My College:
Student Life

"I Hate My Roommate!"

Amanda Taylor

Maybe you were expecting it, or maybe not. The roommate seemed like such a nice person on move-in day…! But there it is on your phone (possibly in all angry caps).

Though not a happy message to receive, it's a common sentiment when young adults share space for the first time with a stranger or even a friend.

Schools use information provided on student housing questionnaires (preferences relating to room cleanliness, study habits, music, sleep routines, etc.) to make the best matches possible and often require students to complete roommate agreements when they arrive on campus. But inevitably — as students move far beyond parental oversight — rules will be broken, limits stretched and established habits discarded. Some personalities just don't click even when everything looks good on paper.

It’s a life lesson.

We all have to learn to navigate unpleasant interpersonal situations whether it's an annoying roommate or a difficult co-worker. Talking with your student about ways to cope is key. If you have a chance before conflict comes up, talk through some scenarios to help your student anticipate how they might respond in certain uncomfortable situations.

At all times, here is good advice to share:
  1. Get to know your RA (Resident Advisor). They are there to help mediate conflicts and keep the residence hall running smoothly and it will be easier for your RA to support you if you have a friendly relationship.
  2. If an issue comes up with your roommate, try to open up a dialogue that can lead to resolution. You may both need to budge a bit. Compromise is a great skill to learn.
  3. Establish clear boundaries in terms of your space and your stuff. It’s a good rule not to share clothing and expensive items.
  4. Remember this is a time of transition and adjustment for both of you.
  5. Examine your own expectations. Focus on the positive aspects of the situation. This isn’t forever — next year you’ll have more choice and control about where you live and who you live with.

Ongoing interpersonal conflict in what’s supposed to be a "safe space" will wreak havoc in your student’s academic and personal life, so if the roommate situation becomes hostile or causes emotional or physical problems, it’s time to step in. You can help them with the process of changing the living situation, whether that means requesting a new roommate or moving into a single room if one is available and expenses allow.

The good news:

Even with bumps along the way (your student has quirks, too!), most roommate relationships are successful or at least tolerable. Stress and drama will be minimized if both parties are willing to communicate and respect one another. The hated roomie may become a dear, lifelong friend after both have grown up a bit during the challenging early months of college.

Amanda Taylor holds an undergraduate degree in English literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a masters degree in social work from the University of Denver. She is a licensed clinical social worker in the state of Colorado with a private practice in Boulder where she works with various populations. Amanda enjoys reading, research, yoga, spending time with her son and daughter, and traveling.
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