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Balancing Act: Pros vs Cons of having a roommate

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By Allison Brown

Whether you’re an incoming freshman or senior year, deciding to live off campus can be daunting.

Depending on the school, you might get a much better deal paying rent for an apartment as opposed to paying housing fees on campus. What sweetens that deal even more? Having a roommate. You can effectively cut your cost in half, a third or even a quarter by living with others. The only downside is, well, having to live with others.

It’s a tough call, towing the line between having independence and saving money. Here are some other pros and cons that you may have not considered.

PROS

A GOOD TRANSITION
Having a roommate in an apartment is a great transition from home or dorm life to adult life. You have a taste of the independence that comes with having your own place, but without the full responsibility of taking care of everything yourself. You and your roommate can both contribute to furnishing the apartment, so you will have a few things of your own when it’s time to leave, but you won’t have to pay for everything right off the bat.
FRIENDSHIP
Assuming you are able to select your own roommate or are able to be matched with someone based on your preferences, your roommate may become your best friend. When homesick, lonely or just generally upset, sometimes it’s nice to have someone there, even if they don’t say anything.
FAVORS
A roommate can be a designated driver, study partner, pet sitter, etc. Going grocery shopping? Carpool together! Going out of town for the weekend? No need to board your pet or let your plants wither, just ask your roommate to help out. Have a big exam coming up? They can help quiz you or even compare notes if you’re in the same class.
LIFE LESSONS
When living with another person, you learn a lot about them. Maybe they’re vegan, a different religion, a different race or just from another state. Instead of this being a division between you, use it to cultivate your relationship and learn from one another. Swap recipes, try an activity you’ve never done before, have that 3 a.m. conversation about the universe or our purpose in life — a roommate can provide insight and ideas you may have never considered. By listening and learning, this can really influence your thought process and help you grow as an individual.
SAVING MONEY
Let’s be real, this is what it really comes down to. According to reports by Apartment Guide completed in January 2021, the average monthly cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the Valley is $1,380, while a two-bedroom apartment averages around $1,736. After splitting that between you and your roommate, your monthly payment is about $868. Is having privacy really worth around $512 more a month? Also, if you’re really on a tight budget, there are three- and four-bedroom apartments as well.

CONS

CONFLICTING SCHEDULES
Whether you’re a morning person and your roommate is a night owl or vice versa, having different schedules can affect your sleep, productivity hours and is honestly just annoying for everyone involved. You’re either waking up to someone else’s alarm when you were trying to sleep in or being kept up at night by a noisy roommate.
CLEANLINESS
Having different standards of cleanliness or organization can be a nightmare. The one with the worst part of the deal would be the neat freak, having to either clean up after someone else or having to consistently ask them to do it. But it’s also uncomfortable for the other person. You may just have a different standard of what’s clean, but your roommate keeps bugging you about picking things up.
BOUNDARIES
Everyone has their own line of what’s acceptable and what’s not when it comes to privacy. Your roommate may find nothing wrong with walking in the bathroom while you’re showering to go pee. Or maybe it’s the other way around, you really have to pee but your roommate is taking a 45-minute shower. Less extreme, but still annoying, maybe you’re studying for a big exam or even in a Zoom lecture and your roommate comes right in without knocking.
SPACE
Even if you are able to have a two-bed, two-bath apartment, there are central areas that can get cramped, like the kitchen or living room. Two-bed, two-bath apartments don’t come with two-sized kitchens (you’re lucky if you get a few extra square feet), and things like counter or fridge space get filled up quickly. In the living room, you may have a bit more space, but what if you have boho, hippie décor and your roommate has minimal, urban decor? Do you try to put up both, sacrifice one or go with none?
INDEPENDENCE
In a way, this encompasses all the previously listed cons. Part of going off to college is gaining independence, becoming an adult and finding your true self. That can be hard to do when you are influenced by someone else’s routines and attitudes. Even if your roommate is your best friend, there’s a big difference between just hanging out together and living together. Your roommate could be your identical twin and there would still be differences in your routine and how you like things to be. There’s a certain level of compromise that comes with any roommate, and as much as you negotiate on accent pillows, wall decor or kitchen space, the space will never truly feel “yours.”

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