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4 Things to Plan with Your College Roommate Before Move-In Day

Soon to be roommates sitting in a coffee shop planning their living arrangements
GaudiLab/Shutterstock

These days, most colleges and universities let college roommates communicate with each other over the summer. You should talk to your roommate about some basic dorm planning and etiquette before you arrive on campus.

What Kind of Lifestyle You Each Live

The most important thing you should figure out with your roommate is the kind of lifestyle you each live. That way, there will be no surprises when you arrive on campus. That seems a bit broad, so let’s narrow it down with an example.

Knowing, for instance, that your roommate likes to go to bed early while you like to stay up late can help you plan accordingly. Maybe you purchase a flashlight or headlamp to read in bed while they sleep. Or maybe you get a new pair of headphones so you can listen to music when you’re studying after midnight.

Understanding your roommate’s lifestyle doesn’t mean that you necessarily need to make any drastic changes to yours—instead, it just means that you can arrive on campus knowing what to expect and how to treat each other fairly.

What Each of You Are Bringing

The second most important thing you should talk about with your roommate is what each of you is bringing.

Dorm rooms are small. Most only have the bare minimum of furniture: beds, desks, and dressers. You usually can fit in a small refrigerator and a TV, but two refrigerators and two TVs would stretch the square footage to a breaking point.

Talk to your roommate about who has (or wants to get) what. That way, you won’t end up with too much stuff for your space.

Whether Either of You Has Allergies

Most dorms don’t allow pets, so you won’t have to worry about whether or not your roommate’s allergic to Fido, but that doesn’t mean you should completely discount other allergies. Knowing that your roommate is allergic to peanut butter, for instance, will probably stop you from bringing in a gallon tub of Skippy for the bottom drawer of your desk.

How You’re Going to Use the Space

While the furniture in most dorm rooms is pretty basic, you can usually configure it in several different ways. Most beds, for instance, can be lofted or turned into bunk beds to save space. Talk to your roommate ahead of time to make sure you’re each on the same page about how to use the space.

If one of you is afraid of heights, for instance, then bunk beds probably aren’t a good idea. If you want to have a sweet set up to play video games, you might want to save space by lofting your beds and sticking your dressers beneath them. Talking ahead of time about what you want to do can help smooth the road during set up.


Talking to your roommate before you both arrive at college is a great way to make sure you’re both on the same page about how you’ll live once school starts. Most of the time, you’ll find that your roommate is willing to compromise and create a living situation that’s mutually beneficial for both of you. If, however, you get the vibe that you and your roommate really won’t be compatible, you can talk to residential life about changing before it’s too late.

Hayley Milliman Hayley Milliman
Hayley is a former Teach for America teacher turned curriculum developer and writer. Over the past five years, she's written hundreds of articles on everything from education to personal finance to history. She's co-author of the book Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females. Read Full Bio »

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