Campus Living: Living with a Roommate

Family Modules

Module 8 Part 4



Objective: The student will list critical personal preferences regarding living with a roommate, such as selection, communication, and building positive relationships.

This lesson is designed to encourage you think about campus living issues regarding a roommate such as selection, communication, and relationship-building.

Estimated time 30-45 minutes

Materials included:

Materials needed:

Curriculum Link:

This section corresponds with Module 8 Lesson 4 in the STEPP Classroom Transition resources.

Learn About It

Find out some tips for living and getting along with your college roommate. [Transcript]

When living in close quarters with someone, it is important to get started on the right foot. Roommate selection, communication, and building a positive relationship are three issues that college students need to consider as they prepare to live with someone other than a family member.

Rommmate Selection

The first step in the process of living with a roommate in college is generally deciding who to live with. Some colleges give incoming students more choice and allow them to select their own roommates. They may have the option of requesting to room with someone they already know or someone they are “randomly” assigned to live with by the housing staff (although those assignments may or may not actually be random). Some colleges also offer the opportunity to pair up with another student who will be living on campus through some type of web-based system or social media platform.

Be aware of the adjustment period that will need to take place in the beginning, and don’t be too hasty to switch roommates after the first week. With any roommate relationship, it will take a few weeks for each of you to learn about the other’s quirks, habits, and schedules and to find a way to relate without driving each other crazy. Finding someone you can successfully cohabit with leads to a much more pleasant living arrangement, provided that you and your roommate have similar expectations and mutual respect.

Parents Chime In

Talk about your own previous experiences with roommates in order to provide personal examples to your student.

Share your observations of your student’s lifestyle preferences and personal habits, and how he or she interacts and communicates with others.

Discuss the pros and cons of living with someone you know. Pros may include familiarity, friendship, and fun. Cons may include having expectations that are too high and being disappointed, the two roommates having different expectations of living with each other (one thinks they should go everywhere together while the other wants to branch out and make new friends), unexpected differences in habits, and the risk of ruining the friendship.

Roommate Matching

The two things that matter most when picking a college roommate. [Transcript]

Examples of Lifestyle or Personal Preferences

Sleeping habits

  • Do you like to take naps?
  • Are you a morning person?


  • Are you a “neat freak”?
  • Do you do laundry once every three weeks?

Study habits

  • Where do you like to study? (e.g., your room, library, somewhere else)
  • When do you like to study?

Quiet hours

  • Do you like to go to bed early?
  • Do you sleep during the day and stay up all night?


  • When do you like to have guests in your room?
  • When do you prefer to be alone?

Use of space

  • What resources are you willing to share? (e.g., food, hairdryer)
  • Do you prefer a “split the room in half” approach or a mixture of shared and personal space?

Parents Chime In

Have your student independently complete page 1 of the “Lifestyle Preferences and Personal Habits” worksheet. When complete, discuss some personal preferences that your student feels are important when having a roommate. Discuss the difference between preferences that are essential to a roommate relationship and preferences that are simply preferences and not as important. What can your student live with and without?

Work with your student to complete page 2 of the “Lifestyle Preferences and Personal Habits” worksheet.

Communicating with Your Roommate

Check out these 5 roommate hacks from the series #GetCollegeReady. [Transcript]

Once you’ve been paired with a roommate, communicating with that person is the next step in the process of establishing a relationship. The most important part of living with someone else is effective communication! Communicating effectively with your roommate will lay a foundation for your roommate relationship. The way you communicate will determine how you handle conflicts and resolve issues together. Because you will be living in such close quarters with this person, some friction is inevitable. The end result of that friction—and whether it leads to a mutually acceptable solution or a huge argument—is largely determined by the way you communicate with each other.

One of the best initial steps is to communicate even before you move in together. Most housing offices make this easy by giving you your assigned roommate’s email address and/or phone number as soon as you’re matched. It can be awkward to make the initial contact with a stranger, but it’s well worth it. Start by talking about logistics: discussing who is bringing large items that can be shared (e.g., TV, DVD player, futon) so you won’t end up with duplicates, talking about when you’re each planning to arrive, and so on. This conversation begins the process of getting to know each other, which can help you feel like you aren’t living with a stranger.

The following tips will ease communication between roommates.

Parents Chime In

For each key idea or aspect of shared living, ask your student to brainstorm a potential conflict that could arise in a roommate relationship related to that issue. Then, for each potential conflict, ask him or her to describe the steps he or she might take to resolve the conflict and repair the relationship with his or her roommate. Here’s an example:

Issue: Sleeping habits

Potential conflict: Your roommate finds it easier to fall asleep with the TV on, but you have a hard time falling asleep unless the room is dark and quiet.

Potential Solution: Talk to your roommate about compromising so you can both fall asleep easier. Suggest that you will use a sleep mask to block out the light from the TV if your roommate either uses headphones or watches on mute with the closed captions on. Also, ask if your roommate would be willing to use the sleep timer so the TV will turn off after he or she falls asleep instead of staying on all night.

After your student has shared his or her conflict and solution, explore the topic further by brainstorming other possible solutions together.

Building a Positive Relationship

When you are first starting out with your new roommate, the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” is applicable. Avoid assumptions and snap judgments; instead, take the time to get to know your roommate yourself. Don’t rely on what you hear from other people or what you see on social media.

You might be surprised how many people don’t even bother trying to get to know another person or trying to get along with others because they’ve decided from the get-go that they are too different to be compatible. Before even spending one minute in a room together, some students have written off their roommate as “just someone to share space with” because of preconceived notions about their interests, personality, or other factors.

Even if you don’t agree on many things with your roommate, you can still appreciate the experience as an opportunity for personal growth. Learning to compromise with someone and expand your understanding of other people is a key component of appreciating diversity. Staying open-minded will help you to see the experience in a different light.

Although you may not end up becoming friends, you and your roommate need to peacefully coexist in a shared space for 9 months. Even roommates who aren’t close can usually find a way to share the space amicably. Being respectful toward your roommate can often go a long way toward encouraging your roommate to be respectful in return.

Parents Chime In

Read and discuss the following quotes from first-year college students with your student.

  • “Carefully consider the size of your room and your specific needs when deciding which items to pack and which to leave at home.”
  • “Living on campus means you have a lot of convenient dining options. Using your meal plan at the dining halls gets the most bang for your buck.”
  • “Try to meet people on your residence hall as soon as possible.”
  • “Get to know your RA (Resident Advisor).”
  • “Don’t be surprised when the fire alarm goes off.”
  • “The dorm is generally not a quiet place.”
  • “Don’t have any expectations about what your roommate or your roommate relationship will be like.”
  • “Roommate conflicts are inevitable, but most of them are minor.”
  • “Put together a basic first aid kit with medications and supplies.”
  • “Stick to a consistent schedule for going to bed and waking up.”
  • “If you and your roommate agree, you don’t have to keep your room spotlessly tidy.”
  • “Early in the year, find a space in your residence hall where you can go to study and/or hang out other than your room.”
  • “Be considerate in the laundry room.”

Objective Check

Have you accomplished today's objective?

Objective: The student will list critical personal preferences regarding living with a roommate, such as selection, communication, and building positive relationships.

If so, congratulations!

If not,

If not, think about how you could potentially cause problems in a roommate relationship and tell how you would resolve the situation.

Digging Deeper