Living With Roommates

Moving into your first residence hall can be an exciting and overwhelming experience. With so much change happening at once, it can be easy to overlook the relationship you will have with your roommate. These core values for a positive residential life experience are more than just helpful tips, but they shine through in the vignettes of real roommate stories below. Here are some tips and examples of how to create and maintain a healthy and positive roommate relationship:

  • Don't be afraid to talk it out. If something is bothering you in your living space, the worst thing you can do is bottle it up. Open and honest communication is the key to a positive relationship.

    "...My first-year roommate was my best friend before college––we both had expectations of each other going into Freshman year. However, I never expected her to be as messy as she turned out to be. She kept insisting she would clean her side of our room, but her poor hygiene made the room smell. We made a roommate agreement, which she obviously did not abide by. I tried to drop hints, but my quick solution was that I never stayed in our room unless I needed to sleep...I talked to my friend on my floor about the problems and she told me to just talk to my roommate directly about the problems. This situation led me to become a Resident Advisor my Sophomore year because I wanted to be there to help Freshmen who might have a similar situation..."

    What could this student have done differently to improve the situation?

    • Avoid developing unrealistic or idealistic expectatons of your incoming roommate. If you're eager to learn more about your roommate before moving in with them, connect with them on social media or through email are excellent methods of opening communication.
    • Dropping hints doesn't always do the trick––it will pay off to have open and honest communication with your roommate about any concerns.

  • Keep it respectful. As long as you are actively respectful of your roommate's lifestyle, space and privacy, they should return the favor. If this does not appear to be the case, once again, don't be afraid to talk it out!

    "...My freshman year roommate and I both chose to live with each other after we chatted on Facebook. Once we both settled in, our expectations of each other were far from the reality. In the beginning, even though our lifestyles did not align perfectly, everything was fine. Over the course of our first semester, unfortunately, we were both getting sick of each other as friends, which negatively affected our relationship as roommates. Our relationship became toxic and distant... We lived together just fine, but the personal tension was the root of the problem. One day, a mutual friend of ours told me that my roommate was trying to have me evicted for bullying as a result of our personal tension. I immediately went to my Resident Advisor, who assured me there was no basis for eviction and that my roommate’s only option was to swap rooms because there was no serious harassment going on from either party. Ultimately, my roommate contacted the Resident Director in our residence hall who met with the both of us separately. When the RD reached out to me to meet, I was ecstatic because I was happy to talk to someone higher up to clear my name of any accusations of bullying. At the beginning of the Spring semester, my roommate swapped out and my new roommate was incredible!"

    What could this student have done differently to improve the situation?

    • Passively letting a friendly relationship become severly toxic can negatively impact a roommate relationship. Bottling up negative feelings does you and your roommate no good!
    • Bullying is no laughing matter. Always approach any relationship, especially one where you are living with a peer, with respect and honesty.
    • Always strive to be the bigger person and have a respectful dialogue with your roommate if conflict arises. Your Resident Advisor is always there to help mediate discussions about how to improve your relationship!

  • Be supportive, but respect boundaries. Coming home to a toxic environment is never fun. Both you and your roommate should seek to support one another when appropriate, but also not overstep boundaries. It's okay to be friendly roommates, but you don't necessarily need to best friends!

    "...My current roommate and I met through Greek life last year. I value that we are supportive of one another as friends and roommates no matter what decisions we make and that we always have open and honest communication. I do not know exactly what to attribute our positive relationship, but I think our personalities work together quite well. For example, we know that when the other person is having a rough day, we will stay in together, make brownies and watch the Bachelor. We don’t always have to talk out our personal problems if we don’t want to! If there is a roommate challenge, we always have open communication. We talk to each other about what’s bothering us while respecting the other person’s perspective. We both face pressures that cause us to make mistakes sometimes, but we are able to put the past behind us."

    What have these students done to foster their positive roommate relationship?

    • These two roommates are great friends and great roommates, but this doesn't always have to be the case. Don't forget that some friends may not make great roommates, and some roommates may not make great friends! Find the relationship that works best for the both of you, whether that means living together or not.
    • Understanding how your roommate manages challenges is important. Talking about boundaries and knowing what you need when you are feeling down will help your rommate understand how to address you during stressful times.
    • Again, open communication saves the day! This goes hand-in-hand with respect, as openness and respect help strengthen a relationship.
    • Respecting where your roommate is coming from and putting yourself in their shoes will help you and your roommate grow together. It's like a snowball of positivity in excellent circumstances like this!