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Want to be the Best College Roommate? Follow These Three Tips

It’s normal to be nervous about living with someone new — or even someone you have known for a long time. But with a little bit of thought and planning, you can be the kind of roommate your classmates dream of.

Whether you’re moving into a residence hall during your first year of college or an off-campus apartment as a senior, living with someone new is bound to bring some challenges. However, there are easy things you can do to become a great college roommate.

Alice Kramer is the director of residence life at Alma College, in Alma, Michigan. She has experienced the college roommate life from multiple sides: first as a roommate in college herself, then as a resident advisor, and now in her current role. Because Alice has seen it all, she’s in a good position to pass on tips on being the best college roommate possible.

1. Expand your horizons

You might think you want a roommate who shares your interests — your favorite TV shows, music, movies and books. Maybe it would be nice to share notes with a roommate who has the same major as you. But what’s more important, Alice says, is having a roommate who shares your personality type. Let’s say your roommate likes to keep things neat, but you’re more of a free spirit. That is more likely to cause a problem than if you can’t agree on what movie to watch on a Friday night. Plus, it’s fun to explore new interests!

2. Don’t set your expectations too high, or too low

Alice has heard stories about roommates who became BFFs and ended up in each other’s wedding parties. She has also heard about roommates who became the perfect storm.

The most-common stories end up somewhere in the middle: not-so-dramatic success stories about people who came together for a year, were good roommates to one another, and got along well.

Your roommate doesn’t NEED to be your best friend in order for you to have a storybook college career. In fact, sometimes it’s better to have multiple people in your life you can bounce ideas off of, in case you need a different perspective.

On the other side of the coin: don’t get too discouraged if things aren’t working out right away. Any person who has ever lived with another person would say you won’t agree with the people under your own roof 100% of the time, even if you like them a whole lot. A little patience and understanding goes a long way.

3. Start the conversation early

You’ll likely find out who you’re living with at college before you move in. So, don’t wait to find out what they’re about! Give them a phone call, send a text, or add them on Facebook and Instagram. Listen to what they have to say and ask them follow-up questions. (It will show you’re paying attention.) Having a conversation when you’re relaxed is a lot easier than talking when you’re trying to write a term paper… and your roommate just invited friends over to hang out.

Bonus tip!

Looking for a good conversation starter? Alice suggests figuring out who is bringing what to your room or apartment, before you show up. If you both show up with a TV, microwave, futon and couch, it probably won’t all fit in your space. Also, talk with each other about your boundaries: “Do we have a collective set of snacks, or do you have your snacks and I have mine?” Be honest! A little bit of honesty now will help avoid big issues down the road.

There are no right answers to these questions. It all depends on your personality and preferences. But being on the same page is important.

Despite the challenges that can come from living with someone new, residence life is one of the most exciting and engaging parts of your college experience. Alma College is a residential college, which maximizes those opportunities to their fullest extent. Learn more about student life at Alma.