College roommate survival tips
April 20th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

College roommate survival tips

by Jordan Bienstock, CNN

(CNN) It’s that time of year when colleges and universities send out acceptance letters. For prospective students, the euphoria of knowing where they’re heading for that first taste of independent living may be mixed with some anxiety about whom they’ll be living with.

How do I pick a roommate? What if we don’t get along?

Have no fear! The Schools of Thought blog is here with some college roommate survival tips.

Tip #1 – Get started early
Wesley Pickard works in the Residence Life and Housing office at Emory University in Atlanta. “Every university that has a good housing department is going to make roommate-finding software available to students,” Pickard says. “The onus is on the student to take advantage of that.” He says incoming freshmen who aren’t pro-active in the process are often the ones who end up having roommate problems.

Tip #2 – Best friends AND roommates? What could go wrong?!?
A lot. Deciding to room with someone you already know can have its benefits. It’s a built-in support system in an unfamiliar environment. But being friends with someone and LIVING with them are often two completely different situations. If you think you can weather the ups and downs, great. If not, you might want to consider rooming apart in order to keep the friendship together.

Tip #3 – Know yourself
Are you more likely to wake up at 6 a.m., or stay up until 6 a.m.? Do you like to tidy up or are you more of a slob? No one says you and your roommate need to be exactly alike in all of your habits, but owning up to your own tendencies can help avoid conflict. “It’s really important for students to be self-aware, which is hard when you’re talking about high school seniors,” says Pickard. “If they have extreme aspects to their lifestyle, whatever that may be, it’s important to find students who share that, or look into a single room.”

Tip #4 – Distribution of goods
Do not – I repeat, DO NOT – get to move-in day without having corresponded with your roommate, especially about which shared items each of you is bringing. You may think this sounds trivial. Wait until you both show up to a dorm room the size of a postage stamp having each brought your giant TV and stereo system. Or worse yet, NEITHER of you brought a TV or stereo system.

Tip #5 – It’s all a learning experience
College is about experiencing new things, and one of those is living on your own for the first time. Ultimately, there’s no way to guarantee whether your first college roommate will become a lifelong friend or a year-long nightmare, but according to Pickard, “when a student does a lot of work on the front end, it generally works out for the better.”

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soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. MMR

    Rule 7: Don't bring anything that would hurt to lose. Something will get stolen or broken. Items that you're emotionally attached to should stay at home.

    April 30, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • MMR

      Rule 7? Duh. I meant rule 6.

      April 30, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  2. academia nut

    Wow, a school my kids will NOT be attending.

    Why would a residence life advisor actually see it as a problem that kids didn't bring their giant TV and stereo?

    This tells me two things:

    One, is that this is a school culture where kids watch a lot of TV. Gross.

    Another is that the residence life advisor is clueless about this generation (kids can and do watch on their computers, and likewise the 'stereo' is often an ipod in a bowl).

    April 30, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  3. Helga

    Yes, and then one day there was.

    April 27, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  4. Ted Ward

    When I went to college, we didn't even know who our roomates would be. We just showed up and went to the dorm room and met eventually one's roomate. I had one OK roomate and then one that was a maoist chap with a chip on his shoulder who had nothing and insisted we share everyting (which was mine) as a kind of dorm room anti bourgeois communism. I got the heck out of there asap. I got my own apartment. He got the room to himself, which in retrospect is probably what he wanted anyway.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  5. Online Dating

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    April 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Helga

      Hello. Who? Hello?

      April 27, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  6. Jennie '98

    When I started college roommates were assigned by the housing office based on about a half page questionnaire. After a semester or so of watching what roommate relationships worked and who ended up in the housing office begging for a reassignment, a group of us came up with the following rule.
    An only child or oldest child should only room with someone who is a younger sibling (second or later in birth order).
    I think we decided that younger siblings are already accustomed to adapting to someone else. Two only children seemed to be a real disaster, since they'd never had to learn how to compromise with a sibling.

    April 25, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  7. Reggie

    I agree

    April 23, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
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    April 23, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  9. Leego

    Was hoping the article and comments would help my twins going off to college soon... Read a lot of venting and horror stories. So, how about helping kids. So, one: contact your roommate, get to know each other and establish a few boundaries like, lets treat each other like we want to be treated so a committment to use deoderant, no overnight guests or guests when roommate is studying for big exam. Two: do ONE. Three: if you have led a sheltered life, then realize the college experience is about meeting new people and learning how to embrace diversity BEACAUSE this country is diverse and in the real world you will meet and work with all kinds so get to know the African Americans, Hispanics, Latinos and Middle East students and learn about their cultures. You could learn more from a roommate than a humanities textbook! THREE: Appreciate the good experiences and by golly, learn from the bad. Four: Break out of the box and learn to be comfy wherever you are. FIVE: Communicate. I repeat COMMUNICATE SIX: Compromise WHY? Might as well learn early, life is not all about you!

    April 23, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  10. Shirley TwittleSchnitzel

    Omg.. This blog is hillarious! The article sucked but everyones comments are excellent.

    April 22, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  11. Diahrea Dorm

    My room mate had constant diahrea to the point that no matter what he ate within 5 minutes he would have to run to the toilet. It was so bad that my friends and I used to call him Mr."water-ria" There would be splattered crap all over the toilet the back of the toilet the wall the floor it was disgusting.

    April 22, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  12. Jim

    I also dormed with a "stinky" person my freshman year in college. This guy did not take a shower or use deoderant. The whole place smelled like stinky funk grossness mixed with steamy elephant dung! It was disgusting.

    April 22, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  13. Alan Raspit

    I got in trouble my freshman year for saying I wanted to live with another white kid from the suburbs who wasn't too rich. They were fine with my anti-rich people discrimination, didn't like the suburbs and freaked out over the white kid part. I told them I just wanted to be with people like me and the lady in charge (a Black lady) let me through with it. It's not a hateful thing, I just know who I am and what I like being.

    April 22, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Ben There

      You were smart to request that. I wish I would have. It would have saved me (and my nose) from smelling foul "fart like" fumes floating all over the apartment from my roomate.

      April 22, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  14. kacey

    The article wasn't that interesting but the comments were hilarious!

    April 22, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  15. Sarah

    I tried living with a friend one year in the dorms. Big mistake. We're both lucky we're still friends. But we should have seen it coming, we're too different to be able to share a dorm room.

    I had to live with a girl from Bangladesh, thank God it was only one semester. She didn't shower and smelled funky. The worst part about it, though, was the fact that her relatives would call in the middle of the night. If she wasn't there to answer the phone, they would keep calling back every 5 minutes to see if she would answer, probably thinking I was keeping the phone from her or something. And they wouldn't leave a message on the machine either. It got so bad I had to unplug the phone from the wall every night.

    And another roommate, one of the few that lasted the whole year, had a fiancee who would hang out with her just about all the time in our room. It got annoying but thanks to a lot of night classes and work, I didn't spend a whole lot of time in the room anyway. It wasn't until the last week of spring semester that I found out he didn't have a roommate. I was completely baffled that they didn't spend time in his room. And he lived one floor below, so it's not like either one of them had really had to walk somewhere.

    I would have moved to an apartment where I could have at least had my own room but apartments cost much more than living in the dorms did. Oh well, at least I have some great stories!

    April 22, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  16. Luke

    One roomate was clean but had a habit of picking at his toes all the time (gross). I watched another roomate rarely showered and evolved into an alcoholic. And another roomate had the unreal talent to imitate the voice of any celebrity/politician perfectly. He never became a commedian but should have. He and I are good friends to this day.

    April 22, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  17. d

    College Freshman in 99.

    My roommate from then is still my best friend, and we've lived together on and off since then. Currently he's living in the house I bought a year ago while he was out of the state, and let me tell you I'm always happier having him as a roommate than living with any other roommate, even the other good ones I've had since then

    April 22, 2012 at 4:55 am |
  18. Josie

    I've never lived in a college dorm and from hearing story after story...I'm glad I didn't. Though I have had room-mates over the years, both the really good and the really bad. You really don't know who someone is till you live with thema . My mom always told me to never room up with a best friend, she did that in college her first couple of years and it ruined the friendship.

    April 22, 2012 at 4:28 am |
  19. Fume-licious

    The first dorm i shared with 2 stinky arab style people who never flushed the toilet. I finally put a sign up in the bathroom that said "wipe...then flush" they both dropped out a few days later.

    April 21, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  20. Blue one

    when i saw my roommate bring his clothes in the dorm in a garbage bag, i knew i was in for it. As he dumped his clothes out of the bag onto the floor, the whole dorm room began to smell like a toilet filled to the brim with crap.

    April 21, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  21. Ben There

    I also had my fair share of insane roomates. My first year I dormed with a spoiled litte bit_h boy from egypt who smelled like a camels ass with diahrea. My second year I was upgraded to some indian kid who liked to burn this nasty ass incense and hum while did yoga. He never showered and smelled like a monkey in the zoo with explosive diahrea.

    April 21, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  22. MashaSobaka

    I've had some truly insane roommates. I live with a good friend now, but I'm honestly not sure how long that'll last. We'll be sticking together next year. After that I dearly hope that I'll be able to afford living on my own.

    April 21, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  23. Dorm from Hell

    My 1st roommate was insane. This was in the late 60's. I opened a shared dresser by accident found a slew of
    hypodermic needles ( no, not for medication, but for H). The next room, the guy occasionally left his stereo on full blast while he wasn't even there. In the adjacent woman's dorm, a creepy chick ( the only racist incident ) went into a panic because she found her roommate was going to be a Black girl. I was shocked. In the end, many are going to appreciate their parents when they find out how the other kids were brought up.

    April 21, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • MashaSobaka

      My first and second roommates were spoiled racists brats from LA who had clearly never had to figure anything out for themselves in their entire lives. It was a little bit traumatizing.

      April 21, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  24. Habib Abdula

    I dormed with a stinky Mexican in my first year. He would not shower and the whole place smelled like he crapped himself. It was beyond horrible.

    April 21, 2012 at 8:44 am |
  25. Nancy

    Going away to college is one large step on the road to independence. Total independence (including financial) is rare for the "just out of high school" college student. But MORE independence that was available prior to college is what is developing.

    Also, there are other types of independence besides financial. I know a young woman who lives 1000 miles from her mother, is married and has 3 children, but she talks to her mother 5 times a day. How independent is that?

    April 20, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  26. Chaz Reinhold

    College did teach me not to be dependent on caps lock. Now if you'll excuse me....MOM! CAN WE GET SOME MEATLOAF??!!

    April 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  27. John

    M Cooper, you need to take a sedative. Jesus.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Amy

      Seriously.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  28. M COOPER

    COMMENT......GOING AWAY TO COLLEGE AND LIVING ON 'YOUR OWN'........IS NOT 'BEING INDEPENDENT'!!!!..........THAT IS LIKE SAYING GOING AWAY TO SUMMER CAMP IS 'BEING ON YOUR OWN...BEING INDEPENDENT"......IT IS NOT!!!!!.....
    GOING AWAY TO COLLEGE AND LIVING WITH 'CLONES' OF YOURSELF....OTHERS WHO ARE THE SAME AGE ETC....IS NOT NOT NOT NOT AND NOT THE >>SAME AS BEING ON YOUR OWN IN >>>THE 'REAL WORLD'!!!!!!!!!..WHEN SCHOOL DAYS ARE >>>OVER!!!!!!.......BEING INDEPENDENT IS WHEN YOU >>>>>ARE FINANCIALLY INDEPENDENT!!!!!!..........LET ME REPEAT THAT>>>>>BEING ON YOUR OWN IS WHEN YOU ARE LIVING ON YOUR OWN..BY YOURSELF!!!!!!>>>>AND ARE FINANCIALLY INDEPENDENT!!!!!!......I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE A NICKEL....MAKE THAT A PENNY.....FOR EVERY COLLEGE STUDENT.........WHO >>>MOVED BACK HOME ONCE SCHOOL DAYS ENDED.
    THE EASIEST 'JOB' I EVER HAD..>>>WAS BEING A FULL TIME COLLEGE STUDENT...........
    I DO NOT CONSIDER GOING AWAY TO COLLEGE AND LIVING WITH CLONES OF YOURSELF BEING INDEPENDENT!!!!!
    AND WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO DO NOT GO TO COLLEGE??????? HUH???.OR JOIN THE MILITARY???
    AND.......HERE IS A QUESTION FPR THE CLASS.....
    ARE FULL TIME COLLEGE STUDENTS EMPLOYED PEOPLE?????
    DO YOU THINK BEING A COLLEGE STUDENT A >>>JOB????
    IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?????..WHAT DO YOU THINK????

    April 20, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • dk

      Is it written in English?

      April 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Wendy

      I absolutely cannot tell you went to college due to your lack of proper sentence structure. However, yes, going away to college allows you to be considerably more independent. Nobody's there to tell you to finish your assignment. Half of my professors didn't even grade homework, meaning if you were too lazy to do it then you probably wouldn't pass your exams. You also have to learn to live with other people of varying maturity, which prepares you to deal with coworkers once you graduate. Sure, attending college IS being fully independent, but you can't deny that it prepares you on some level (unless you were one of those people who just sat on their butt in college).

      April 20, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
      • Fume-licious

        mumble mumble mumble pew?

        April 21, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Amy

      I'm sorry, did you say something?

      April 20, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • m

      I M Cooper- I think you need to find out how to disable the caps lock on your keyboard.

      April 21, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Fume-licious

      Please use caps and more ?????'s next time.
      you get a da and a pew.

      April 21, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Beth

      I think you need to 1) lay off the caps lock, 2) realize that just one punctuation is fine, ! will do just as well as 5!s, 3) learn that > is not interchangable for a comma, and 4) no comment on the actual content as it was a rambling mess. Seriously people, if you want folks to read your comments, employ some common sense.

      April 22, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Joe

      Coop, first off lose the caps. It looks like you're screaming at everyone.
      Second, they say living at college is your first taste of independence because mommy and daddy aren't around to clean your room, do your laundry, make your meals, or guide you as you make your daily life decisions.
      True, being a student is not a job, you're not getting paid, but you are the one making the decisions for yourself and having to do for yourself without mommy and daddy doing it for you or getting on your ass to do it.

      April 23, 2012 at 7:20 am |