College Life 101: Tips for communicating with your roommate

College is an adventure, a time for learning from studies and also from other people.

The first year brings the excitement of new experiences and personal growth. Most people also find it challenging being away from home for the first time and sharing living space with one or more strangers.

With the wide range of options available at University of Cincinnati Housing, you could be sharing anything from one room with a single roommate to a suite with eight. The good news is that your roommates will hopefully become your good friends. Often, friendships made in college last a lifetime.

Whether that happens or not, living with roommates you don’t know requires some life skills that most freshmen have not yet developed, even if they were used to bunking with a sibling back home. The goal is to be able to “do your own thing” while respecting your roommate’s rights, too. After all, you’ll be spending a significant amount of out-of-class time in your room — which is also their room.

Tips for harmonious cohabiting

Make a friend

The best thing to do when you meet your new roommate(s) is to listen to the other person. Find out as much as you can about their background and interests. Then be upfront about who you are. It sounds simple, but it’s a good idea to think of some nice things to do for your roommate once you’re acquainted. When issues arise later on, as they inevitably will, it’s easier to solve problems with a friend than with a stranger.


It’s not just a song. People have different lifestyles, different habits and different tastes in everything from music and art to what they eat and how they like to spend chill-out time. Respect is the key to getting along. And if you’re open-minded, you may even learn some things about yourself, too.

Roommate conflict examples

What if one of you is a morning person and the other wants to stay up half the night studying or watching TV? Who takes out the trash and cleans the bathroom? No two people who share a living space agree on everything, all the time. It’s important to decide basic house rules in advance, such as noise levels, air conditioning and heat, sleepovers, shared meals, cleaning and other issues. The sooner that happens, the better.

That’s why every UC resident is required to complete a Roommate Agreement, a set of written guidelines intended to minimize conflict by setting rules that everyone agrees to when they move in. Your Resident Adviser will help you and your roommate complete the agreement. It’s a good idea to post it in your room.

The agreement covers issues such as:

  • Hours for sleep, study and socializing in the room
  • How the space is divided and decorated
  • Standards of cleanliness and neatness
  • Responsibility for chores 
  • Etiquette about visitors, phone use and messages
  • Use of others’ property (clothes, food, supplies, et al.)

“Communicate” has an “I” and a “U”

The key to establishing a comfortable living environment is clear communication. Miscommunication can cause friction among well-meaning people if the issues are ignored. Be alert for signs of discord: Is your roommate suddenly not talking to you, or leaving the room when you enter? Does she complain about you to friends or on social media? Or are you avoiding him because of an issue of your own? 

Whatever the problem is, healthy roommate communication is best practiced early. The sooner issues are resolved, the better chance you have of working things out amicably. That means both learning how to talk to your roommate about problems and how to listen. Pick a time that’s convenient for both of you, and talk face to face, not via Snapchat or text. Listen to find out what’s bothering them, and explain directly your point of view. Figure out what both sides need and find a solution that’s acceptable to both of you.

Study time vs. downtime

Even if you and your roommate agree on quiet times, and you both have a set of good headphones, things will come up that may interfere with concentration for studying. Sometimes you might just need some alone time or a change of scenery. Find a comfortable “go-to” place outside of your room, like one of the libraries, a green space or café, or the lounge in a quiet building nearby.

Consider your living arrangements in advance

University of Cincinnati Housing offers options to accommodate different living styles, from a single room in a high-rise to suites for multiple students. Here are a few popular housing communities:

  • Siddall Hall: a co-ed dorm with same-gender floors, double and single rooms, and an active social life, including ping-pong tournaments in the main lobby
  • Morgens Hall: named among the 15 most beautiful in the U.S., among other notable awards, for style, sustainability, and eco-friendly efficiency. Co-ed by apartment, it offers 2-person studios to 8-person suites
  • Daniels Hall: a co-ed dorm for 775 residents, with kitchenettes, study lounges, and two classrooms 
  • Turner Hall: 4-person suites with honors-themed floors, as well as Bearcats Wellness (a community of residents focused on healthful lifestyles), and smaller Living-Learning communities of students with similar academic interests. 
  • Scioto Hall:  a wide range of room options, plus a study lounge, service center,  social lounge, and honors-themed floors

You’ll find that life in a UC community can be stimulating, rewarding, and fun. You can learn more about it at