How to adjust to living with a roommate

Everyone has their own unique experience living with roommates. How do you make sure your experience is a good one?


In college, I had a few different roommate experiences. As a freshman, I was assigned to live with a random person who I knew nothing about. Luckily she wasn’t messy or loud, so things remained peaceful between her and me throughout the school year. We didn’t socialize much, but we did have an understanding and respect for each other’s space. Sophomore year, I lived with a friend I’d made on campus the year prior, and then she and I decided to move off campus for our junior and senior years.

Living on campus, we shared tight quarters in one room. I think we were both relieved to have our own bedrooms when we moved into an apartment, but we still had to follow the golden roommate rule: Be respectful and considerate of each other’s preferences and habits. That rule became even more relevant when we ended up getting a third roommate our junior year, someone we didn’t know at all.

Every year of college, my roommate experience was different, and as a result, I’ve learned a few things about living with different types of roommates. Here are four key ways to keep the peace until you part ways.

Respect each other’s shut eye

This is important to cover off the bat: Is your roommate a night owl or morning person? Get an understanding of how you both operate upon waking up in the morning and how you handle noise when winding down at night.

If either of you have a morning ritual that you stick by, set allotted shower times so there’s no feud about who gets the bathroom first (if you share). Discuss setting quiet hours after a certain time at night so each of you can study or prepare for bed without being disturbed. Courtesy is key!

“Follow the golden roommate rule: Be respectful and considerate of each other’s preferences and habits.”

Divide and conquer bills

When you live off-campus, one of the biggest advantages of having roommates is being able to split the cost of rent and utilities. However, money can be a touchy subject for a lot of people, so approach this topic with care. Early on, call a meeting to discuss how bills will be divvyed up between all roommates. Each person will have a different perspective on how to handle money. Gaining insight on how your roommates manage their finances will be important when bills are due.

Create a shared folder or chart that shows who owes on what bill, with the due dates clearly marked. That way if anyone’s confused they will always be able to refer to that outline. Apps like Splitwise, Settle Up, and Zelle also make it easy for everyone to keep track of what’s due in their name and transfer funds.

Have the sharing conversation

You may not think it’s a big deal to eat the cereal your friend stocks in your shared kitchen each week, but she may be fuming about it. Have an honest conversation about what things you want to share — think cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and food. Then make sure you take turns buying them (or, split the cost of grocery shopping).

Figure out how to handle houseguests

No one wants to walk into the common area to unexpectedly find a stranger sleeping on the couch. Try to let your roommate know about friends who are coming over or staying over well ahead of time, so that they have a heads up. Also let them know how long your guests will be around. Assure your roommate that your friends will be respectful — and make sure your friends are!