How To Prepare For Living With College Roommates In A Dorm

College student in her college dorm which is very messy

Living in a college dorm can be exciting but also an adjustment for many students. Sharing your space with roommates will likely be a new experience. Therefore, it’s important to get to know your roommates and establish respectful boundaries. You will also need to adjust to having one room to sleep, study, and relax in and sharing a bathroom with other residents. It can be a little overwhelming as finding peace and quiet and some time alone will be challenging.

If you are preparing for your first year of college, here are some tips to help you get ready for dorm living.

1. Talk About Boundaries

Living with college roommates can be difficult especially if you don’t know each other before you start living together. It can be helpful to start a conversation and establish some boundaries. Generally, these conversations include topics such as noise level, sharing items, the level of cleanliness expected, and when guests are allowed or are not allowed to come over. You aren’t going to agree on everything, so you will need to be willing to compromise. You want all the roommates to feel comfortable. Setting these boundaries, in the beginning, will help you determine if you can trust and rely on your roommates.

2. Communication Is Key: Address Issues Quickly

Communication is going to make all the difference in getting along with your college roommates. College and life can feel overwhelming. If you’re struggling with how often your roommate has people over, discuss some options to give you a heads-up if guests are going to be there when you get home. Or establish certain hours that people are allowed to come over. This will help you both understand each other better.

When life gets stressful, it’s easy to get frustrated with those you live with. If you’re trying to study, struggling in a class, experiencing a health issue, feeling homesick, or have an important exam coming up, it can feel like every little thing your roommate does annoys you. For example, you may feel your roommates are being too loud or not respectful of your space. Try not to get frustrated. Instead, help them understand your point of view. Explain what is going on and ask for them to support you. If they don’t know what’s going on, they probably won’t respond well if you simply get frustrated.

It’s important to address any issues as calmly as possible to avoid creating unnecessary hostility toward one another. Conflict is going to happen, it’s natural. However, it’s something that can be dealt with in a respectful manner. It’s important to not let conflict go unaddressed, you will risk becoming passive-aggressive as your frustration builds.

If you are experiencing homesickness, we have tips for How To Deal With Being Homesick in College.

3. Be Careful With What You Share With Your College Roommates

While in college your friends or roommates might ask if they can borrow something. At first, it might be something small, but gradually they might ask for more. I often had students ask if they could borrow a pen or pencil and I always let them because I could afford to get another one if they didn’t give it back.

But I didn’t let other students borrow my electronics because I didn’t want to risk them accidentally breaking them or misplacing them. Be protective of your electronics or anything that would be difficult to replace. Also, if you are the roommate that always shares, you may risk your roommates using your stuff without your permission and you don’t want to put yourself in that position.

If a roommate or classmate asks for your notes or your book, consider taking a picture of the pages instead of allowing them to borrow them. This will ensure they don’t accidentally tear or spill something on the pages or miss place it and not return them. Food is also something that you may want to consider limiting how much you share, some people may take advantage and start to eat your food in the refrigerator leaving nothing for you.

table with laptops and phones spread out. College roommates should not share electronics

4. Keep Your Personal Life Personal

It is also important to limit sharing your personal life. Keep in mind that you are meeting a lot of new people and it may take a few weeks to establish your friends or groups of friends. Be mindful of what you share. You don’t know who these people might share it with or if the information will become gossip.

Social media is another way your personal life might be shared with more people than you intend. Chances are you will get follow requests from roommates, classmates, and residents you meet. Therefore, I always recommend that before you start college you review your social media accounts. You want to make sure that your profiles represent you in the way you want to be seen. Sometimes a photo can be misleading when taken out of context, it can convey a different message than what you were trying to.

5. Keep Your Space Clean and Organized

Having a clean and organized living space will reduce your stress. As life gets busy, you might neglect cleaning to focus on studying, spending time with friends, or taking a much-needed break. And you might find that not only is your portion of the room dirty, but so are your roommates. This can cause some tension. Often if you keep your portion of the room clean and organized, you can influence your roommates to do the same.

Don’t get frustrated if you do more cleaning than your other college roommates, they probably haven’t learned how to clean up after themselves yet so don’t take it personally. Lead by example. They will learn that there are different things you both should be doing. Discuss who takes out the trash and if they leave trash out, or clothes on the floor, talk to them about it.

Learn How To Organize Your Study Space so everything has its place.

6. Find Activities To Do Outside Of Your Dorm

While in college, you don’t want to be stuck in either a classroom or a dorm the whole semester as this can lead to isolation and loneliness which can create burnout. It may also be necessary, to take a break from your roommates. Find some different activities that you can do that allow you to leave your dorm and interact with others.

Some activities might be going to the gym, playing a sport with friends (pickleball is pretty hot right now), taking a relaxing walk or hike, spending some time in the library, meeting a friend at a café, etc. Not only are these activities good for your mental well-being by giving you time to decompress and enjoy, but they can also be opportunities to meet new people and try new things.

It can also be nice to find a few favorite places on campus where you can study comfortably. Sometimes it can be distracting to work on an assignment or study in the same place you sleep or with other people around. Find different quiet areas that have minimal distractions, such as the library, study hall, or even an outside space on campus.