How to be a good roommate: a college student perspective


Dorm rooms. They come in different shapes and sizes, but when it comes down to it they just aren’t that great. There’s an old wives’ tale that claims living in a dorm will prepare you for the real world, and like so many other wives’ tales, that is a lie. If the world expects me to live in a small square — sometimes without air conditioning  with a stranger for 9 months, the world is nuts!

Some incoming freshmen are lucky enough to choose their roommates and live with a friend. However, there are still a few things you should know about being a good roommate, regardless of how well acquainted you are with each other prior to move-in day, With two years of dorm living behind me, I feel pretty confident on the topic of what constitutes a good roommate. Would I say I’m a perfect roommate? No. I stay up and sleep in too late. At times, I’m socially awkward. I often tell ill-fated jokes that cause more awkwardness. Be that as it may, I would say that I’m a considerate roommate. I’ve always tried my best to remember that I’m living in a room I share with someone else and not be selfish. So as an imperfect roommate myself, I hope you don’t think writing about this is self-righteous of me. With that said, here are some tips I suggest on how to be a good roommate.

1. Don’t steal or touch the other person’s stuff

You would think this rule is kind of understood, but so often it is violated. Want to watch your roomie’s DVD? Don’t you dare pop it into the player without asking first. Now, sometimes roommates know each other well or work out some sort of arrangement where borrowing stuff is okay. If you haven’t done so, don’t touch your roommate’s stuff.

2. Don’t interrupt your roommate’s daily routine

This is a situation I have heard of often in the college realm. My friends have suffered from it in some of the most annoying ways possible. Basically, your roommate knows you do something at a certain time, and after this time is well established, say, about half way through the semester, she decides to do that same something at that same exact time. You always use the microwave at 6:45 pm to heat up a quick snack before work, but one day, your roommate is cooking a 6-minute frozen meal, throwing your whole schedule off track. It’s a disgusting, heart-wrenching situation. So don’t do it to your roommate.

3. Contain your filth

This should also be a generally understood rule, but it’s not. Don’t leave bowls of oatmeal to rot on your desk, and don’t carve a Halloween pumpkin and then let it sit in the window so long that it becomes a sunken face on a brown ball of mush by Thanksgiving. The moral of the story is, clean up after yourself. And if you make a mess, keep it on your side of the room.

4. If you damage your roommate’s stuff, tell her you big wuss!

During my first semester of college, I accidentally bumped into my roommate’s small side table. A glass of water came tumbling down and I felt awful. I apologized and cleaned the mess up. My roommate saw it all happen, but if she hadn’t been there I would have told her about it because that’s the normal thing to do. So if you ever spill something or damage your roommate’s belongings in some way, clean it up (or at least offer to) and tell her what you did. Do not, I repeat, do not play dumb and pretend those books were always sopping wet or that spaghetti stain was always on her rug. Because that makes you a boldfaced liar, and a bad roommate.

5. Be independent

Also during my first semester of college, I didn’t leave the room much. I went to class, ate my meals, and walked around outside talking to my parents on the phone while crying. So being independent isn’t necessarily my forte. However, if you have made it into college, you should have some level of independence and self-reliance. Provide yourself with scissors, paper clips, and other office supplies. Do not constantly ask your roommate for safety pins, band-aids, scissors, markers, highlighters, tape, paper clips, etc. The key word in that last sentence is constantly. It’s normal to borrow things from time to time, but don’t ask for stuff all of the time. It’s just annoying.

6. Provide appliances to share

If your roommate brings the microwave, you bring the TV. It’s that simple. Don’t let your roommate show up on move-in day with the TV, futon, microwave, and fridge. Even if you offered to bring something and she turned you down, you should show up with your own fridge or coffee maker or something.

7. Try to stay positive

So maybe you and your new roommate don’t get along that well. That’s okay! As the semester wears on, you’ll be busier and busier with new friends from clubs and classes, not to mention homework and all that reading. Try to not get too upset about it. After all, you don’t have to live with her forever. And if you ever get really angry with her, remind yourself that there’s a lot more in life to be concerned with than your temporary college roommate.  In the end, being a good roommate is hard to do. Living in a 10 by 12 foot room with another person for about 250 days is a crazy way to live. Even married couples have trouble putting up with each other’s living habits. So don’t be too hard on yourself, and above all, remember to just be a decent human being to your roommate.

Find a roommate you know you’ll be compatible with using our Roommate Match.

About the author

Bethany Guyer is in her senior year at Ball State University majoring in Creative Writing.

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