Last Updated: Sep 8, 2020
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.
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.
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:
- Identify the problem: Come to an agreement on what you all believe is the issue at hand.
- Outline possible solutions: Look at all suggestions, including silly ones. Everyone involved should have a voice here.
- Write the pros and cons: Determine the advantages and disadvantages of each possible resolution.
- Decide on the answer: Choose the best solution and discuss how each person will carry it out.
- 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.
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.