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Most college students will live with a roommate at some point during their college career. You do not have to be best friends with your roommate, but it is a good idea to work toward a general sense of harmony in your living space. Here are some basic tips that can help you adjust to living with a roommate.

Discuss expectations early (and write them down)

If you’re living in a dorm environment, there is a good chance that your Resident Advisor will kickstart this process with an official roommate agreement. However, it is a good idea to have this discussion even if no one is making you do it. Why? Because it is much easier to negotiate a chore schedule when you are calm and collected than it would be six months later when you’re already furious at your roommate for NEVER DOING THEIR DISHES.

The roommate agreement can be renegotiated later (there will likely be some things you won’t think of until you’re actually living together), but make one early, put it in writing, and make sure that all of your roommates have a copy. Topics of discussion should include items such as chore expectations, sleep schedules, ideal noise levels, and how to have guests in your shared space.

Treat your roommate how you’d like to be treated

It is easy to ‘let your hair down,’ so to speak, in your living quarters (heck, that’s what your dorm/apartment/house is FOR), but doing so at the expense of being considerate toward your roommate is a recipe for disaster. You will have to negotiate specific house rules with your roommate—that’s what the roommate agreement is for—but it is always a good idea to keep your shared space generally clean, pay any shared bills on time, try to keep excessive noise to a minimum when possible, and make sure that you aren’t always inviting outside friends or significant others over without talking to your roommate first.  Try to imagine a good roommate and then do your best to be that person.

Keep the lines of communication open, and work on your conflict resolution skills

Even if you and your roommate are the most considerate people ever, problems will eventually arise. Make sure you are comfortable discussing issues with your roommate. Whatever you do, don’t bottle up bad feelings. That can lead to a toxic living environment very quickly! You may want to consider setting up a weekly or monthly ‘roommate chat’ where you have a meal and discuss how things are going in your living space. If you have a scheduled time to talk, you won’t have to worry about ambushing your roommate with problems.

Conflict resolution is an essential life skill, so it’s important to find a middle ground between being a doormat (letting your roommate ignore your boundaries and walk all over you) and being a steamroller (trying to flatten your roommate’s boundaries). Your goal should be to stand up for the things that are important to you without disrespecting your roommate.

Create your own space within a shared space

Everyone needs some level of personal space. Within a dorm room or a shared apartment, this can be difficult to come by, so you may have to get creative. Invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones for when you are at home, but also scope out some quiet places you can go on campus and cultivate relationships outside of your roommate relationship. Even the best roommate relationships can get annoying sometimes, and having spaces where you can escape will be beneficial.

Expect the best of your roommate

It may seem like your roommate is going out of their way to annoy you, but most roommates are not annoying or ‘evil’ on purpose. Assume that they have good intentions until proven otherwise. If your roommate really gets under your skin and it can’t be fixed, try to stay away from your living space as much as possible until you can move out.

Living with roommates can be a lot of fun, but it is not easy. If you are considerate and mature with conflict resolution, you can make your living space a safe and relaxing place for everyone involved.

By Allison Ourada