Nothing can be more exciting and yet vexing as having a roommate. Some people come from large families and some are only children. Some people are messy, filthy, or moderately organized. Some are night owls while others enjoy welcoming the day as early as possible.

The first thing to understand is that although college will change a person, for the most part you must accept your roommate for who they are. So there is a delicate balance between personalities and preferences to live harmoniously.

First find the best way to communicate respectfully. People are much more receptive to what you have to say when you approach instead of reproach them. I had a roommate who would leave critical comments on our whiteboard about the way I made my bed or vacuumed, and everyone who walked by could see them. Then I had another one who would start off by asking me something unrelated to what she wanted to talk about, such as “hey, how was that paper you were working on?” After letting me talk a bit she’d then say something encouraging about my work ethic and then go into “I wanted to talk to you about something.” There’s definitely many ways to communicate, and what works for the two of you will be determined by your personalities and bond, but having a rapport with your roommate and letting them know your goal is to live harmoniously with them rather than change or one-up them will make communicating easier.

Establish ground rules on the first day. What is your policy regarding significant others or sexual partners? What is your policy regarding shared items? What about food or dishes?

One thing people don’t often ask and should is how to manage responsibilities when one is overwhelmed with projects or commitments and cannot keep their end of the deal. There are myriad reasons for this- a performing arts major in tech week for a show, a biology student preparing for a research presentation, or a student athlete who has the play-offs. It’s best to be understanding and flip-flop the responsibilities until they return. Offer to help in any way you can while they’re busy. It can be something as simple as making dinner, offering to toss their laundry in the dryer, or maybe even picking them up so they don’t have to walk home.

Kindness and respect go a long way.

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