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Students in Dorm Room

Tips for roommates

At some point during college, you will most likely have to share a living space with someone you do not know. Here are some tips for establishing a positive experience with your roommate.

Before you arrive at Columbia College

  1. Make contact with your roommate to discuss what each of you is bringing to your new space.
  2. Pay attention to your own habits. Are you clean? Messy? Do you go to bed early or stay up late? Realize NOW that your roommate is going to be different from you. That is reality!
  3. Set realistic expectations about your roommate relationship. Do you expect to be best friends? What if that doesn’t happen? Remember, best friends are not always suited to live together!
  4. Think about what YOU can compromise on. For example, if your roommate wants to watch TV, are you willing to study in the lounge rather than in your room?
  5. Be aware that first impressions may not always be accurate. While Facebook and other social media are fun, they often do not give an accurate representation of another person. Keep an open mind and expect a few surprises!

Once you are on campus

  1. Hang out with your roommate. Do things together such as going to orientation and residence hall activities and eating in the dining hall. Bond over shared experiences.
  2. Take your roommate/ apartment mate agreement seriously. This is your chance to set ground rules for your living space. Feel free to talk about any issues that come up. (Residential students must complete a roommate/ apartment mate agreement within the first month of the semester).
  3. Remember that communication is the key to a successful roommate relationship. If you are having troubles with your roommate, address the specific behaviors that are bothersome. Remember, the Residential Life staff is always available to help you resolve roommate issues.


Using the roommate/ apartment mate agreement that you will receive the first week of the semester as a guide, talk with your roommate about your preferences immediately. Are you an early riser? Does your roommate like to listen to loud music? Do you require complete silence when working on assignments? Discussing these preferences can help you establish helpful ground rules at the beginning of your relationship.


Living together involves the blending of lives and lifestyles. You may have similar or very different personalities, values or habits. For instance, your roommate may not start working on homework until late, while you prefer to be finished and in bed early. In this situation, you will need to find a compromise. A compromise does not mean one person is surrendering to another person; it means that two people are working together toward a solution both can accept.


If you are frustrated about something, tell your roommate. Your roommate can’t read your mind any better than you can read his or hers. Problems will arise; that’s to be expected. The best advice is to just talk it out. Communicating doesn’t mean being critical or nitpicking. Instead, it means being honest and open. Choose your battles carefully. Complaining about everything can actually create a barrier to progress. The key to a successful relationship is having balance. You’ll have good times and not-so-good times. Focus on the positive!


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