Two curly haired women on the beach with arms around each other smiling

Dorm Etiquette: 7 Ways to Be a Considerate Resident

Living in a dorm and having a roommate can be the best thing ever...or the worst. Use these tips to learn how to be a considerate dorm resident and get along with your roommate.

Are you heading off to college soon? If so, you’re probably excited about making new friends, taking interesting classes, and having life-changing experiences. What you might not have considered, however, are the ins and outs of dorm life. Around 63% of student housing consists of private rooms rather than apartments or shared rooms. If that’s the case, you’ll only have to adjust to new neighbors—but for the remaining 37%, you’ll face bunking with someone you’ve likely never met before (if your campus and shared dormitories are opening up this semester, that is…). Before you pack your bags and say goodbye to mom and dad, learn how to be a good roommate with these seven tips. (And if moving to campus is being put on hold because of the coronavirus, you can keep this advice handy for when college life goes back to normal.)

1. Be open to differences

When you leave home for the first time, you’ll meet many people who are different from you—in beliefs, values, lifestyles, personalities, and more. Instead of digging your heels in when it comes to change, stay open-minded and try expanding your horizons. Get to know these people and see what you can learn from them—they’ll likely want to learn from you too. Who knows? You may end up making a lifelong friend.

2. Learn to deal with noise

If you’re going to live in a dorm, noise is part of the territory. Between your roommate and other students, you’ll hear talking, TVs, music, and alarm clocks at all times. If you can’t sleep or study with all the racket, try a white noise app such as White Noise Generator—which works on Android gadgets—or Sleep Sounds for Amazon’s Alexa. You could also wear earplugs to bed. But to help curb some of the noise, talk to your roommate about your expectations too. For example, maybe you can agree to a “no TV after midnight” policy. Perhaps you can even ask them to refrain from hitting their alarm’s snooze button more than once in the morning. It’s all about communication.

Related: Top Ways to Prepare for Life With Your New Roommate

3. Discuss and make a guest policy

Say you’re an extrovert who loves to surround yourself with friends all day. Your roommate may be the opposite: someone who values their privacy and needs some alone time. To find an equilibrium, discuss your guest policy before any issues occur. Address questions like: When can guests come over? Should you give each other notice? Are sleepovers with friends okay? How often can romantic partners spend the night—if at all? Try creating a roommate agreement at the beginning of the school year to lay out everything and come to a compromise—it could help you avoid potential confrontations in the middle of the semester.

4. Clean up after yourself

No one wants to live in a pigsty. Still, you and your roomie may have different expectations when it comes to cleanliness. Discuss your needs on move-in day (and be open to their needs too) and come to a consensus. For example, you may love everything to be neat and tidy with each item in its proper place. Your roommate, on the other hand, may be the messy sort, someone who thrives in chaos. Try to come to a middle ground you’re both happy with.

5. Try to make new bonds

College is an exciting time, but it can also be a nerve-wracking one. You’re on your own, away from your parents and old friends. To make the transition smoother, try to bond with your roommate. According to one study, two people need to spend 90 hours together to become friends—and you and your roommate have the time. On the other hand, if you don’t mesh, don’t try to force it. You don’t have to be best friends with your roommate, but you do have to respect and get along with each other as best as you can.

Related: 7 Secrets to Finding the Perfect College Roommate

6. Follow dorm rules

In addition to setting your own rules to keep the peace between you and your roomie, it’s important to make sure you’re following residency rules laid out by your college. Most colleges and universities have a student code of conduct that lays out acceptable dorm regulations, safety rules, health standards, and more. Make sure to consult your school’s code of conduct when making decisions about your room. For example, your dorm building might have a nightly curfew before the building locks, a specific policy on pets in the dorms, or guidelines on in-dorm appliances.

7. Solve big issues immediately

If an issue comes up between you and your roommate—or anyone else in the dorm—don’t ignore it. Instead, try to find a solution as soon as possible. If you find yourself in a disagreement, follow these steps:

  1. Identify the problem: Come to an agreement on what you all believe is the issue at hand.
  2. Outline possible solutions: Look at all suggestions, including silly ones. Everyone involved should have a voice here.
  3. Write the pros and cons: Determine the advantages and disadvantages of each possible resolution.
  4. Decide on the answer: Choose the best solution and discuss how each person will carry it out.
  5. Contact your Resident Advisor (RA) if you need assistance: RAs are on your floor to help you and can be mediators if you’re not comfortable addressing an issue on your own.

Related: Q&A With Emily: How to Talk to Your New College Roommate

Conquer dorm life and enjoy college

If you want college to be as stress-free and enjoyable as possible, learn how to be a good dorm resident and roommate. With simple steps like cleaning your dorm, establishing boundaries, and talking through problems, you can keep the peace, make new friends, and make four years of great memories.

For more advice on living on a college campus, check out our Student Life section.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

dorm life living on campus roommates student life

About Alyssa Abel

Alyssa Abel

Alyssa Abel is an education writer who helps students and teachers pursue their passions. Read more of her work on Syllabusy


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Heather McCarty

Heather McCarty

High School Class of 2020

CollegeXpress has helped me with the college application process. The tips and tricks for important essays were so helpful. I also gained useful knowledge about college life. Even though I’m fully online, CollegeXpress has helped me develop a sense of how college is in person. The experiences from college students that were featured on their Instagram page have shown the good, the bad, and the “secret” life on campus from a reliable perspective. Not to mention, they relieved my feelings of anxiety about the workload. I can now understand how it can be stressful, but it takes self-control and willpower to get assignments completed on time and with quality.

Caitlin Eaton

Caitlin Eaton

$10,000 Scholarship Winner, 2021

I first discovered CollegeXpress during my sophomore year of high school while researching colleges that interested me. My SAT prep class the following year further familiarized me with the opportunities available through the organization. CX has personally helped me by exposing me to a diverse selection of schools as well as scholarships and life tips that have provided valuable guidance in my college search.

This scholarship will help me adjust to college life without worrying as much about tuition. This gives me more room to truly explore and benefit from all aspects of higher education. I plan to study Conservation Biology and work protecting species/ecosystems. I’m looking forward to getting field experience and seeing firsthand the problems research is solving.



Student, University of the People

I registered with CollegeXpress and filled all my necessary and relevant information as well as the course I wished to study. A few days later, an email was sent to me with a list of schools offering the course; amongst them was the University of the People, the school I got admitted to.

Abhishek Kumar

Abhishek Kumar

High School Class of 2022

As a high schooler, I know how hard it is to plan for college. You have to consider a lot of factors: SAT/ACT scores, college searches, scholarships, and more. CollegeXpress has been a helpful resource that solves all these problems. One can easily create a free account and search away. They help you search for scholarships and colleges, they have graduate program search, they have lists and rankings, and so much more. CX also has a lot of articles and advice to read—whether it’s financial aid, test prep, campus visits, internships/careers, or anything. Not only that, CX gives out free scholarship money to students who sign up and create a free CX account. I love CX and will continue to use it! Thank you CollegeXpress for making my college journey easier!



High School Class of 2019

My college search began at CollegeXpress. Due to this helpful tool, I was able to gather a lot of information to guide my college planning decisions. Through CollegeXpress, I was also able to apply to several scholarships to help pay for my tuition. I would definitely recommend this website to anyone who wants to explore colleges and get more information from admission experts, counselors, and real students.

College Matches