Is It Actually a Good Idea to Room with Your Best Friend? What to Consider Before You Sign the Lease

Anyone who has grown up with a best friend has definitely considered living with them when it comes time to attend college. You’ve probably dreamt of being able to hang out on their floor and complain about life, and talked about ordering impromptu Insomnia Cookies at 1 a.m. All of that sounds great, and moving in with your best friend may seem like a dream, but it’s also a challenge some friendships aren’t ready to withstand.

While living with your best friend certainly has its benefits, there are a few things you want to work out before the lease is signed, as to avoid frustration and short tempers down the road. Here are a few things to consider before you start making living arrangements with your sib from another crib.

1. Determine the lifestyle habits most important to you

The dynamic of the friendship probably won't remain the same after several months living under the same roof. Living with somebody requires you to assess your living priorities and determine if your roommate shares those same ideals. I’m not necessarily talking politics, but values such as “how long is too long for dirty dishes to sit in the sink” or “how much warning do we need before there’s a guest in the room.” While those ideas may not seem important now, they will matter once the academic year is underway. Before you even decide to move in together, have a conversation to set these initial boundaries.

Elyssa Hawkins, alumna and former resident assistant at Carthage College, says that these early conversations are important and that “[Carthage] wanted to emphasize the importance of living independently and cohabiting with someone regardless of how well you know them. If residents were arriving on campus knowing who their roommate was, we would still recommend going through each aspect on the agreement because the ultimate goal was each set of roommates fully understood what it meant to live with another person.” Some common arguments between roommates include the distribution of chores, how paying rent will be addressed, and using personal stuff without permission.

By having these discussions early, hard conversations will feel easy and normal to navigate down the road. If you aren’t sure where to start, here are 10 questions to ask your roommate before move-in day.

2. You won't agree on everything

Small arguments will happen, it’s inevitable. Whether negative feelings result from something simple or more complex, there are guaranteed squabbles that will occur. Building off of my previous point, having some sort of roommate agreement is imperative in order to avoid petty fights. Just because they’re your best friend and it seems like they can read your mind, don’t assume they actually have that ability.

If something is troubling you, speak up. Friendships are based on mutual respect and trust, so know that whatever troubling behavior is happening most likely isn’t occurring on purpose. Ashley Wyann, a rising sophomore at UC Santa Barbara says that “arguing with your roommate doesn’t mean it’s the end of the friendship. By saying what’s on your mind, you’re going to feel better at the end of the conversation. The convo may seem awkward at first, and they might even get a little upset, but if it’s important to you then your friend will understand.”

If you feel like what you have to say to your roomie might cause a fight, ask an RA or a mutual friend to mediate. Coming home to your friend can be comforting, but it takes work to maintain this. Write down your expectations and practice healthy communication.

3. Dorms (and apartments) are smaller than they seem

At the end of the day, it’s nice to have a place to call your own. Even if you’re living in a 15x20 cinderblock room with a random person, you still get to call half of that yours. Boundaries in a good friendship have already been determined (“what’s mine is yours” and so on), so disrupting that pre-developed routine might be interpreted as a sign of disrespect, regardless of your intentions. Besides, with good friends, you’ll most likely hang out with each other often anyway! 

Carthage College alumna Morgan Levy believes that her last roommate situation was successful because they had enough alone time. "I think our bond was so strong because we were both super busy with school, we had our own room, and we weren't on top of each other all the time. We're very honest and comfortable with each other and have no problem saying when we need space." In such a close environment, sometimes the best thing you can do to relieve tension is to walk away from the problem for a minute to get some air.

4. You're going to make other friends too

Rooming with your best friend might prevent you from making friends down the road if you regularly do everything together. Or, you won’t feel like you need to find friends at all because you already have your “person,” which can be isolating as well. When you start exploring these new relationships, even if you think your friendship is already steady, there’s still a high potential for jealousy — especially if you’re stuck in a single-room dorm and you’re aware of all of their comings and goings).

People rely on their friends for social stimulation, but if one person in the relationship is more social than the other (or has a different night-life routine), there can be jealousy and resentment. Try studying in the library or eating lunch at a local cafe by yourself. Or, if you like to stay active in your community and meet other people, join a club or study group. Not only will this give you the chance to leave the room for a while, but it can help you build your network at school!

Just like any healthy relationship, rooming with your best friend takes work to be successful. They can be one of the best roommates you'll ever have, but don't sign the lease without considering a few things first. Elyssa offers the advice that "communication over the summer is super important to avoid conflicts and have a closer connection before arriving. Some of the best roommates I had seen really took time to either meet in person or Skype if they lived far away from each other. I also had residents who chose random and it had worked well too; there’s not a bad decision with whom you room with, just learning experiences on what your rooming preferences are."

Not every roommate situation ends as a horror story, so don't panic. Just remember to have honest conversations and be willing to compromise!