1. Be clear from the beginning. Do you know in advance that you hate it when someone hits the snooze button fifteen times every morning? That you're a neat freak? That you need ten minutes to yourself before talking to anyone after you wake up? Let your roommate know as soon as you can about your little quirks and preferences. It's not fair to expect him or her to pick up on them right away, and communicating what you need is one of the best ways to eliminate problems before they become problems.
2. Address things when they're little. Is your roommate always forgetting her stuff for the shower, and taking yours? Are your clothes being borrowed faster than you can wash them? Addressing things that bug you while they're still little can help your roommate be aware of something she may not otherwise know. And addressing little things is much easier than addressing them after they've become big.
3. Respect your roommate's stuff. This may seem simple, but it's probably one of the biggest reasons why roommates experience conflict. Don't think he'll mind if you borrow his cleats for a quick soccer game? For all you know, you just stepped over an uncrossable line. Don't borrow, use, or take anything without getting permission first.
4. Be careful of who you bring into your room -- and how often. You may love having your study group into your room. But your roommate may not. Be mindful of how often you bring people over. If your roommate studies best in the quiet, and you study best in a group, can you alternate who hits the library and who gets the room?
5. Lock the door and windows. This may seem like it has nothing to do with roommate relationships, but how would you feel if your roommate's laptop got stolen during the ten seconds it took you to run down the hall? Or vice versa? Locking your door and windows is a critical part of keeping safe on campus.
6. Be friendly, without expecting to be best friends. Don't go into your roommate relationship thinking that you are going to be best friends for the time you're at school. It may happen, but expecting it sets both of you up for trouble. You should be friendly with your roommate but also make sure you have your own social circles.
7. Be open to new things. Your roommate may be from someplace you've never heard of. They may have a religion or lifestyle that is completely different from your own. Be open to new ideas and experiences, especially as it to relates to what your roommate brings into your life. That's why you went to college in the first place, right?!
8. Be open to change. You should expect to learn and grown and change during your time at school. And the same should happen to your roommate, if all goes well. As the semester progresses, realize things will change for both of you. Be comfortable addressing things that unexpectedly come up, setting new rules, and being flexible to your changing environment.
9. Address things when they're big. You may not have been totally honest with tip #2. Or you may suddenly find yourself with a roommate who goes wild after being shy and quiet the first two months. Either way, if something gets to be a big problem quickly, deal with it as soon as you can.
10. If nothing else, follow the Golden Rule. Treat your roommate like you'd like to be treated. No matter what your relationship is at the end of the year, you can take comfort knowing you acted like an adult and treated your roommate with respect.
(Don't think you and your roommate are going to be able to work it out? It can be easier than you think to address your problems and, ideally, find a solution that works for both of you.)