Balancing Schoolwork and Roommates: Strategies for Success

By Ashley Paskill

Living with a roommate is a part of the college experience, whether you live in the dorms or in an apartment. Even if you get along with your roommate, things can still be challenging, especially when it comes to getting schoolwork done. However, with hard work and tools, you can be successful at getting work done and having a good relationship with your roommate.

Roommates: Balancing Schoolwork and Roommates: Strategies for Success


As with any relationship, communicating clearly and effectively with your roommate is essential for maintaining the relationship while being a good student. If they are doing something that bothers you, communicate this with them so the issue can be addressed before things get beyond repair. Before moving in with each other, talk about boundaries, expectations, and rules. You may even opt to make a roommate agreement that lays out how you will deal with things such as rent, people coming over, and homework schedules.

Meet before moving in

Before you move in together, make sure you meet in person if possible. This will allow you to get to know each other better and you better be able to tell if you are compatible. Your roommate can say things over messaging or on the phone, but the truth will come out more when you meet face to face. You will also be able to walk each other through your routines. Make a roommate agreement to work out school schedules and boundaries for schoolwork. Find out if your roommate is a night owl or a morning person. If you are opposites in terms of favorite times of day, figure out how this will impact both of your schoolwork and make a plan accordingly. Doing this extra step will help you both be successful in your academics.

Set a schedule

If you and your roommate get along really well, it may be tempting to spend a ton of time together and do things on campus together all the time. However, doing so will leave you both with very little study time, which will negatively impact your grades. Instead, each week, look into different events around campus that you are interested in going to together and pick out one or two. You can then build your studying and homework schedule around these events. At the beginning of the semester, go through the syllabus from each class and put due dates for readings, assignments, and exams in your planner. This way, when you are looking at potential events, you can see what you have coming up and how much time will be needed for projects and assignments.

Keep your class schedules separate if possible

While this may be difficult if you and your roommate are in the same major or program, having separate class schedules allows you each to explore your own interests and form relationships with other classmates and professors. If you take all of your classes with your roommate, you may be tempted to only talk to them in class. You may also have difficulty paying attention if you take classes together. One or two of the same classes each semester is fine, but try to branch out and do things on your own as well. You will become more confident in your abilities and have more to talk to your roommate about since you each have your own classes.

Room layout

If you live in a dorm with a roommate or an apartment that has an open floor layout, it may be difficult to find privacy and quiet from your roommate. This may make it difficult to concentrate on schoolwork, especially if your roommate is noisy or distracting. In these cases, find a place on campus, like a café or a library, where you can get your assignments and studying done without being distracted by your roommates. If this is not an option for you, have a designated space for doing schoolwork and let your roommate know when you are doing schoolwork. Consider investing in noise-cancelling headphones to help block out noise from your roommate.


Chores such as cleaning and grocery shopping are essential and need to be shared equally. At the beginning of the semester, sit down with your roommate and discuss how these things will be completed. Look at your class syllabi and factor in schedules and deadlines so that schoolwork is getting done on time and is not being sideswiped by chores. If you feel like you are constantly pulling your roommate’s share of the chores, set up a time to discuss the problem before it impacts your schoolwork. If you or your roommate have a particularly rough week in terms of schoolwork, consider taking the other’s chores that week. Just be sure to trade weeks so it stays fair and you do not become resentful of each other.

Living with a roommate can pose challenges, even academically, but taking steps before your schoolwork is impacted is crucial for your academic success.

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