College Roommate Survival Guide


Living with a Roommate – Helpful Tips that May Lead to Lifelong Friendship

Written by: Lisa Phelps for Student Choice

I just spent the weekend visiting my college roommate. Why is this noteworthy? Because I graduated a LONG time ago and we’re still close friends. I feel lucky to have had her as a friend all these years.

Is what I have unusual? Maybe.

While there’s no guarantee you’ll become life-long friends with your roommate, it does help if you respect and enjoy each other, especially your freshman year. Studies show that how well you get along with your roommate has a significant affect on your overall college experience.

So what’s the key to making it work?

Communication, compromise and creativity.

When you leave home for college, you’re signing up to live in very close quarters with a complete stranger. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Many colleges work hard to put people together who share habits and interests, but that doesn’t guarantee a successful match.

Here are my top five tips for creating a successful roommate experience:

  1. Communicate

    Let each other know what bugs you (country music at 7am), what your habits and behaviors are (taking a nap every afternoon) and what you absolutely must have (the windows open to sleep).

  2. Compromise

    Once you’ve set forth your list of wants and listened to his, work together to figure out how you can each happily with the other’s requirements. Prioritize what’s most important and work from there. (I can live with your friend spending every other weekend here if you let me play guitar with my friends on Tuesday nights).

  3. Socialize

    Don’t rely on your roommate for everything, even if you get along great. Eat with other people as often as you can, get out and make your own friends and give each other space. No one wants to feel smothered.

  4. Share

    What you’re comfortable with and more importantly, what you’re not. “You can use my refrigerator, but never borrow my favorite sweatshirt.” “I’m happy to share my snacks, but please don’t ever touch my computer.” Always get permission before using or borrowing anything that belongs to your roommate.

  5. Create

    An activity that the two of you like to do together. Get ice cream on Sunday afternoons, go for a run on Saturday mornings or go out for breakfast one day a week. The more shared experiences, the more comfortable you’ll be and the easier you’ll find it to talk to each other about any difficult subjects that may come up. Don’t force the interaction, but work to find something that naturally suits you both.

The last bit of advice I’ll offer is to respect each other: her privacy, her particular personality, and what’s important to her. Be honest. Be kind. If you focus on these things, you’re much more likely to have a harmonious relationship.


Really having trouble with your roommate? Talk to your RA!


Editor’s note:
One of the most common arguments that came about in our college apartment was inevitably about money – rent, utilities, cable – do you split it, do you pay for what you use, how does this all work? Well, our solution came down to defining that up front (communication), deciding what we felt was fair (compromise), and then setting up a plan to make it work (creativity). We actually just set up automatic deposits from each of the 3 roommates into the 4th roommates account at our local credit union. Then each bill was automatically paid by credit union as scheduled – removed the mess of handling checks, and for one of us to have to play the roll of debt collector. Needless to say, it eased lots of tension. Visit your credit union (or find one here) if money is coming between you and your roommates. You’ll be happy you did!


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