8 college tips for roommate etiquette

Successfully living with your roommate in a dorm room is a rite of passage for many college students. This is a good time to learn responsibility, respect, conflict resolution, compromise, cleaning, effective communication…and especially roommate etiquette.

Proper roommate etiquette is important in college. (Credit: Everyone Has A Story)

Proper roommate etiquette is important in college. (Credit: Everyone Has A Story)

A stress-free dorm life leads to student success. Here are some college tips for roommate etiquette in college dorms.

The rules of roommate etiquette

1. Set guidelines upfront. “At the beginning of your relationship, establish rules regarding cleaning, noise levels, sleep schedules, class schedules, borrowing things from each other, and anything else. Following these rules will guarantee a conflict-free relationship,” suggested a blogger in “Roommate Etiquette Tips for College Freshmen” posted on The Wellington August 30, 2012. 

2. Turn the music down. Perhaps the top reason for roommate complaints is the noise level. Be considerate of your roommate and keep music (and TV and video games) at a reasonable level. If your roommate has a test tomorrow and wants to study quietly in the room, consider turning your music off, wearing headphones or leaving the room. Next time when you have a test, with the right roommate etiquette, your roommate will do the same for you.

3. Keep the room clean. It’s a small enough space for one person, never mind two—and two people who might not know each other too well. Since college is a time to learn personal responsibility as well as to get an education, start cleaning up after yourself sooner rather than later. This is an important rule of roommate etiquette. Laundry, food, school supplies, clothes… everything should have a neat place to be. Before bed or first thing in the morning, take a few minutes to clean up. If you’re sharing a bigger apartment, create a To Do list of chores that each of you is responsible for.

4. Ask permission to have friends over. “Of course you can invite friends to your room, but remember that it is not just your space. Check with your roommate before you have anyone over. They could have had plans to nap or study,” advised Shelly Marie in “College Roommate Etiquette Tips for a Successful Semester!” posted on College Lifestyles July 21, 2009. Also inform your roommate when you have overnight guests. “Keep it classy, and NEVER get physical with your significant other when your roommate is in the room, sleeping or not,” said Shelly Marie. Which leads to….

5. Be discrete about intimate moments. Establish a code with your roommate (a sock on the doorknob is way too cliché) for when you want to be alone with your significant other in the room. This helps prevent that beyond-awkward moment when your roommate walks in on the two of you during an intimate moment. “Suggest developing a specific schedule of when each of you is allowed to have visitors and ask him if there are other places that they could go. Flexibility is the key. Express that being able to hear them makes you uncomfortable,” said Kenrick Ali, associate director of residence life at Cal State East Bay, in “Seven college roommate conflicts—and solutions,” by Jessica Yadegaran, posted on San Jose Mercury News August 7, 2013. Never let your overnight friend sleep in your roommate’s bed if s/he is gone for the night or the weekend.

6. Organize your schedules. Compare your class schedules and social schedules to make sure you’re on the same page and can adjust when one of you wants quiet time in the room. Know when each other needs to get up early for class, has to go to a job, or if you’re a morning person and your roommate is a night owl. Be respectful of privacy and sleep schedules.

7. Ask before borrowing. Your roommate’s stuff is not your stuff. Be respectful of other people’s property and space. Always ask first if you want to borrow something, whether it is clothing, supplies, toiletries, electronics, etc. And don’t eat your roommate’s food without permission. Designate separate areas in the fridge (left vs. right side, or top shelf vs. bottom shelf) for each of you. Or you can label your items.

8. Talk it out. If you’re having trouble getting along, roommate etiquette says you should discuss it like adults. Find some quiet time, sit down together and offer constructive (and polite) criticism. Resolve problems as soon as they arise. Don’t let them fester, or else you’ll be resentful and even more uneasy living with this person.

What are some other tips for roommate etiquette?

1 reply
  1. Taylor Bishop says:

    Thanks for going over some good etiquette to do with a roommate. I’m really glad this article mentioned to possibly use headphones if they are studying in the room. Honestly, using headphones can be a great way to focus on the task you are doing as well. Having thick ones can block out a lot of noise and can help you focus on what you are working on. I think it’s a win for both sides.


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