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6 Things You Have to Include in a Roommate Agreement

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Ithaca chapter.

Coming to college you may have never had a roommate before. Before I came to college the last roommate I had was my brother when I was about 6. Living with another person takes practice, and I was certainly out of it. Over the last couple of years, I’ve picked up some good tips to make a difficult situation as seamless as possible.


At Ithaca College, we are supposed to fill out a roommate agreement within the first few days of the fall semester. This is normally the type of thing that students write off as a stupid school thing and a waste of time. However, even if you don’t fill out an official roommate agreement, there are important things to talk about as roommates involving the expectations that you guys have for each other and the room. There are some key things that you might want to talk over so you know where you stand.


The Basics

Do you have a certain time you like to go to bed? Does it drive you crazy when there are clothes on the floor? Your roommate should probably know the basics of how you like to live. If you can’t go to sleep with the main light on, or you know you can’t stay very tidy, tell your roommate. Talking about how often you want the trash to be taken out early in the semester is a lot easier than later when it has become an issue. Let your roommate know what things you don’t mind being asked to do and what things you think aren’t any of their business. Maybe you don’t mind being asked to take out the trash, but you really don’t think it’s their right to tell you to put your clothes away as long as they stay in your own space. Bring this up, but be prepared to compromise for the sake and the sanity of joint living.



It is in the interest of both parties to share their schedules. It might seem a little weird at first, but I promise that it is so much better to know when your roommate might be in or out of the room for so many reasons. First and foremost, you might just like to have some alone time. The thing I miss the most about living in my own room is having the room to myself. Even though I love my roommate and I feel comfortable being a full gremlin in her presence, nothing can replace how nice it is to be alone in the room and recharge. If this is important to either of you, sharing schedules and day to day plans can help you figure out when you might have the room to yourself for some much needed alone time. Additionally, if you’re a more private person than I am, you might want to take this time to shower or take phone calls.

Illegal Substances

While most college students living in dorms are not of age to be using drugs or alcohol, regardless of their college’s policies, we’re not going to pretend that no one uses them. Therefore it is important to address with your roommate your stance on the topic, whether you intend on partaking or not. I always would suggest asking before bringing illegal substances into the room, because likely you both will take the fall if you get caught. And while storage might be okay with you or your roommate, one of you might be uncomfortable with the substances being actually used in the room.



In my room, my roommate can use my electric kettle and drying rack at any time without asking. We share my power strip, and we jointly foster a friend’s beanbag. We lend each other plenty of other stuff but is understood that asking first is necessary. I would not take for granted that you both have the same idea of what is shareable. I might not mind sharing my food with my roommate, but I don’t want her to eat it when I’m not there (which she never has by the way). Speaking clearly about what is shareable without asking, what is shareable with permission, and what is to be left alone makes it way easier in the long run.


How late are guests allowed to stay? Should you notify each other if you are bringing guests into the room? Are their guests allowed to use things on your side, i.e. sit on your bed, or desk chair? Is it different on a weekend? If you’re sleeping? If you’re doing homework? Some things that you might take for granted your roommate might not think about, or vice-versa. You might think it’s not a big deal to have one person over, and it might drive your roommate crazy that you didn’t mention it. It’s always better to get on the same page.



On a similar note, partners of any sort are important to discuss. As all my Resident Assistant friends always say, this is the most common source of roommate disagreement. In other words, a good thing to discuss! What do you think is appropriate behavior and protocol for bringing a romantic/sexual partner into the room. This may be one of the more awkward topics, but one of the more appropriate ones. How cozy can you and your partner get when your roommate is there? For example, my last roommate said that she would be uncomfortable if me and my boyfriend kissed or “cuddled horizontally” (direct quote); modest cuddling and hand-holding was okay. Are you allowed to ask for the room to yourself for a sexy time, or does your roommate want you to use the time when they would be out of the room anyway? These are important questions to ask if you want to avoid a fight down the road.


Some of these topics might be hard to get through, but the outcome of knowing exactly where you stand is worth it. This is bound to be a living document and conversation, as you adjust to college, your living situation, and your life changes. Remember that it is your room too, so don’t be afraid to stand up for what you want. On the other hand, it is a shared space, and you have to be prepared to compromise or give up on some things, or you may never achieve harmony. Now go forth and conquer the roommate agreement!


Aidan is a sophomore Communication Management and Design Major with minors in Integrated Marketing & Communications, Sociology, and Women & Gender Studies. She loves to read and is passionate about sex positive education. When not balancing life's many demands, you can find her making midnight runs for chips and queso or crying over romcoms.