When you first move in with your college roommate (either in an apartment or in the residence halls), you may want—or have—to set up a roommate agreement or roommate contract. While not usually legally binding, roommate agreements are a great way to make sure that you and your college roommate are on the same page about the everyday details of living with someone else. And while they may seem like a pain to put together, roommate agreements are a smart idea.
There are a variety of ways you can approach a roommate agreement. Many agreements come as a template and can provide you with general areas and suggested rules. In general, though, you should cover the following topics:
Is it okay to use each other's stuff? If so, are some things off limits? What happens if something breaks? If both people are using the same printer, for example, who pays to replace the paper? The ink cartridges? The batteries? What happens if something gets broken or stolen on somebody else's watch?
What are your schedules like? Is one person a night owl? An early bird? And what's the process for someone's schedule, especially in the morning and late at night? Do you want some quiet time when you get done with class after lunch? Or time to hang out with friends in the room?
3. Study Time
When does each person study? How do they study? (Quietly? With music?
With the TV on?) Alone? With headphones? With people in the room? What does each person need from the other to make sure they get adequate study time and can keep up in their classes?
4. Private Time
It's college. You and/or your roommate might very well be dating someone — and want time alone with him or her.
What's the deal with getting time alone in the room? How much is OK? How much advance notice do you need to give a roommate? Are there times when it's not OK (like finals week)? How will you let each other know when not to come in?
Borrowing or taking something from your roommate is practically inevitable over the course of the year. So who pays for it? Are there rules about borrowing/taking? For example, it's OK to eat some of my food as long as you leave some for me.
This may sound silly, but think —and talk — about space. Do you want your roommate's friends hanging out on your bed while you're gone? At your desk? Do you like your space neat? Clean? Messy? How would you feel if your roommate's clothes started sneaking over to your side of the room?
When is it OK to have people hanging out in the room? People staying over? How many people are OK? Think about when it would or wouldn't be all right to have others in your room. For example, is a quiet study group OK late at night, or should no one be allowed in the room after, say 1 a.m.?
Do both of you like the default to be quiet in the room? Music? The TV on as background? What do you need to study?
What do you need to sleep? Can someone use earplugs or headphones? How much noise is too much?
Can you eat each other's food? Will you share? If so, who buys what? What happens if someone eats the last of an item? Who cleans it? What kinds of food are OK to keep in the room?
If you're under 21 and get caught with alcohol in the room, there can be problems. How do you feel about keeping alcohol in the room? If you're over 21, who buys the alcohol? When, if at all, is it OK to have people drinking in the room?
This one's a biggie for women. Can you borrow each other's clothes? How much notice is needed? Who has to wash them? How often can you borrow things? What kinds of things can't be borrowed?
If you and your roommate can't quite figure out where to get started or how to come to an agreement on many of these things, don't be afraid to talk to your RA or someone else to make sure things are clear from the beginning.
Roommate relationships can be one of the highlights of college, so starting strongly from the beginning is a great way to eliminate problems in the future.