Living with a college roommate can be one of the most rewarding parts of your college experience. After all, many people end up cherishing their college roommate as a lifelong friend. But your relationship with your college roommate is like any other relationship. It will take open communication and a willingness to work through misunderstandings for it to flourish.
That’s where a roommate agreement comes in. In this blog post, we’ll explain roommate contracts, why you should create one, and how you and your roommate can write your flatmate agreement.
What is a Roommate Agreement?
Before we begin to explain how to create your agreement, it’s essential to clarify how a roommate contract works. A roommate agreement is a document that captures notes from a proactive discussion about things that can cause friction when living with someone else. These are agreements on topics of interest like having guests, quiet time for studying, sharing furniture and other resources.
Once you’ve talked to your roommate about similar critical issues and recorded your notes on the flatmate agreement, you can file the paper. If you or your roommate feel confused about any of the points you discussed earlier, you can pull the agreement back out to clarify things.
Despite what you’ve seen in The Big Bang Theory, roommate agreements are not a comprehensive set of rules that dictate your relationship or strictly outline what you can and cannot do while living together. Something that restrictive would be difficult to live by and more likely to fall by the wayside. This guide will help you avoid becoming the next Sheldon Cooper and, instead, create a mutually beneficial living arrangement for you and your roommate.
Why Do You Need a Roommate Agreement?
Think back to the last misunderstanding you had with someone close to you. You probably remember feeling frustrated or even feeling like you were being misled or exploited. Maybe it felt like you weren’t being heard.
How did you two resolve that disagreement? Chances are that you either sat down to talk about things or someone acted like a mediator and helped the two of you reach a consensus on the issue. The key here is that you identified the problem and then communicated to resolve it. But wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could have avoided the disagreement altogether?
With some planning and a proactive conversation, you and your roommate can prevent most disagreements before they happen. By sitting down and discussing your needs and potential areas of conflict ahead of time, you’ll make it easier to cohabitate peacefully to enjoy your college experience fully.
Topics to Address in a College Roommate Agreement
As we’ve mentioned, some topics tend to cause the most friction between college roommates, and we’ll outline them now. As you work through them with your roommate(s), ask about their needs and preferences and then share your own.
1. Study time/space
Some people prefer to study in a quiet place, and others are completely at home with noise and action. Discuss your ideal time and setting for studying, and note your preferences on your agreement.
Are you an early riser, or do you like to sleep late? Do you need pace and quiet, or could you sleep through anything? Finally, should you set designated “quiet hours” where you both agree to keep the noise level to a minimum? These are points to discuss as you create your agreement.
What are you comfortable sharing, and what is private? It’s helpful to list and discuss specific items and expectations for whether you’re welcome to enter each other’s personal spaces.
Are you a neat freak or more comfortable with a lived-in space? Who will be responsible for cleaning tasks, and when will they be done? As you discuss these points, be sure to note each of your preferences on your agreement.
One of the most common areas of frustration between roommates is in terms of visitors, so it’s essential to cover these points before an issue arises. How comfortable are you with having guests over? Can guests come over at any time of the day or night? Can guests sleep overnight? How many guests is “too many?”
Finally, how do you prefer to communicate? Do you like to text, or do you prefer to leave notes for each other? It is also helpful to talk about how you’ll resolve any issues. Simply planning to revisit your agreement and talk through your concerns will go a long way toward heading off any misunderstandings later.
How to Write a College Roommate Agreement
We’ll walk you through the basic steps in the process, and then in the section below, we’ll cover the topics you’ll want to discuss with your new roommate(s).
Step 1: Get buy-in
To start, you need buy-in from your roommate(s). You can usually get it by explaining to your roommate(s) why an agreement is helpful and how easy it is to create. It also helps to let them know they’ll have equal input.
Step 2: Meet to discuss the essential points
Next, you can use the points we share below to discuss the potential issues and how you feel about them.
Step 3: Document your thoughts and needs
Make notes as you talk, but remember, this is meant to be a fluid document. You and your roommate(s) will grow and change throughout your college journey, so your preferences can change too. The agreement is a starting point to open dialogue and set basic expectations.
Step 4: Discuss how to handle disagreements
When a misunderstanding or conflict arises, it’s always best to speak with your roommate(s). Talking about the problem can often resolve it before it becomes a significant issue.
Step 5: Share or post a copy of your agreement
Once you’ve discussed the points and gotten an idea of your ideal living situation, ensure everyone has a copy or can easily access it when needed.
It’s always a lot easier to draw up your own roommate contract once you have a sample to refer to. So here’s a roommate agreement template by Ohio University to help you get started!
No matter how much you like your new roommate(s), disagreements will happen. But talking about potential issues before they arise demonstrates a willingness on both of your parts to discuss difficult things and work through issues. That early effort will go a long way towards keeping the peace throughout your time living together. After all, having a roommate(s) a great way to beat loneliness after moving out.