College Life – 5 Tips For Starting Out With A Roommate

You probably never thought you would be sharing a room with a total stranger. Well, welcome to college life!

Here are some tips to make living with your roommate easier.  You receive information about your new roommate. What is the next step?  Call or send an email just to say hi.

The sooner you talk, the sooner you two can plan on what to bring, what not to bring. Too many times new roommates don’t talk enough, or at all, and end up with two refrigerators, two rugs and no television.  Talking early just helps you to prepare better and gets the relationship started.

Try to figure out what you both want and need in the room. A call to Residential Life will provide you with the size and layout. If you can, wait until you get to school to buy furniture and rugs. In this way you can see what fits, divide the expenses and have less to initially transport.

If you are anxious about sharing a dorm room with someone you don’t know (and by the way, this is quite normal) advance preparation will help to reduce the nervousness on move-in day.

Should you room with a friend from home?

Unless you have a great need to be with someone familiar, don’t room with a friend from home. Parents, RA’s (Residential Assistants) and friends will all tell you that rooming is a good way to end a friendship. It also deprives you of the “experience” of rooming with someone you don’t know. Remember, your friend will only be a call away and you will end up with two circles of friends rather than just one.

What is a reasonable expectation for your first roommate experience?
Most students go to college expecting, or at least hoping, to room with a future best friend. This is wishful thinking but usually does not happen. Think of your roommate as someone to share a space with and not much more. If the two of you become friends, all the better.

How do you resolve roommate conflicts?

First, be patient. Always remember there is an adjustment period for both of you. This may be the first time either of you have ever had to share a room or were away from home. Try to discuss the situation. The outcome may surprise you.

Try different solutions. If one doesn’t work, try another. If your roommate is very noisy and it is difficult for you to study, try to come to an agreement on “study” hours for the room. If that doesn’t work, plan to study in the library or outside (of course, weather permitting). If after a month the situation is still not manageable, then perhaps contacting your RA is the way to go. An agreement detailing a compromise can be written up and is actually common today.

What happens if the problems cannot be solved?

You can of course stay where you are and view the situation as a learning experience. Before you know it, the school year will be over. You can move to a room where there is a vacancy, however, dorms are so full nowadays that there may not be a place for you to move. You can try to switch with someone else who is also having difficulties.

Just remember, if you change, you never know what kind of new problems you may gain.

About the Author

Shelley Ladin and Rhoda Geller, college career coaches specializing in working with high school, college and graduate students and professionals in achieving their career and life goals.  Visit the coaches at

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Image Credit: USCourse

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