Having a roommate has been easier because of my experience with my sister. Alicia stays up late like me, and we're both cluttered (though for me perhaps cluttered is an understatement). Of course, there's a lot that's more difficult as well--I knew my sister better than anyone whereas I've only known Alicia for a few months, and if there's a dispute there are no parents to go running to for answers. Here's some brief advice on navigating some of the issues you may face:
Make a Contract
During the first few days of semester, lay down some ground rules with your roommate. Written is preferable so it can be referred to later, but even just talking about it can help a lot. Consider questions like: What time do you go to sleep? Music or no music? What temperature for the room? How do you feel about overnight guests? What's the bathroom-cleaning schedule? What level of chaos is okay?
Make an Emergency Plan
Things happen in college. Sometimes something goes wrong, anything from one of you losing your key to sudden medical problems. It's important to plan ahead for these kinds of situations so you aren't left scrambling for a locksmith at the last minute. And of course, different schools have different policies for these situations, so make sure to check out what your college specifically suggests.
Plan Some Lunches
Some people do not get along with their roommates; this is perfectly normal. Personalities can clash. But sometimes it's good to spend some time together outside your mutual living space and get to know each other. This person will probably see you at your worst, so it's important to build up some trust if you can.
If you have a problem with something your roommate is doing, let her know. Chances are, if you let the issue fester your feelings will get worse rather than better, and you will start to resent your roommate. If you are worried because she always leaves your door unlocked, let her know. If she's constantly singing along to whatever's playing in her headphones and it bothers you, let her know politely. Similarly, you should also encourage her to be open with you about her concerns and be supportive and conciliatory if you're doing something that gets on her nerves. After all, your dorm room is one of the most private places for you on campus, and you both deserve a livable environment.
If there are problems...
Your first step is to try to resolve your issues with compromise. Occasional conflict is perfectly healthy, and as college students you are prepared to handle most issues as adults. However, if the issue escalates and you can't find a solution, let an RA know what's going on. They can then work with you to reach a solution.
Hopefully this helps! Also really quickly: be accurate on your roommate selection form. If you say you're neat because you want a neat roommate but you're actually a slob like me, chances are you will run into problems. So as usual, honesty is the best policy!
-- Joanna Slusarewicz