Written by Alyssa Walker

Starting college is stressful enough without having to worry about the people with whom you live. It pays to worry about it a little, though. Having a roommate in college can be a great way to make a new friend share some of the costs and responsibilities of living on your own. It can also be a disaster. You're neat... your roommate's a slob. You're an early bird... your roommate is up all hours. You hate television... your roommate leaves it on all the time. 

Be careful who you wind up with. Before you find a roommate, insist on meeting first. Get a sense of who they are, what kind of roommate they will be, and don't wait to have those important conversations about lifestyle, money, and chores.

Want to have a roommate in college? Here are some pros and cons.

Pros

You'll save $

Having a roommate or two is a great solution for students sharing housing on a tight budget. With roommates, you'll divide your expenses evenly -- rent, utilities, repairs, and maybe even other expenses like common supplies. What does this mean? With roommates who pay on time, it means that you'll have more money in your pocket. More money in your pocket means more to save -- or spend on stuff you enjoy doing.

You won't be alone

Living alone can be, well, lonesome. With a roommate, you'll have company studying, eating, watching movies, and maybe even cooking. You don't need to wait for an invitation to do something. You'll have instant company. You might even make a long-term friend!

You can share chores

With a roommate, it won't always be on you to clean the toilet. If you design a schedule, come up with a fair separation of tasks, and actually do those tasks, keeping the place relatively clean shouldn't be too tough. Find someone who's willing to do their fair share.

It's a great experience

Living with someone can give you insight into what you want -- and don't want -- in future relationships. Having someone to hang out with and talk to can make a lasting impact on your life.

Cons

It can disturb your studies

Think about the kind of situation you need to stay focused on your studies. If having a roommate is too much fun, well, maybe you're better off alone. If you need lots of quiet study time at home and your roommate's a party animal, that's not going to work.

Having a needy roommate has the same effect. One who demands your laptop while you're using it because they didn't plan well for a deadline isn't only annoying, but disrupts you too!

You might not get along

Of course, there's always the chance that you'll hate each other. That's no good either. Make sure you're on the same page about finances, chores, cooking, and cleaning. Otherwise? You'll be living in Fight City. That's not only disruptive to your studies, but disruptive to your psyche.

You'll have less space

It's true -- more people take up more space. Here's where it gets tricky: when your roommate takes more common space than you have, there's an equity issue. Be clear about space restrictions and courtesies before you accept a roommate.

Your schedules may not be compatible

If you're a night owl and your roommate's an early bird, it might work -- if you're both really quiet. If you want to hang out together but can't because of schedules, that won't work either. If you want to avoid each other but are home at the same times, again, no-win.

Bottom line? Figure out what you want from your roommate situation. Be clear about your goals and expectations. Ask any potential roommates what their goals and expectations are. Get a sense of people before you start living with them.

Have some roommate stories for us? Feel free to share in the comments.

ArticleEducationStudent Tips
Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.
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