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How To: Your Roommate Survival Guide

How To: Your Roommate Survival Guide

Living with a roommate can in some ways seem like a rite of passage in regards to getting the full college experience. Not many undergrads can leave university without a couple good stories under their belt.  You’ll share some of your best memories and perhaps worst fights together. Is this your first time getting a roommate? You might not know what to expect. Did you ever have to share a bedroom with a sibling back home? If so, you might have a better idea of what you’re in for. It’s inevitable that you and your roommate(s) will butt heads at some point during the school year. However,  that doesn’t mean you won’t share some of your fondest moments together as well. Here are some tips to help you make the most out of your living situation.

Who Brings What? Who Gets What?

Furniture Upon signing your lease, schedule a day with your roommates to discuss what pieces of furniture each of you have or are willing to bring. Is there something you need that neither of you have? Try to figure out who will purchase it. If you have an Amazon account, create a wishlist and share it with the group so everyone is on the same page. While some roommates like to split the costs of furniture, it can lead to conflict later on when deciding who gets to keep it.

Budgeting  Divide the common expenses up between all roommates. Have each roommate’s name under a different utility (i.e. Nicor Gas, ComEd, Electric, Wifi, Rent). This person will be in charge of collecting the money for their designated utility from the other roommates. Holding every roommate accountable for their dues is fair and reasonable. If one person is slacking, it can hurt the credit score of another. One advantage of dividing the expenses is the division of responsibility. Keeping track of four different accounts can be tough for one person. Have a plan in tact shortly after you sign your lease!

Establish Rules

Food There are a few ways to go about handling this rule. One of the most popular ways is by dividing the fridge up. For example, each roommate would get their own shelf. Another method to try would be putting stickers or your initials on items of food you don’t want others to take. Some products – such as condiments, eggs, bread and milk –  are commonly shared amongst all roommates with the cost split amongst them. This method makes sense if you’re trying to avoid having 3 separate gallons of the same milk sitting in your fridge. (Tip: This same plan can be used to split up the cost of toiletries and cleaning supplies!)

Guests & Visitors If you’re having a guest over, let your roommates know ahead of time so they can plan accordingly. Set restrictions on how late you guys are open to having visitors. Are your times more flexible during the weekend? Let your roommates know that. If you know your roommate has an early exam the following morning, maybe it’s not a good idea to invite your friends over.  Give them the same courtesy you would want in return.

Chores In a perfect world, everyone would clean up after themselves as soon as they make a mess. However, this is college so those expectations might be a little too high. No one can continuously meet those demands and balance their academics and social life without having the occasional slip up. Make a list of daily, weekly, and/or monthly chores to do around the place. Have roommates initial after their chore is complete. Rotate who does the dishes and who takes out the trash. Who will sweep and who will vacuum? Let everyone have a turn but make sure to stay on top of your own tasks. It sounds strenuous and a little over the top, but it’s great practice for the future.  

Communication Dodging every argument and avoiding confrontation is impossible to do when you’re living with the person you are fighting with. Want to save yourself some trouble? Be open and honest with your roommates about how you’re feeling. If they make too much noise during the night or don’t pick up after themselves let them know. If something they do is bothering you, don’t hide it. Bottling these things up will make the situation worse! Understand that you might also do things that rub your roommates the wrong way. With that in mind, talk to them the way you would want them to talk to you if something was bothering them. Express your frustrations in a stern yet politeful tone.  Remember to stay calm and collected! You may not see perfection over night but it’s the effort that counts.

Let your roommates know when you’re coming home. If it’s 1:00 AM on a Tuesday night and your roommate is still not home, reach out to them to make sure they’re okay. At the end of the day, remember why you chose to live with the people that you did. Look out for one another and take everything that happens as a positive learning experience. One of the best things about  living with your friends is that it is a great opportunity to learn together and grow into adulthood.


  • Coordinate who is bringing furniture
  • Divide your expenses. Hold each other accountable
  • Have a system in place for separating the food
  • Establish visiting hours. Be respectful of each other’s time
  • Work together on a list of chores to complete
  • Be transparent. Address conflicts when needed. Don’t beat around the bush.


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