The college process involves several big decisions: Where will you apply? Where will you choose? How will you pay for it? And in the final stretch of the college process: What are the advantages of having a college roommate?

For some incoming students, having a roommate isn’t a choice. Unless you have an exemption or a housing accommodation, you may automatically be assigned a roommate as a first-year student. But if you do have a choice, consider the pros and cons to living with a roommate versus living on your own during your freshman year. Here, students share their thoughts on what it’s like to have a roommate.

Roommate Pro: Built-in Friend Potential

Not every room-sharing match will be a fairy tale, but it was for Alden at the University of Virginia. She started the year with a randomly assigned roommate and ended with a best friend.

Despite having very different personalities, Alden says, “our opposites did truly attract as our friendship grew.” After getting to know each other, the pair became inseparable. But you don’t have to do everything together to benefit from making friends with the person you live with. Having a roommate who is in a different social circle than you can also expand your horizons and help you meet more people on campus.

Roommate Con: Incompatible Schedules

Unfortunately, sometimes having opposite personalities, or even schedules, can prove insurmountable. Ana relied on random selection when choosing a roommate her freshman year at Florida State University.

Ana was excited to meet her new roomie, but a mismatch in sleep and study habits soured their living situation. “My roommate would stay up late every single night playing games or clacking away on her keyboard,” Ana says. As a light sleeper with early morning classes, this wore on Ana quickly. Despite a few half-hearted attempts to resolve the situation, the two finished out the year barely speaking to each other.

Roommate Pro: Building Conflict-Resolution Skills

Even if your roommate is a great match, it’s likely that challenges will pop up from time to time. Addressing these issues might feel difficult or uncomfortable in the moment, but this can be an excellent opportunity to hone your communication skills.

“Looking back,” Ana says, “I didn’t have the skills needed to handle the situation well.” But in reflecting on her experiences with her freshman roommate, Ana also sees a silver lining: She took negative interactions and used them to improve her conflict-resolution skills as she moved through college. By the time she graduated, Ana was a pro. “I was more direct and better at compromising,” she says, “and these skills carried over into other types of relationships, too.”

Roommate Con: Not Feeling Comfortable at Home

Sometimes, even skilled attempts at conflict resolution can’t make a roommate situation tenable. That was the case for Jade at Westfield State University. “My roommate needed to control everything,” Jade recounts. She kept a list of rules taped to the back of their door and even complained about the dents in the carpet Jade’s friends left after visiting. Unable to resolve the living situation with her roommate, Jade felt uncomfortable in her dorm and ended up avoiding their shared room as much as possible.

Roommate Pro: New Discoveries

Living with someone new can provide an excellent opportunity to learn and grow as you’re exposed to your roommate’s way of doing things. In later years of college, Jade credits different roommates with teaching her creative ways to take care of chores and introducing her to new  series. For Jade, seeing these differences in action was “important and rewarding.”

Consider the pros and cons before taking the random roommate plunge, but know that even if you end up not getting along with your first roommate, you might still learn a few important lessons along the way.

Applying to college? We can help.
Start Here