Living With a Roommate in College: Surviving the First Three Months

August 3, 2021

You’re heading off to college—how exciting! Or perhaps you’re transitioning from the dorms to your first apartment. 
In a year full of changes and new experiences, one will stand out from the rest—living with a roommate.

While we all start with the very best intentions, things can get a little rocky as you both adjust to the late nights at the library (or parties). According to research from Boise State University, 25 percent of students surveyed reported having problems with their roommate.

How can you survive your first three months of college living with a roommate? Even better, how can you prevent becoming a bad roommate in the first place? We break it down below. 

Set Boundaries

The first few months of college are crucial, especially when it comes to establishing a good relationship with new roommates. It’s essential to set boundaries right out of the gate. Experts at Elite Daily recommend taking time to think about your limits before addressing them with your roommate. Within the following three areas, try asking questions about your habits first to understand what you want. Then chat with your roomie(s) about their preferences.

1. Cleaning

Are you a clean person? If you’re sharing a room, it’s helpful to have a conversation about cleanliness expectations. Even when you share an apartment, cleaning standards are critical, especially in common areas. For example, you might decide to clean common areas together. Or, for shared rooms, you can split the room right down the middle in terms of who is responsible for what. 

However, what’s most important is that you actually talk about it and set those expectations beforehand. Like for those sharing an apartment, it might be helpful to talk about how long dirty dishes can stay in the sink. (You’d be surprised how many conflicts start with dishes!) 

2. Visitors and Socializing

How often do you want to have friends over, and how comfortable is your roommate having other people in their space? Think about this before you answer. In theory, having friends around is great, but what if you’ve got a big test the next day and your roommate is hosting a flip cup tournament in the kitchen?

3. Study Time

This might take a few months to figure out, but think about where you want to study. If you want to study in your room, that’s fine—but discuss it with your roommate first. Perhaps chat after the first few weeks of class about a schedule of when you’d like some quiet/study time in shared areas. We also recommend finding an alternative place to learn (and Clemson has plenty of great study spots)—just in case you need to focus. 

Put in on Paper 

It might seem super lame, but it’s helpful to actually write out what you agree, so you can reference it if issues arise. Some schools even have ‘roommate contract’ templates that you can download. 

Remember, things happen. A little communication goes a long way when you’re living with a roommate in college. It’s also okay to update your expectations as the year goes on and you both adjust to college life, just be sure to discuss those changes with your roommate. 

Eek – I’m the bad roommate: if you find that you’re the one breaking the roommate contract, talk to your roommate about it sooner rather than later. Apologize, and let them know how you’ll make it up to them, i.e., ‘I’m so sorry that my side of the room has been so messy. I’ve had a ton of tests this week. My last exam is on Friday. Is it okay if I tackle the cleaning on Saturday afternoon?’ 

Get Out Of the Room 

Fresh air will do you (and your roommate relationship) a world of good. Try to schedule time out of your room several times per day, and consider studying in a different spot a few times a week. Keeping busy can also help you assimilate into campus life, so be sure to try out some of Clemson’s great clubs and recreational sports teams

Eek – I’m the bad roommate: spending time out of the room doesn’t mean you have to be part of a club or organized activity. If you find yourself holed up in your room all the time, take advantage of your dorm or apartment offerings (like EPOCH’s fantastic amenities). Head out for a swim in the lake or pool, spend some time in a designated study area, go to the gym or attend a social event—the possibilities are endless!

Keep Disagreements Productive

Chances are, if you’re living with a roommate in college, at some point, they’re going to get on your nerves. If your roommate is continually violating the rules you put in place at the beginning of the semester, it’s time to talk. Our best tips for keeping your arguments productive? 

  • Approach your roommate ASAP: this makes sure you don’t ‘stew’ too long and end up angrier than you should be, and it gives them an easy way to address and correct the behavior. 
  • Don’t accuse: use ‘I’ statements, and explain how you feel and what you’d like to change. These statements stop your roommate from becoming defensive, and allows them to talk about their concerns, too. 
  • Focus on solutions: don’t dwell. Instead, focus on how you can make things better.  

Eek, I’m the bad roommate: if you’re on the receiving end of this conversation, don’t panic – listen to your roommate and adjust your behavior accordingly. 

Make the First Three Months of Roomie Living a Blast 

Living with a college roommate in college is a huge adjustment. So listen, be considerate, and cut yourself some slack. You’ll get the hang of it in no time, we promise!