Living with Roommates: Tips for Thriving in a Shared Space - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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Campus Life
September 17, 2018

Living with Roommates: Tips for Thriving in a Shared Space


Lectures and exams are useful, but learning can extend well beyond the classroom. Many students learn the most important — and unexpected — lessons in their residence hall. The life skills you gain as you deal with a roommate will ultimately help you establish stronger relationships, better organizational skills and, eventually, the independence needed to set up your own apartment or home. Below, we offer suggestions to help you make the most of this opportunity:

Maintain Realistic Expectations

Chalk it up to romanticized depictions on TV or in the movies... many college students expect to meet their besties for life in their residence hall. It's true that potential friends are around every corner, but there's no guarantee that you and your roommate will be soulmates.

 Before move-in day, determine whether your vision of residence hall life is accurate. Remember, you and your roommate don't have to be best friends. In fact, acquaintance-level roommates are often the most satisfied.

Create Ground Rules

Roommate rules might seem harsh, but they can spell the difference between an enjoyable residence hall experience and a complete nightmare. You and your roommate need to be on the same page from the very beginning; unvoiced disagreements can lead to resentment and an uncomfortable living situation.

Rules can vary considerably from one duo to the next; common stipulations include:

  • Specify who will take care of which chores, such as throwing out the trash or vacuuming the rug.
  • Determine how you will split food kept in the room — are you willing to share?
  • Agree on policies for sharing clothing, phone chargers and other items.
  • Decide when quiet time should begin on weekends and weeknights.

Be Willing to Compromise

The rules you develop at the beginning of the semester aren't set in stone; be willing to adjust them as it becomes necessary. Perhaps, as your schedule falls into place, quiet time might begin earlier or later. Maybe you'll find that you're willing to share food — or that sharing, in fact, makes you uncomfortable. Choose a quiet, uninterrupted time to discuss these and other matters.

Respect Your Roommate's Space

Each roommate will naturally carve out their own personal space within your small room. It is absolutely imperative that you respect this space. Ask before you use any of your roommate's belongings unless he or she has explicitly granted permission.

Master the Art of Opening and Closing Your Door

Want to make friends in your residence hall? Keep your door open. Of course, a constantly open door will make it difficult to sleep or study — but open it at the right time, and you'll have more opportunities to interact with fellow residents. This simple step could be key to developing closer friendships within your residence hall.

Show Off Your Personal Sense of Style

There is no correct way to style your room. Your space will feel a lot homier, however, if you include at least a few personal effects. Photo collages of your friends, band posters and thrift store finds are all welcome. Some roommates coordinate with one another to develop a cohesive look, while others maintain stylistically distinct spaces. Either approach is fine as long as you and your roommate feel comfortable.

Find Your Own Special Spot Outside of the Residence Hall

Small spaces can be cozy, but there's definitely such a thing as spending too much time in your room — and too much time with the same person. Explore your campus to find tucked-away spaces where you can study or simply unwind. Whether it's a comfy chair in the library or a bench beneath a beautiful tree, you'll come to love your go-to space as much as you love your residence hall.

Take Advantage of Your Resident Assistant

Your RA was recently in your shoes and knows exactly what it takes to master residence life. Whether you feel homesick or are struggling to get on the same page with your roommate, your RA can be a valuable resource — don't hesitate to reach out.

If you're like many students, you'll make some of your most cherished memories within your residence hall. With a few ground rules and a lot of respect, this space could be your personal oasis on campus.

If you’d like to learn more about professions that enable you to serve wholeheartedly and faithfully in your life’s work or want to learn more about a biblically based, Christ-centered education at Geneva, we’d love to chat with you. For more information on how Geneva College can help you pursue your education goals, please phone us at 855-979-5563 or email