College 101: How To Get Through Freshman Year Without Killing Your Roommate

July 11, 2018

College is such an exciting time in your life. You’re moving away from home for the first time and onto a campus designated for learning. Did I mention that you’re finally moving away from your parents house? The perks of college are almost too numerous to list, independence, more interesting classes, the ability to date without your parents breathing down your neck, dorm food. Wait, come to think of it, actually dorm food is one of the only shortcomings. That, and the cost of college. Boy, it’s getting pricey. Oh, and also suddenly having to share a twelve by twelve foot cinder block box with a stranger! Let’s discuss how you can get through freshman year without wanting to strangle your roommate.

You’re probably familiar with being required to “share” at home. Most of us have to share, especially when we’re kids growing up. Share the TV, hand your sister the remote, don’t hog the ice cream, you can’t have the car tonight, the list goes on and on. Ironically, now that you’re striking out on your own and you have more personal freedom than ever before, you have to share a tiny, tiny bedroom with another adult. Growing up, lots of us have our own bedrooms, and they’re the one space you can call your own. So suddenly having to share this personal, intimate space can certainly come as a culture shock. But regardless of whether you and your roommate become best friends and soulmates, or instantly dislike each other. You’ll get through this experience.

So what happens if you show up on Move-In Day and your roommate is instantly a weirdo? What if the first thing he decides to show you is one of his neat tricks, like this:


Remember, college is about broadening your horizons and meeting people unlike you’ve ever met before. That includes some strange dude who can eat three apples while juggling them. Try to open your mind and embrace your first roommate in a spirit of hospitality. After all, even if you don’t get along, you still gotta live together, so you might as well try! Side note: where one would develop that talent, I have no idea. How long it would take is another question. Imagine spending two years of your life practicing every day so you can impress strangers with your unique talent at eating apples while juggling them? “Hey mom, check this out!” “Um, is that what you’ve been learning at college?”

Anyway, odds are your roommate won’t be anything like that. He or she will act perfectly normal, even if they’re a little timid or nervous the first time you meet. With that said, let’s discuss the three main categories in which you both need to find common ground: Cleanliness, Guest Time and Study Time.


First rule, before you two have even assembled your bunk beds (side note: I’d take the top bunk because you never know how sturdy those things are!) try to establish a middle ground on cleanliness. We all have different thresholds for being clean. Some of us get on our hands and knees to scrub the shower once a week. Which is, admittedly, a little excessive. Point well taken. What can I say, I like to see a reflection of my face in the shower tiles at all times! Whereas others of us only scrub the toilet the day before our parent’s annual visit. What’s more, some of us have only let our moms do the cleaning for us! Chat with your roommate about your strengths (and presumed weaknesses) with cleaning. Maybe he’s really good at keeping the room tidy, and you’re better at windexing everything from the windows to the keyboards. Whatever your strengths are, offer that as your contribution to room cleanliness. Worst case scenario, maybe one of you can play the role of the baby in this video:

Guest Time

Next, establish ground rules for ‘guest time’. I know, it’s uncomfortable to talk about especially when you first meet each other. But you’d be surprised how much conflict arises when you get home late on a Friday night only to find a tie hung around your locked doorknob. You might be a social person, your roommate might not want to listen to Wyclef with four other strangers sitting on the edge of their bed. Furthermore, maybe one of you has a girlfriend or boyfriend. It might be good to establish some ground rules of how much time that third person is allowed to spend in the room every week. It’s hard enough to make room for two people in a dorm room, three certainly makes it a crowd. Sit down and chat through the different scenarios of what to do when the other roommate needs a little privacy. When I say privacy, I really mean privacy for this…

Study Time

Finally, it’s probably best to consider how much time you guys will spend studying. The dorm room should be an oasis for preparing for class, exams and papers. Never let your roommate get in the way of your education. That’s why you (or your parents) are forking over the dough to attend college, so take that responsibility seriously. It might be worth exploring how your roommate studies. Is he the kind of guy who likes rocking out to Creedence while you’re trying to prepare for a bio exam? If so, you two can take turns studying down the hall in the designated quiet areas. But at the end of the day, since you’re already dropping a ton of money on college, you might as well consider investing in a pair of those fancy noise canceling headphones. You don’t want to have to deal with a scene like this while studying!

There you have it! Don’t be nervous. Most people tend to get along with their freshman year roommates swimmingly. And even if you don’t, your first year will zip by faster than you can say “food poisoning from dorm food.” Have fun out there!

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