Solving the Roommate Equation: A Little Different from E=MC^2

By Amanda Cohen 


Whether you’re a rising freshman, a seasoned sophomore, or a post-graduate, dealing with the whole roommate situation is extremely tricky. As a rising freshman, it’s much easier because most people only have one roommate because of university dorm rooms and such, but it gets much more complicated. Yeah, we complain about the fact that we have to live in a dorm room with a random person, but honestly, the university is doing you a favor by making this your setup.


College Roommates: Solving the Roommate Equation: A Little Different from E=MC^2 


Understanding and solving the “roommate equation” is frustrating and can even lead to drama. However, you have to start out by focusing on what you want from a roommate, or roommates, or no roommates, or whatever. Not everyone is meant to have four roommates each year, but many people also aren’t meant to live alone or only have one roommate. The main question is, how do you know what’s right for you? What do you need to take into consideration when solving the roommate equation? Before I go into the nitty-gritty details, here are some questions you need to ask yourself at the very beginning of your roommate selection process:


  • What was your freshman roommate experience? Did you enjoy it? Did you and your roommate/roommates/no roommates work out?
  • What is your daily schedule like? Do you have early morning classes? Do you have later classes? Do you like waking up early/late?
  • What is your social schedule like? Do you like to go out a lot on the weekends?
  • What is your housing situation like for the upcoming year? Are you living in a house? Are you living in an apartment? Do you have your own room? Do you have your own bathroom? What’s the floor plan like?
  • Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? If you are an introvert, do you feel that you will become withdrawn if you live by yourself (I’m not making any negative comments about introverts, as I am an introvert. I find that I can become withdrawn when I’m alone too much, which is why I’m asking this questions)? If you are an extrovert, do you feel you will get overly distracted by having too many roommates?
  • Are you really clean and organized? Do you care about the cleanliness of your living space? Do you get stressed and/or frustrated if you are the only person pitching in with house/apartment cleaning/organizing?
  • What are some of the proven benefits of living alone? What are some of the proven benefits of living with people?
  • Do you think that living with your best friends is a good option? Are you worried that too much time together may ruin your friendship? Do you want to expand your horizons and live with a randomly-selected roommates? Do you want to branch out?
  • How much money can you spend on rent? Does having more or less roommates help with the budgeting of your living situation at all?


I know that all of these questions seem overwhelming and, many of you, are probably feeling nervous because you didn’t realize all of the factors that go into answering the roommate equation. Before going into helping you all understand what may or may not be the right roommate equation for you, I want to stress that, regardless of your roommate situation, you will have an awesome life. If you really hate your situation, remind yourself that it’s only temporary and that you can alter your situation depending on your contractual agreement with your landlord and/or apartment complex. Alright, enough buildup, let’s really get into it!


For those of you who may be skeptical of my eligibility to write this article, I have been in many different roommate experiences, therefore I am able to speak from first-hand experiences. I moved from a double to a single my freshman year of college, I lived in a sorority house in a quad my sophomore year of college, I lived in an apartment with four roommates my junior year of college (five-bedroom, four-bathroom, I had my own bathroom), I lived in with one other roommate my summer before senior year (one-bedroom, one-bathroom), and I lived in an apartment with one other roommate my senior year of college (two-bedroom, two-bathroom). I’ve pretty much seen and experienced it all, so I promise you can trust me.


If you have the luxury to really choose your roommate situation, you need to try and understand what you want and you need to decide how you want to live your life for that year, or so, that you will be living with said roommate/roommates. If you are somewhat of a neat-freak, then I recommend choosing the number of roommates you have based on your living situation. For example, if each of you has your own bedroom and bathroom, you can live with probably 3-4 roommates because you will really only have responsibility for your own room and bathroom and you will all split responsibility of the shared common area.


However, if you are living in a place where you know you will have to share a bedroom or bathroom, I would definitely opt for fewer roommates. Usually, if you have more roommates, it makes it a lot more difficult to keep your living space clean and organized. If you are a neat freak, but also someone who wants to live with lots of people, follows some of these tips for staying organized while having roommates!


Student Roommates: Solving the Roommate Equation: A Little Different from E=MC^2 


Another great way to decide how many people you should live with is by basing your decision off of past experiences. For example, even though I loved living in my sorority house, I knew I never wanted to live in a house again and that I needed to live with less people. This experience led me to choose to live with only four roommates my junior year and only one roommate my senior year. However, many of my friends loved living in a house with lots of people, so many of them opted to live in a house again either their junior or senior years. I know myself: I like to wake up early, I don’t love going out, and I love it when my room/living space is organized and clean. I knew that living with only a few roommates (well, later on, one roommate) was the right choice for me.


Like I said, I loved living in the sorority house, but I also knew I never wanted to live like that again. The bottom line is, learn from your experiences: for those of you who loved living in a house, keep up the high-number of roommates. For those of you who feel similarly to how I felt, there is nothing wrong with living with only a couple, or one, roommate. If you are living in a sorority house, or a larger house in general, use these guidelines as to how to keep your roommate/living situation drama-free.


When it comes to your living situation, you need to have a budget. For some people, budgeting is not as much of an issue, but for others, rent prices can make or break you’re their bank accounts. Usually, the more roommates you have, the lower your rent will be. However, your rent also depends on the location of your living space and the size and “newness” of your living space. Great ways to decrease your rent price is by sharing a room with a roommate or sharing a bathroom with multiple roommates. If rent price is an issue for you, but you also don’t love the idea of living with lots of roommates and/or sharing a room/bathroom, there are ways for you to make the best of your roommate equation.


As long as you set boundaries with your roommates and talk with them about your needs as a roommate and their needs as roommates, you will be able to make this living situation work, and you might even learn to love living with more than just one person, or by yourself. Allow your roommates to push your outside of your comfort zone a bit because life will not always offer the picture-perfect living situation. If you need a little extra help navigating your new living situation, read The Introvert’s Guide to Dealing with Roommates.


There are some people who love being around a lot of people. If you identify with this statement, you should consider living in a house with a lot of people. Some of my best friends lived in a three-story house (totaling 15 occupants) and had the time of their lives. Even though they were sharing a space, they each respected each other and had so much fun feeding off one another’s energy. With the exception of two girls, everyone had their own bedroom, but they had to split up between five bathrooms. Embrace your love of being around people and look into living with a lot of roommates.


Roommate Finder: Solving the Roommate Equation: A Little Different from E=MC^2 


If you love being around people but would rather live in an apartment than a house, you can do what I did my junior year of college and live in a five-bedroom apartment. Not all colleges have this option on their campuses, but it’s still worth doing the research. If your campus doesn’t have this option, but a bunch of you want to live together, but in apartments, consider living in the same apartment complexes and just dividing up who lives with who. You may even be lucky enough to all live on the same floor!


Last, but certainly not least, there are some people who prefer to have no roommates at all. If you opt to live alone, remember, you are not anti-social, you are not a loner, and you are not weird. Some people live alone because they want to, or maybe there are mental health or health reasons. Regardless of why you choose to live alone, this is still a fantastic option. You will still hang out with your friends, but on your own terms, and you get to come home to a living space that is 100% catered to you and your needs. Never feel strange for wanting to live alone. I know many people who live alone and they absolutely love it.


Like I always say, you need to stay true to yourself, and if staying true to yourself means living by yourself, then I say go for it! Whether you live in a single dorm room, a studio apartment, or a one-bedroom apartment, you will be happy to come home to an empty living space and decompress after a long day. Psychology Today published an article entitled “Best Things About Living Alone – For People who Mean it”, and I think everyone, even people who don’t want to/don’t like living alone, should read. If you didn’t want to live alone, but wound up living alone, read this article to lift your spirits because living by yourself is fantastic!


I wish the roommate equation was as simple as the equation 1+1=2, but it’s not. However, with the help of my article, as well as some internet research and advice from friends and family, I promise that you will have success in determining the number of roommates you want to live with. Do not forget what I said earlier, your roommate situation can always be changed… nothing is permanent. Finally, remember to stay true to yourself and don’t ever feel pressured to join a roommate situation that you’re not entirely comfortable with. You should try to go outside of your comfort zone a little bit, but you know yourself better than anyone and you know, deep down, how you want to live, who you want to live with, and the number of people you want to live with.


Whether you live with 100 people, two people, or no people, there is no right or wrong way to live. Good luck with choosing your roommates, my friends, I wish everyone a fantastic summer and year ahead! If you need more advice on the roommate equation, you should also talk to other people your age dealing with the same questions and maybe even the housing office of your university!


Roommate Tips: Solving the Roommate Equation: A Little Different from E=MC^2

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