College Roommate Issues: How Do I Handle This?

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Updated: March 25, 2024, Reading time: 10 minutes

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Do you have roommate problems? You are not alone. In a study from Boise State University, it was revealed that 25% of students experience college roommate problems. However, resolving conflict is possible, especially if you know how to deal with roommate conflicts in general.

When going to college, expect to live with at least a college roommate for some parts of your undergraduate degree. And like any other relationship, your relationship with your roommate will have problems at some point. These problems usually arise due to differences in maturity, lifestyles, and worldviews.

college roommate issues - fact
College Cliffs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

College Roommates: What It’s Like to Live with One

Your college years, especially during the first few months, will bring an overwhelming amount of change. The most challenging transition for many first-year students is trading comfortable spaces for a closed dorm room or living quarters with complete strangers in a totally new place.

Ensuring that your college living space is a safe and comfortable zone is one way to make your academic challenges seem less stressful. So, what should you expect about having a college roommate?

It is a shared space.

Prior to going to college, you still had the luxury of having your own room and indulging in a bit of privacy and alone time. Unfortunately, this is not the case in college.

Even if you and your roommate have set boundaries and already had a conversation about the dynamics of being roommates, you will still want to have your alone time. But you just can’t kick your roommate out of the room when you need some privacy.

It can get messy.

It would be so nice to have a clean freak college roommate. However, a tidy and clean college student is very rare, and your roommate’s mess will likely offend you as your own mess does. You can either have a roommate agreement during the first few days of your college life or when things get extremely messy.

Either way, you can resolve conflicts like these when you split up cleaning responsibilities. One roommate can vacuum this week, while the other mop the floor once a week. If there is a roommate who lives in a mess, provide a space where his chaos is allowed to reign.

It is a learning experience that enables you to resolve conflict.

At some point, tensions will arise between college roommates. Maybe one roommate has that “what is yours is mine” mentality that crosses too many boundaries. Or maybe your roommate is too clean or too loud.

Instead of living with it or having passive-aggressive behavior about the problem, talk to your roommate directly. Set and discuss some ground rules.

Common Roommate Problems

Common Roommate Problems

For first-year students, here are some of the most common roommate problems you could anticipate.

Your roommate is a slob.

This is a significant problem, especially if you are a person who wants a tidy room all the time and you care a lot about living in a clean space to call your own.

Sadly, accept the fact that not all college roommates live with the same levels of cleanliness for themselves.

While you make it a point to clean your room on a regular basis, your roommate may not. Over time, this can lead to disappointments, especially if you have both divided the cleaning tasks equally.

Your roommate parties frequently.

Some students are just wild when they go to college. They consider their college years as the prime years of their lives and believe that they should just have fun and party all night.

You and your roommate may not share similar views in terms of the purpose of your going to school and what makes up a good use of your time.

You are bound to wake up in the middle of the night with your roommate coming home drunk and intoxicated. In a living situation like this, it can lead to more significant problems when not mitigated.

Your roommate loves having friends over all the time.

Do you love hanging out at different spots on campus? Or do you prefer to have your friends come over to your room to chill? If you fall into the former and your roommate, the latter, expect to have conflicts between both of you.

You and your roommate have different sleeping schedules.

Whether to study, complete homework, or for any other reason, you may be a night owl, and your roommate is a morning person. You love to stay up all night and sleep during the day, or vice versa.

Regardless of your sleeping schedule, problems will occur when you and your college roommate have varying quiet hours.

How to Deal with College Roommate Problems

How to Deal with College Roommate Problems

It’s very easy for conflicts to arise in a college dorm room, especially if your roommate is messy, always meddling with your personal items, or when you have different interests in general.

However, resident life experts say that learning conflict resolution and how you can successfully live with someone else are helpful ways to develop your skills to prepare you for the real world.

Here are some expert tips that will help you resolve college roommate problems.

Speak up about your expectations.

Before the start of every semester, you need to speak to your roommate and talk about everyone’s living expectations. For example, speak about overnight guests, chores, sharing items, and quiet hours. If possible, seal the deal with a roommate contract.

According to Monique Bates, the resident advisor of Longwood University, the best way to deal with your roommate’s behavior and avoid conflicts is to address it before it even happens.

Look for a college roommate who shares your lifestyle.

Freshmen are usually assigned a roommate based on how they respond to their residence life questionnaire. They are asked about cleanliness, sleeping habits, interests, and more. Fill out the form as honestly as you can.

Avoid filling out aspiringly with the hopes of steering clear of having a bad roommate and gaining a best friend right after entering college. If you are a messy student, never say you’re not, even if you’re planning to be more organized come college.

There are also students who prefer to find a good roommate through mutual friends or social media. However, never assume that how someone presents themself on social media is who they really are.

If you happen to live close by, you can get together sometime- in your local coffee shop or mall, maybe- so you can have an honest conversation about what you expect.

Communicate your disappointment.

To resolve conflicts, communicate effectively. You and your roommate must be aware that there are problems or issues that you need to address and discuss. For instance, if you plan to transfer rooms, leaving without talking to your roommate about it can only cause more problems.

If you feel there is something that needs to be resolved, speak to your roommate immediately. Feelings of disappointment and frustration, when left unaddressed, will build up after some time and later develop into conflicts. Good communication is the key to having the best roommates in college.

Look for your own space.

College dorms are so small. To get the most out of your college experience, try looking for a specific place on campus– for example, the library, study rooms, or a nearby coffee shop– that you can regularly visit as your way to avoid getting stuck in your dorm room most of the time.

Use this space for your alone time– whether you watch your favorite show, eat your meal, or simply just study.

Know when to talk about (and whom to talk to!) about your problems.

When you have a roommate problem, avoid complaining to others. Talk to a resident assistant or any staff member about it.

If you speak with your colleagues, peers, and friends– telling them about your frustrations with your roommate, no one can tell how these things will transpire. Your gripes might end up back to your roommate, and this will only do you more harm than good.

Seek help from your resident assistant.

If you feel awkward talking to your roommate about a problem, you can tap the help of your resident assistant and discuss what needs to be done. Resident assistants are student staff members living in college residence halls and acting as peer mentors.

Request your RA to make mock conversations with you and practice what you have to say to your roommate. Plus, RAs can serve as mediators; thus, they can also help if you request an actual conversation.

Your RA can also help you if you request a room change. Together with the resident advisor, after investigating a conflict and no solutions are met, residence life staff can assess whether or not there’s a need for a room transfer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you choose your college roommate?

Whether you are allowed to choose your college roommate will largely depend on the school you are attending.

There are schools that would enable their enrollees to choose their roommates or will enable them to request a specific roommate before the start of a school term. However, there are also those with predetermined roommates for all first-year students.

What should you do if you do not get along well with your roommate?

If you and your roommate tend to disagree often, you might think the best solution is to request a room transfer. But try talking to them first and see if you can both compromise.

Find a win-win situation where you can both agree. And if all else fails, moving out or looking for a different roommate is the solution.

Before anything, make sure to go over your roommate agreement before you immediately move out since you might have to pay for a month’s rent (or more).

Summary Points

Every college student has to go through having a college roommate. Instead of thinking about how you can be best friends with your roommate, focus your attention on finding the right one first.

Living away from home during college is already overwhelming, and what more when you have to live with a roommate who’s a complete stranger to you?

Before you realize how challenging having a roommate is, know that these things can be avoided and mitigated. Talk to your resident advisor and find out how they can help you find the most suitable college roommate.

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