Campus Life 101: How to Be a Good Roommate

GW students who are adjusting to living with new people can learn how to be the ideal roommate in just three easy steps.

September 9, 2019


(Harrison Jones/GW Today)

Campus Life 101 is a series from GW Today that offers tips on the basics of navigating life at college, from staying safe to adjusting to college academics and managing stress.

By Briahnna Brown

As George Washington University students are settling into their residence halls, it can be a difficult adjustment for those who are sharing a room for the first time.

With so many new experiences happening at once, it can be easy to overlook the relationship you have with your roommate. The Campus Living and Residential Education team shared how GW students can create and maintain healthy relationships with their roommate with three easy tips:

  1. Don’t be afraid to talk it out

The first step to being a good roommate is all about open and honest communication. Ideally, you want to talk about expectations before it becomes an issue. That is why the roommate agreement form that you work on with your RA is so important. If there are any issues between you and your roommate, it is far better to address the problem directly than to bottle it up and turn a small issue today into a big issue a month from now. Dropping hints is not always the best way to get your point across, and establishing open and honest communication early on can help with maintaining a healthy relationship throughout the year.

It is also important to keep communication and behavior respectful. You should always strive to be the bigger person and maintain a respectful dialogue with your roommate should conflict arise. Maintaining respectful communication and behavior also involves respecting boundaries. You and your roommate should support each other when appropriate, but be attentive to boundaries and try not to overstep.

It is great when roommates are friendly, but that also does not mean that roommates need to be best friends. Figure out what relationship will work best for the both of you.

  1. Respect the shared space

The second step to being a good roommate involves being mindful of the space you are sharing. The roommate agreements that students fill out in the beginning of the year are a good starting space for establishing expectations for the room. Be clear about your needs and wants here, and be willing to make some mutual compromises to accommodate the needs of your roommate.As you learn more about each other and your shared space, do not be afraid to return to your agreement to update it.

This is also a great time to set up a cleaning schedule. Establish daily, weekly and monthly cleaning activities that you and your roommates will be responsible for. For example, pick up any trash daily, organize your desk, clean the bathroom and vacuum weekly and do a deep cleaning monthly to get all the spots you miss during the weekly and daily cleaning routines.

Also, remember that there are cultural differences in cleanliness, as well as socioeconomic barriers to affording cleaning supplies. What may be normal for you in keeping a clean room might be abnormal for your roommate. This is where step one—don’t be afraid to speak up—comes into play. Have open-ended conversations about what can work for everyone in the room, and try to be accommodating of everyone’s unique needs.

  1. Utilize available resources

There are numerous resources within reach to help students accomplish step three. Resident advisors (RAs) are great for facilitating the roommate agreements, working through any issues that may arise or anything else you might need help with at GW. In addition to RAs, there are residence directors, community directors, area coordinators and faculty to offer support and guidance to students.

The Residence Hall Association and the corresponding Hall Councils also serve as an advocacy group for students, and aims to enhance the residential experience through community building. Students are also encouraged to get to know their individual property managers and meet their hall’s housekeeping team, as well as the student access monitors who provide security to many residence halls. Student Rights and Responsibilities and the CARE Network can also be helpful if your roommate is engaging in behaviors that are negatively impacting the rooming situation.

If there are ever any maintenance issues with your residence hall, big or small, be sure to submit a FixIt request so any needed repairs can be made promptly.