What To Do If Your Roommate Is Not A Good Fit

By Aidan Cannon

One of the best parts of the college experience is moving out of your childhood home, and settling into dorm life means meeting roommates. Your college will try to room you with people who have similar interests or are studying the same subjects. Roommates can be the first friends you make in college, and it can be really exciting navigating the new experience of higher education together. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. You may be matched with a roommate who you don’t get along with or someone who unintentionally makes your life more difficult with how they choose to live. There is no shortage of roommate horror stories out in the world, but there are also ways to avoid conflict and resolve your issues peacefully. Use this guide to solve your roommate disagreements without resorting to shouting matches.

Student Roommates: What To Do If Your Roommate Is Not A Good Fit

Sit down and establish rules

The first step to mitigating conflict between multiple parties is open and honest communication. When you first meet your roommate, after all your unpacking is done, you should sit down and have a conversation with them about what expectations are going to be for your shared space. These discussions can include responsibilities like cleaning and trash, but also policies like visitation of friends, family, and significant others. This should also be an opportunity to discuss specific needs or desires the both of you have, such as having a quiet space to work during certain hours and not making noise before a certain time in the morning. Additionally, you should delineate what parts of the dorm belong to whom, so nobody dominates the space and leaves the other with no room to live. Making these decisions now won’t guarantee a dorm free of conflict long term, but hopefully, they will give you and your roommate something to refer back to if problems do arise.

Speak with your resident advisor

If serious problems do appear, consider speaking with your resident advisor. Your RA is there to answer any questions you might have about living on your own for the first time, but can also try to resolve conflict between roommates if need be. They can act as an independent third party to try and more objectively evaluate if anyone is at fault for your roommate problems. You can also discuss with them the rules you and your roommate created so they understand the context of your disagreement. Talking to your RA is a great first step if you feel your roommate is being unsafe in any way, such as excessive drinking, drug use, or any kind of self-harm. However, most of your issues will not be that grave, and you should try to discuss your grievances with your roommate before getting authority figures involved.

Apply for a room change

If you feel that the differences between your roommate and yourself are truly irreconcilable, you can investigate if your university will let you change rooms. This will allow both of you another chance to be matched with people who better suit your respective lifestyles and continue your studies distraction-free. Although your relationship may have broken down with your roommate to the point that it’s hard to be pleasant to one another, they may still help you with the application process, as it’s in their best interest to get the situation sorted out as quickly as possible. Some roommates just aren’t meant to be, and that’s ok! It’s a good learning experience that will inform how you interact with different roommates in the future.

Minimize time spent around them

If all else fails, try your best to keep your distance. This can mean spending the majority of your time on campus, with friends or significant others at their residences, or just around town. While ignoring the problems that you have at your dorm might not seem like the most productive use of your time, taking a break from your roommate drama can help you evaluate next steps and even formulate possible solutions to your problems. Spending the majority of your waking hours outside of your room can also make your predicament more bearable assuming all other solutions fall through. The minimal time you’ll spend around your roommate will reduce the likelihood of any substantial fights breaking out, and the remaining periods will be bookended by both of you sleeping.

You don’t need to be friends with someone for them to be a good roommate. A person might live with one or many other people whom they just inhabit a space with and otherwise leave each other alone to live separate lives. However, sometimes sharing a living space with other people breeds conflict and strife, ultimately pushing them apart to an untenable degree. At that point, it’s time to investigate strategies to make sure the situation doesn’t get out of hand. Using this guide will help you navigate the often confusing interpersonal politics of being a roommate and hopefully mitigate future fights.

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