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Surviving Roommate Drama

Quick! Name one of the top things most incoming freshmen are nervous about! 

Did you think about getting a bad roommate? Because getting an awful college roommate is definitely a top fear for most people. 

Bad Roommate Story Time: Take It from Me 

Most of us go into college hoping we’ll either find a friend in our college roommate or at least find someone who will keep their side of the room clean, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Even if you are a perfect match on paper, sharing a small space with a new person is hard! In my freshmen year of college, I searched high and low for the “perfect” roommate because I didn’t want to leave anything to chance with a random person (yikes!). However, it didn’t work out for me in the end when I realized not only was I sharing a small space with my roommate, but I was also going to have to share it with her boyfriend. Dorm rooms are tiny and sharing a space barely meant for 2 people, much less 3 people, was just too much to deal with. For others, sore spots include a messy roommate, someone who wakes you up late at night or early in the morning, folks who borrow your stuff without asking, or people you just straight up don’t get along with.

When I finally did talk to my roommate I had waited so long and was so fed up with the situation that it just boiled over. She felt I was trying to ruin her relationship with her boyfriend and I was outlining an entire semester of problems with no inclination that she would help resolve the situation. It takes a lot of work to have a good relationship with your roommate and you can’t be afraid to speak up to let the other person know how you feel.

How to Handle a Bad Roommate Experience

  1. Talk to Your Roommate

    No one is a mind reader and they can’t possibly know what you are feeling if you don’t spell it out for them. Often, there is a tendency when living with a new person to bottle up or try and ignore small things for the sake of harmony. But those small things can build up into a lot of resentment. Speak out when something bothers you. Don’t be a jerk and don’t try and micromanage your roommate at every turn but let them know what the problem you’re seeing might be. The key to dealing with your roommate is you also have to understand where the other person is coming from/respect their opinions because it is also half their space.
  2. Ask Yourself the Hard Questions

    Before you get 3rd parties involved to resolve the issue ask yourself a hard question: “Am I being reasonable?” Sometimes habits, personal preferences, noises, etc. just annoy you. That’s okay. Dorms are notoriously small and having someone in your space is incredibly annoying, even if you do get along and like the person. But take a breath and honestly ask yourself, is this just something that annoys me, or is this really bad behavior/abuse of my goodwill? If it’s a minor annoyance, try and talk things out first-- stop the issue before it frustrates you even further. If it’s bad behavior or your roommate trying to take advantage of your goodwill then yes, it’s time to seek some outside help in resolving the problem. 
  3. Contact Your RA

    If you have tried talking to your roommate and don’t feel like you are being heard or respected, you can always reach out to your RA. They are a great source who will facilitate a discussion between you and your roommate as well as mediate an agreement that you feel you can both live with. When my RA came in to talk with my roommate and me, we settled on her boyfriend being able to spend every other weekend with us and only being able to stay from Saturday to Sunday.  
  4. Roommate Agreement

    Planning ahead can also be a huge help in preventing small things from becoming big issues. Many dorms have students fill out a roommate agreement at the start of the year. This is a great place to outline your expectations for living throughout the year. Be clear but reasonable; it’s a shared space after all.
  5. Seek Out Other Spaces

    Sometimes no matter how much you try to get along or how many ground rules you set, your roommate can just straight up drive you crazy. At moments like this, the key to surviving without having a screaming match is to take a timeout from each other. Often this means finding out another space to inhabit. Go study in the library, or check your email in a café, or go to the movies. Campuses are pretty much designed to host students looking to hang out, so try and find some alternative spaces to spend time in that aren’t your room when you need a break.
  6. Friends and Support

    Believe me, I know how hard it is to have a roommate that you don’t get along with but if you have a good support group of friends it makes everything so much easier to deal with or to escape. Talk or vent to your friends, they might be going through similar situations. Try and get perspective on the situation with neutral(ish) parties. And when necessary, hang out in their dorm rooms if you need a break.
  7. Consider an Exit Strategy

    At the end of the day, there are just some people you don’t want to live with. The good news is college roommates are by design a temporary situation. Aside from safety and health concerns, most situations can be endured for 1 – 2 semesters. If you’re in a situation that just isn’t resolvable start planning an exit strategy. Can you move to a new location or with a new roommate after your first semester? After the end of the school term? Do you want to try for another random person or live with a friend? Live on campus, at home, or in an apartment? Planning an exit from the situation might help you feel better and more in control. 

A year seems like such a long time, but it really goes by so fast and you won’t have to live with the person anymore in college after this year if you feel your differences are too much for either of you to handle.