Whether you’re moving into a tiny dorm room or suite-style apartment, chances are you’ll have a roommate or two to share it with. For new students, this may be a major lifestyle shift that is as exhilarating as it is nerve-wrecking.
Though everyone is a little bit different, here’s a field guide to the people you may encounter and how to live with them.
1. The One Who’s Never There
Who they are: Whether they’re constantly going home, staying with their significant other or camping out at the library, they’re always MIA. They said they were going home for the weekend, but when Sunday night rolls around they’re still gone. After you haven’t seen them in five days you start to worry, but then they stroll into the room after class on Thursday like nothing happened.
How to deal: This is actually a blessing. With your roommate gone all the time, you pretty much get all the benefits of a single room for half the price. If you were hoping for them to be your best friend though, this may not be the case. Do your own thing and invite your neighbors over when you get bored.
2. The One Who’s Always There
Who they are: The exact opposite of #1, this roommate never seems to leave your room. They spend Friday night watching Netflix in their loft and Sunday morning eating brunch on the futon. You begin to wonder if they are even enrolled in classes, since they always seem to be sitting in your room.
How to deal: To make sure you get some time to yourself, find a study room in your dorm or apartment and make note of what times they are in class. While it may be frustrating that you’re rarely alone, understand that your roommate might be a homebody type who is more comfortable staying in. Invite them out with you once in a while and introduce them to some friends, since they could just be shy about getting out there.
3. The Sharer
Who they are: You always considered yourself a generous person—until you met this roommate. On the first day you were probably really excited about how friendly and relaxed they were, but it got old when you realized all your peanut butter and conditioner mysteriously disappeared. Yes, sharing is caring. But not when sharing entails watching them drink directly out of your milk carton and finding their tiny hairs on your razor.
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How to deal: From the start, be clear about what is shared and what is yours, and don’t be afraid to label your items in the fridge or shower. It may also help to configure your room in a way that clearly defines what things belong to you, such as having your own side. If they overstep a boundary, kindly call them out on it. Chances are, they are used to living with other people and don’t realize how the “what’s yours is mine” lifestyle isn’t for everyone.
4.The Party Animal
Who they are: It’s a Tuesday night during finals week and it’s pouring rain outside but, like usual, your roommate is still going out. It’s a mystery to you how they are able to creatively put together theme party outfits night after night, but they somehow find a way. You’ve come back to find an all-out rager going on in your room without a word of warning, and they often stumble in at 4 a.m. with people you’ve never met and forget you were sleeping up in your loft.
How to deal: If you tend to focus on academics (even just a little bit), this one can be difficult. Find a good alternate location to get your work done, like the library or a study lounge. If you have an exam coming up, repeatedly hint that you’ll need to get a lot of rest or just come out and ask them to keep it down. It’s also a good idea to make some friends on your hall with futons, since you can crash there when you need to somewhere else to stay. But keep in mind that you can use this to your advantage, since they’d probably love to have you tag along every now and then.
5. The Passive-Aggressive One
Who they are: Sticky notes…sticky notes everywhere. If you forget to turn off the fan once, expect a sign that says “Turn off fan.” Left your towel on the floor? There will be a “Hang towel here please :)” note right above the rack. For some reason, they think putting up little notes is easier than confronting these little issues in person.
How to deal: Understand that, while these notes may seem picky and annoying, your roommate might consider them a gentler way of avoiding a larger issue. Confrontation is key, but be smart when bringing up their macroaggressions. Most likely, if you ask them if you’re doing something wrong, they’ll say they’re fine with it; know that they probably are not fine with it, and try to get through to the deeper issue. If you can’t seem to talk it out, try to comply with the sticky notes when you can, but don’t let your roommate control you.
6. The Clingy One
Who they are: This roommate never seems to put the “apart” in “apartment.” The moment you got your roommate assignment, they sent you multiple emails asking for details on your life and outlining your future plans. It seemed okay at first, until they never left you alone. If you’re getting lunch, they’re getting lunch. If you’re going out, they’ll ask you where exactly you’re going, when you’ll be back and if they can come along too.
RELATED: 7 tips to help you have that awkward conversation with your roommate
How to deal: It’s important to be gentle with this type of roommate. Most likely, they’re afraid of being left out or have always wanted their college roommate to be their best friend. Get them to branch out by introducing them to some other students on your hall. Remember to include them in some of your activities, but don’t be afraid to do your own thing. As the wise band Fleetwood Mac said many times, “You can go your own way.”
7. The Mr. or Ms. Clean
Who they are: The moment you walked into the room on the first day and saw their matching comforter set, coordinating wall canvases and color-coded file folders, you knew their area would always be spotless. You’re astonished that they have the ability to make their bed before 8 a.m. class and constantly feel guilty that your side of the room looks like a garbage truck just unloaded there. It’s nice having things neat, but if they find your hair on the shower floor, you’ll definitely be hearing about it.
How to deal: If you’re a clean person yourself, this is great; keep doing what you’re doing. If you tend to be on the messier side, you have the potential for more issues. Remember to respect their boundaries and contain your mess to your own area, such as your desk or dresser. You’re not obligated to keep your own space spotless but, when it comes to shared spaces, keep it neat. It wouldn’t be so bad if you picked up some of their clean habits, either.
8. The Complete Mess
Who they are: Unidentifiable crumbs. Empty soda cans. Dirty laundry. They’re all there, and they’re everywhere. This roommate always leaves a pile of dishes “soaking” in the sink, and definitely doesn’t own a vacuum. Multiple surfaces in the room are covered in a sticky residue, probably from last week’s orange chicken. They tell you they’re going to clean up after their exam but you know that’s not going to happen.
How to deal: Even if you don’t consider yourself a clean freak, this is aggravating. Remember that your roommate’s allowed to mess up their side of the room as much as they want but, if it’s encroaching on your own space, don’t be afraid to call them out on it. Assertiveness is key here, and understand that they probably won’t take it personally if you confront them on their consistent dirty dishes.
9. The Nocturnal One
Who they are: It’s 3 a.m. and they’re still at their desk tapping away on that paper. They could’ve started it earlier but, as they’re reminded you many times before, they “work better at night.” You’ve got an 8 a.m. lecture the next morning and the night owl act is getting really old really fast.
How to deal: Chances are, there are multiple places outside your room for studying in your dorm or apartment. So, be blunt about your need for shut-eye and ask if your roommate could study there after it gets late. If they need to stay in the room, don’t be afraid to turn off the lights — the desk lamp will work fine. Invest in a sleep mask.
10. The Best Friend
Who they are: After the first conversation with this roommate, you realize that you are practically the same person. There are a suspicious amount of things in common between you two, from your music preferences to your detailed childhood memories. You had a moment identical to when Brennan and Dale recognize that they’re soulmates and “go play karate in the garage” in the movie “Stepbrothers.” If you’re going somewhere, you’re going together.
How to deal: Well, you lucked out on this one. But keep in mind that, though your roommate may seem like your new best friend during the first week, a lot can change over the course of the year. This is why you should avoid shutting yourself off from the rest of the hall and be open the new friendships as they might emerge. Yes, getting a new roommate is a lot like playing the lottery, and you never know who you might end up with. But remember that, no matter what type of roommate you get, you can still make it work and enjoy their company. Chances are, if you expect to dislike your roommate, you will. Be kind, keep an open mind and give them reasons to like you.
Allison Raeck is a student at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and a member of the USA TODAY College contributor network.
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- Illustrations by Victoria Medina
If you’re going to be in a college dorm, a spacious apartment, a cramped shared bedroom or anywhere on a college campus for that matter, be prepared for your space to be invaded and your comfort zone diminished. One of the scariest parts of college is potentially living with an awful roommate.
Maybe you’ll get lucky and end up with a roomie who’s never around, travels a lot, or lives with their significant other. Some will become your best friends and some will scar you for life. To ease the pain, we’ve created a list of the typical nasties you might encounter and how to deal with them.
P.S. If one of these descriptions sounds like you, don’t take offense, just take note and try to reduce your irritating habits.
The OCD Cleaner
At first glance you might think it’s awesome to have a roommate who likes to clean, but after a month of living with them you’ll soon learn it’s not so fresh. This roommate strives for sparkling countertops, dust-free pictures, and overly organized everything.
How to Deal: The best way to avoid butting heads with the OCD Cleaner is to keep your mess to yourself. Trash your room all you want, but don’t let it out of your bedroom if you’re in a suite or multi-bedroom situation. If you’re sharing a room, relegate your junk to your bunk only. Don’t try to help
clean more than you would normally, or offer to do it for the OCD Cleaner because no matter how hard you try, you will never scrub, sweep or dust enough to meet their standards.
The Quiet One
If you’re expecting a greeting when you get home from class, you won’t get one with this roommate. The Quiet One seems perfectly normal until you realize you’ve never heard them utter one word. They’ll come and go as they please and never say anything. If you’re lucky you’ll get a smirk or an awkward wave out of them, but don’t expect much.
How to Deal: If you need to communicate with the Quiet One, you’re better off leaving a note. And hey, if the worst thing about them is their silence, consider yourself lucky and read on for other truly obnoxious cases.
Insecure and emotional by nature, the Clinger roommate takes sharing a living space as an open invitation to do everything together. Where you go, the Clinger goes. Who you’re friends with, the Clinger is friends with. Get the picture?
How to Deal: You’ll want to say something, but you won’t want to break the Clinger’s heart. If they are the confrontational type, let them know you’re uncomfortable. But if your Clinger also throws Grade A hissy fits or pity parties, just try to keep your private life private. The less you share, the less they can intrude on your comings and goings.
We all see this guy or girl on campus surrounded by several frat brothers or sorority sisters. They never go to class, they need a crew just to study, they stay out late partying and they almost always bring a crowd of people home with them because, as a less shy version of the Clinger, they can never be alone.
How to Deal: Our go-to-method for dealing with roommates like this is simply talking to them about it without sounding like a buzz-kill. Try asking them not to bring friends over past a certain hour, or ask that they tone it down in the dorm at night because you’re quiet and respectful when they’re sleeping during the day.
The Passive-Aggressive roommate is often spotted by their random notes, (“Don’t leave dishes in the sink,”) or by their odd way of getting their point across. They will leave you a note to take out the trash, but if you don’t take it out, don’t be surprised if they sneakily put it all in your room. You’ve been warned.
How to Deal: Read the Passive-Aggressive’s silly little notes and try to consider them. If you can’t seem to hold a straight face when you find a new note, pull out a Post-it and give them some of their own medicine: “I ate your brownie. It was delicious!”
This roommate is never alone. The Romantic usually has their significant other or a current fling attached at the hip. They’ll constantly occupy your living space or shared bedroom to make out or to get it on.
How to Deal: First rule of thumb: knock first, if the bedroom door is closed for any reason. Second rule: Have a code, like putting a sock on the doorknob so you know when not to disturb the Romantic. If you still wander in on too many lip-locking (or worse) sessions for comfort, suggest they do date night somewhere other than your futon. They’ll get the hint.
College is some people’s first dose of freedom, and some will take advantage of it a little bit too much, like the Partier. The Partier can be found stumbling home in the middle of the night, vomiting everywhere, falling over everything, or all of the above.
How to Deal: Like the Socialite, the Partier needs a good talkin’ to. Ask that they tone it down, or that they try to be quieter when they come home after a night of raging, or propose that they stay with someone else on nights that they choose to get completely hammered.
Probably one of the hardest roommates to live with, the Slob lacks basic hygiene and cleaning habits. The Slob can commonly be found in need of a serious shower and surrounded by a pile of dirty clothes, food wrappers and unwashed dishes.
How to Deal: Again, try talking to them about it first. Bad hygiene and a slobby lifestyle are conscious choices some people make, so simply talking might not cause any change. On the flip-side to the OCD Cleaner tip, this time create boundaries for their mess, as long as it doesn’t create odors or attract creepy-crawlies that permeate your portion of the living space. If a major problem persists, talk to your RA about it, or start house hunting.
The Taker likes to take or “borrow” things from you, hence the name. While the items the Taker chooses to lay their hands on aren’t always the most precious of things, it’s still really freaking annoying.
How to Deal: Living with the Taker, a.k.a the Borrower, is like living with a pesky sibling. Try to talk and set boundaries on what things are OK to borrow and what things aren’t. Perhaps a simple text message asking to use something (“Hey, I need to dry my hair but can’t find my hairdryer, do you know where it is?”) might help the problem.
The Live-In, unlike most college students, prefers the solace of their own room—so much so they practically never leave. The Live-In often skips class and watches TV or plays some sort of video game with an obsessive devotion. Anything they might have to shower and get dressed for is out of the question.
How to Deal: The easiest way to handle a Live-In you share close quarters with is by emphasizing that you need your space to study, relax and have friends over, too. Talking and working out some sort of compromise of space is usually the best way to deal with the sweatpants-wearing Live-In. If you have separate bedrooms and rarely see this roomie, count your blessings, but do keep an eye out for signs of depression and other mental disorders that can cause anti-social behavior.
There are several types of roommates, both positive and negative. But remember you’re in college and everyone has to live with a roommate at some point. Hopefully these simple tips will help you get through your roommate experience. Good luck and start inquiring about the single room down the hall ... now!