The College Girl’s Guide to Having a Roommate

The biggest adjustment for me when I went to college was having a roommate. Aside from sharing a room with my younger sibling on vacation and with friends during summer camp, I had never shared a room with someone for an extended period of time. It was a major adjustment to me to realize that I wouldn’t have much time to myself, that she might be a night owl while I am a morning person, and that she might have completely different thoughts on how things should work in our room.

Along with sharing how to go about getting along with your roommate and making things work, I decided to also share what to do if things don’t work out. While I will never go into what happened both for me and my former roommate’s sake, I have been in the place where my roommate and I simply didn’t get along and alternative living situations had to be found. While hopefully none of you experience that, I shared my tips just in case.


Learn to compromise

One of the biggest adjustments for having a roommate is learning how to compromise. Maybe you want to watch TV and your roommate wants to study without the noise from the TV. In that instance, it’s good to have headphones to wear. Maybe your roommate doesn’t like having the lights on when they are trying to sleep, but you would like to stay up a bit longer to get some work done. In that case, maybe your let your roommate sleep and go down to the study room to finish up your work. In whatever might come up, there could be instances where you and your roommate don’t agree on how you should go about the situation, which is why compromising is so important. Neither of you will get exactly what you want, but that is part of living in the dorm.


Communicating is crucial is you want to have a good roommate experience. If you don’t like how your roommate is doing something, will be staying out later one night, or see the instance where you need to talk about something else, say it. Keeping it to yourself, fearing that it will make you seem demanding, or just not wanting to say something because you “just can’t stand her” is not a valid reason to avoid voicing your thoughts. Do it nicely, in person, and just give them the heads up that, hey, while yes we share food, please ask before taking anything that’s mine. Communicating things instead of just letting the things that annoy you build up will prevent conflicts in the future.

Make a roommate contract

While this is a requirement at my university, many universities don’t require it. Personally, I think it’s a good idea to make a roommate contract because it forces you to sit down with your roommate and communicate what your expectations are for the room and how things will go. Here are some things that I think are important to cover for your roommate contract.

  • Sleep and Study Arrangements

It’s definitely important to talk about each of your study and sleep habits. Maybe you like to study with music playing and can’t sleep if there are any lights on and your roommate is used to studying in silence and sleeps with a night light. Definitely important things to cover since those are the two main things that will happen in your room.

  • Cleanliness

For some, this topic is more important than others, but it is important to consider. Is it okay if your roommate leaves her dirty bra and underwear on the floor? How often should trash be taken out and who will do it? Will you clean the floors or any of the surfaces?

  • Guests

If you want, before you talk to your roommate about your contract, talk to your RA or hall coordinator about what the policies are on having guests. Many universities already have a standard about the max number of nights a guest from outside of the dorm can stay and often will allow you to voice if you don’t want any guests in your room. If you do want guests, you might want to talk about if you are okay with someone of the opposite sex staying over, how many nights they can stay, and how far in advance your roommate needs to let you know about the guest coming over. Another thing to consider is what you will do if both of you want to have a guest over the same weekend.

  • Communication

Communication is key when it comes to living with someone else. When you are making a roommate contact, bring up how you want to let the other person know if you aren’t okay with something or if you are uncomfortable with something. In order to have a good roommate experience, you have to communicate in order to make things work, no matter how scared you might be of her taking it the wrong way.

  • Food

Talk about if you will be sharing food or not. If you are sharing food, how will both of you contribute to the grocery bill? Talk about if it’s okay to just take food that the other has bought or if they should ask first. Mention if you will be sharing forks/spoons/knives/plates or if each of you should have your own.

  • Safety in your room

I lived in a dorm where we still had hard key locks and after a long day of classes, sometimes it never crossed my roommate or I’s mind to get up to lock the door. Make sure to discuss how you want to go about safety in your room. When should the door be locked and if you don’t live in a hard key dorm, when is it okay to prop your door open? Also discuss how you will go about helping each other out if the other goes out late at night. Will you drive to pick them up or do they need to have a buddy or alternative ride to rely on?

  • Personal space

Once you get to college, there isn’t much space that you can call yours. Talk to your roommate about whether or not you are okay with them or a guest sitting on your bed, getting into your dresser drawers or closet, using or getting into your desk, or using whatever other belongings you have. Just be sure to remember that there isn’t much personal space, so it is okay to express that you aren’t okay with others using particular things.

Talk to Your RA

Whether or not you are having issues with your roommate or not, it’s always a good idea to talk to your RA. They have tons of knowledge on how to live with someone else and what to do when things go wrong. You can talk to them to have them lead the conversation when you make a roommate contract with your roommate, ask them about their roommate experience and what tips they have, or just anything really. Ultimately, your RAs are there to help you and guide you and they are always there to be a listening ear.

Set the standards…and stick to them

Even if you choose to not make a written roommate contract, sit down with your roommate and set the standards on how you want things to go within your room. Whether you choose to have your RA in the room or not to help lead the conversation, make sure that you talk about how you want to run things in your room. I promise, there is nothing to be nervous or afraid of. Just bring up that you would like to take the time to make some standards from the room and work from there.

You won’t always be BFF’s

Sorry that I have to say this, but it needs to be said since being best friends with your roommate won’t always happen. And that’s okay. As long as you guys can get along while you are in your room together and things work well, that’s all that matters. But there is always a pressure from Pinterest and movies that your freshman year roommate will be your best friend and your future maid of honor, which definitely isn’t always how it works.

Be courteous of their schedule

If your roommate goes to bed early, be courteous enough to put in headphones if you are watching TV or listening to music or to head to the study room to finish up your work for the night. If you get up earlier than your roommate who is still sleeping, don’t be the person to keep hitting the snooze button and waking them up. Respect your roommate and be courteous of their schedule.

And because I think it’s something important to share, these are my tips on what to do if things go wrong within your room. As I mentioned above, my roommate situation was definitely less than ideal, so these tips come from experience. If you find yourself having roommate issues, I hope these tips can help you out.

Talk to your RA

Yes, this point is on this post for a second time. But this time, it’s for a completely different reason. Talk to your RA about what went wrong within your room, why you are upset, what is going on now, and steps need to be taken from this point on. This could either mean sitting down with you, your roommate, and your RA to discuss the matter at hand and find a solution or talking to your hall coordinator about different living options.

Look into your options

Sadly, sometimes when issues with roommates occur, there simply isn’t a way to go about fixing them. It can get to the point where it is in your best interest to go about finding a new place to live so that you can get out of your current situation. Talk to your hall coordinator about your options. Many residence halls will allow you to move within the hall to a new room and sometimes you may even have to move to a new dorm room. If worse comes to worse, always remember that you can look into subleasing an apartment for the remainder of the semester or if you are involved in Greek Life talk to your house manager about your situation and see if you can move-in there.

Set standards so you can live together for the time being

I am being completely honest here when I say this part definitely isn’t fun, but it’s very important. If you and your roommate simply can’t make things work and one of you has already applied for alternate housing, there is a likely chance that you will still be living together for up to a month before a new room can be found. In this instance, make a time to meet with your roommate and RA to discuss how you two will go about living with each other until new arrangements can be found. Typically during this talk everything that has ever bothered you about your roommate will come up (this is why communication is key!) and the rules within your room get much stricter. Many halls will even have consequences if these rules are broken if the circumstances in your room are bad enough. Just be sure to be vocal about what needs to happen so that you can live together as peacefully as possible for the time being.

Have places to go outside of your room

If you have another friend on your floor or in your residence hall, if you are involved in a sorority, if you have friends that live off campus, if you enjoy spending time in the on-campus library, if you love going to the gym, find ways to get out of your room and not wallow on the happenings of your room. If things are bad enough in your room, have a friend to call to stay the night at their place if you need to get away.

Be mature about it

While you will tell your mom and your best friend about what is going on, there is absolutely no reason to go around bashing your roommate and telling everyone what a horrible person she is. Yes, things didn’t work out, but in most instances both parties had to do with things not working out. There is no reason to vent on social media, gossip to other friends, bad mouth about her to people in your hall, or whatever else you could do. Be mature about it and know when it’s the proper time to bring up that things aren’t going so well in your living situation and you are hoping that something new can be figured out soon.

Have you ever lived with a roommate? If so, were things good or not so good? If things went well, what did you feel was the key to your successful roommate situation? If things didn’t go so well, what tips do you have so that other girls don’t find themselves in the same place? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments below.

  • Eve Kopsolias

    Hi! My name is Eve and I’m about to enter college as a Freshman. Throughout my life I have been “that” girl who has always struggled to make and keep friends. I keep as open of a mind as possible and do my best to always be as kind as possible, but for some reason almost everyone I know just sees me as the one to blame. I’m worried about finding real friends in college and possibly being stuck with a roommate that treats me the same way. Do you have any extra tips or suggestions?
    (I love your article by the way! 🙂 )

  • Lauren Down

    This post is full of great advice that I could relate to and will definitely try harder to be better at.

    I actually referenced this post in my latest blog post: The Reality of Roommates.

    Check it out!