You'd think it's easy to be a good roommate, right?
Truth is, it's surprisingly hard.
I'm currently a junior and living at home. I had two different roommates in my first two years of college; the first was a random-assignment dorm-mate, and the second was a friend with whom I got an off-campus apartment. Neither was a great experience, because both they and I struggled to be good roommates. I did my best to be a good, considerate roommate and follow most of the tips I'm about to share, but I'll admit I probably made mistakes as well.
So based on my personal experiences, here's some tips on how to be a good roommate:
1. Have common respect...and common sense.
Be considerate towards those you live with. Think about how you'd want them to behave towards you, things you'd be ticked if they did, and don't do it to them. Even if the action is something that does not bother you personally—for example, someone not using earbuds or lowering the volume while watching Netflix—remember that it might bother someone else.
Don't be that roommate who doesn't use headphones while making hour-long phone calls while your roommate is also present. If you get up first, try to move around quietly so as not to wake them up. Don't leave your dishes sitting for days, whether it's in a sink or the drain board. DON'T leave your room or apartment unlocked, regardless of how little time you'll be gone, because it doesn't take long for someone to waltz in and steal something. (Yes, this almost happened with me.)
2. Be responsible.
Common sense ties into responsibility. Don't be that dick who never helps to clean, take out the trash, or get the mail. I've seen some people work out a chores chart to ensure everyone pulls their weight. If something goes wrong and it's your fault, don't deny it or place blame on the other person. Own up, apologize, and work out the issue.
3. Be mature.
Many college kids believe themselves to be fully mature, but this couldn't be further from the truth. You are not automatically mature because you're 18+, or because you've had experiences (such as a bad roommate) that you think made you more mature. Maturity is being responsible, helping out, handling issues in a proper, adult manner. If an issue arises with your roommate and you can't talk about it in a calm, respectful yet firm manner, you're not mature. If you can't discuss money and paying bills, you're not mature. If you can't own up to a mistake and apologize, or try to place blame elsewhere, you're not mature.
4. Know how to communicate.
This sounds obvious, but you'd be amazed at how hard it can be to properly communicate with someone you live with. The more casual things, like having friends over or buying groceries, will be easy. But when something more serious arises, like a bounced payment or your roommate doing something that bothers you, you need to be able to talk with your roommate in person, not via text or phone call. You need to be able to sit down and talk things out in a calm, respectful, firm manner. You and your roommate should be allies, not enemies. And if your roommate communicates something via text, RESPOND. Acknowledge what they've said, even if it's just a thumbs-up emoji or "okay."
I labeled this point generically, because there are a few things I have to say regarding money. This point is for people renting apartments or houses. Especially if it's your first time renting, be prepared. Order checks in advance to moving in, and make sure you're properly set up to pay online. Before you submit payments, always double check your account balance to avoid bounced payments and any fees that might occur. Talk with your roommate(s) about how to split bills, payment methods, etc. before moving in.
I advise that come bill time, everyone sits down and pay the bills at the same time. This ensures everyone pays their half, and that bills are paid on time. Know your account, card, and check numbers, so in the event of a bounced payment, it's easier to identify whose payment went wrong.
6. Make sure you have a solid relationship.
This is so important, especially if you're going in on a house or apartment together. You need to know you'll be able to confront this person if an issue arises, and handle said issues without a fight or negative fall-out. This person has to have your trust, because you're going to rely on this person to contribute both monetarily and house-wise. Your soon-to-be roommate should not be a friend you're semi-close with or growing closer to, because living together is a serious commitment that can heavily strain a half-formed relationship.
For those of you who dorm and will get a random-assignment roommate, reach out to them once the college sends you their contact information. Start building a connection before you officially meet; learn what they like or don't like, what your common interests are, etc., so those first few days together are less awkward. I also advise joining a Facebook group for your incoming class, where you'll meet other new students and maybe even find someone to be your roommate.