How to get along with your college roommate

You'll be besties in no time 👯

Dorm room on green background
(Image credit: Maya Adelberg)

Going to college can be one of the most exciting times of your life, but it can also be one of the most stressful. Everything feels new and there are so many changes to get used to. Not only are you probably living away from home for the first time, but you also want to be a good roommate to the new person sleeping across the room from you. “It's inevitable there will be conflict," says Carrie Rose, a life coach and founder of SunUp Coaching LLC. "Humans living together is messy, literally and figuratively.” 

Still, no matter what happens, college roommates are only temporary. This person doesn’t have to be your best friend (though they very well could be!) and you won't live with them forever. Plenty of amazing mems will be made, and worst case, there are solutions for roommates that just aren't vibing. Here are nine tips on how to get along with your college roommate, according to professionals.

Reach out on social before move-in day

Rose suggests messaging your roommates as soon as you have their contact info. “Don't be too quick to judge based on Instagram pictures, and be honest when you send a message," she says. "This could include saying that you look forward to meeting them, you're excited for the new school year, or even that you're excited and nervous. It's typical to be nervous about reaching out, but there is also power (in a good way!) by contacting him or her [or them] first.”

Communicate your living habits and routine

Rose recommends sharing some information about yourself with your roommate well before you move in together. This can help prevent conflict and get the ball rolling on communication. “Mention a few details about your own living habits, and that you look forward to learning more about theirs," she explains. "This could look like ‘I'm a night owl—curious if you prefer nights or mornings?’ Or ‘I tend to be fairly organized, but can get messy when I have a lot going on.’ Knowledge is power, and roommates want to know little details about who is living within arm's reach.”

Don't overpack

Dorm rooms aren’t known for having an abundance of storage or organization solutions, so Rose cautions against bringing so many things that it takes up the entire closet. “No one wants a roommate who took over the room with their material belongings,” she notes. Don't forget, you can always swap out your shorts for sweaters when you come home for winter break. 

Label *everything*

Rose advises labeling items that have value and can easily get lost such as backpacks, coats, computers, and chargers. This rule also applies to food if there is a shared refrigerator. “This isn't being anal, it's being realistic — especially if you have dietary restrictions and you need to have access to particular foods,” she says. It also prevents any awkward arguments over phone cables or school supplies. 

Share your schedule

Bonnie Scott, therapist and founder of Mindful Kindness Counseling, says it's key to communicate your schedule and what you need for success, such as a designated quiet time. “List out what you need and present it to the roommate as a place to start that conversation," she explains. "When do you have class? What's your preferred bedtime? When do you need to study? Do you have a job schedule to work around?” On top of this, Rose notes it's good to mention when you're away for the weekend or if you'll be getting back super late one night. 

Set some ground rules together

Scott tells me roommate experiences will be best if you establish some rules about things such as overnight guests, parties, and other social gatherings. “College is, for many people, a very social time," she says. "We are making friends, going on dates, joining on-campus groups, and sometimes we want to hang out with those people at our apartments." She says to openly discuss rules about overnight guests and bringing alcohol and other substances into your space. Putting together a roommate cleaning schedule is always smart, too. Both your comfort levels matter!

Set up a privacy screen

Daniel Rinaldi, therapist and founder of Live Your F'N Life Coaching says that establishing privacy in shared living spaces is absolutely crucial. “It's so important to respect your roommate's privacy," he says. "I recommend using room dividers to create separate areas within the room for added privacy.” If your space doesn't accommodate these, set aside personal times when you can each be alone in the room, find a quiet spot on campus, or pick quiet hours in your space for both of you to enjoy.

Just be considerate

“When working with my clients heading off to college, I always remind them of the importance of simply being considerate," says Rinaldi. "College life can be noisy, and it can be a huge change for a lot of people." Even the simplest gestures make a world of a difference. Putting on headphones when you listen to music, keeping your space clean, and thinking of their feelings all help. 

Amanda Lauren

Hi, I’m Amanda Lauren. I’m a design expert and interior stylist who writes for Real Homes, Forbes, Real Simple among other publications. I live in Los Angeles in the historic neighborhood of Hancock Park with my husband, and two dogs, Lulu and Milo. We also have a baby coming in spring 2023. I’m a big believer in finding beautiful things at all price points. There are so many places to find affordable things, you just have to look for them. If you don't find it at first, look harder!