

Roommate dynamics are just like any other relationship; they rely on "treating your neighbor as yourself." Sometimes, it seems like your problems are the only ones that matter, and you miss what's going on in the lives of those around you. Remember to reach out to your roommate to offer them support when they need it. Even one more friendly face can be enough to turn a bad day into a good one.

The Takeaway

Like it or not, you and your roommate are in the same boat. Dorm rooms are small, and unresolved conflicts can make them feel even smaller. Above all, you need to use patience: this is probably their first time away from home, too. Spread a little grace over your relationship, and you'll be in for a great semester—maybe even a great friendship, too!

Categories: Dorm Life, First-Year Checklists