Navigating Life with a Roommate

Navigating Life with a Roommate

Your bags are packed, books are bought and you’re ready to embark on possibly the greatest adventure in your life: college.

Everything is great until you discover, a few days after moving in, that your roommate is an absolute nightmare.

This is a common scenario, and it may not even be that your roommate is a terrible person, perhaps he or she just isn’t the right person for you to live with.

Issues of incompatibility plague college roommates, but there are ways to avoid issues that turn into reality show-worthy blowouts.


Common Issues

There are limitless reasons roommates might find themselves in a head-to-head battle, but some of the most common ones include:

  • Differing schedules: You may be someone who loves getting things done in the early morning, whereas your roommate is a night owl. Inevitably someone is going to be mad with the light shining in their eyes and the sound of a keyboard clicking.
  • Perpetual partier: Sure, college is about having fun, but it’s also about academics. Many roommates find they clash over issues concerning partying. Maybe you like to be low key during the week, whereas your roommate is loud and comes in and out all through the night.
  • The dirt devil: Cleanliness is a big issue for many roommates. Maybe you’re a neat freak who loves everything in its place, whereas your roommate tends to leave dirty dishes, food wrappers and clothing scattered around the room.
  • The romantic: This is the kindest term we could think of for a roommate who’s constantly entertaining a romantic guest. You may feel like an intruder in your own room if this happens, and it just becomes uncomfortable and awkward.

Communicate Concerns Early

If you have problems with your roommate, the best way to handle it is to talk it out as soon as you start feeling there’s a problem.

Often people don’t even realize they’re bothering a roommate—after all, everyone has a different lifestyle. By pointing it out before you become too frustrated and explode, you may be able to fix the problem and live harmoniously.

If you mention your concerns to your roommate and the problem isn’t remedied, consider bringing your Resident Advisor into the mix. They’re trained to help resolve conflicts and find solutions.

Avoid the Attack

If you feel like you may explode, wait a while before you approach your roommate. If you’re stuck with this person for the rest of the school year, you don’t want to make things even worse by speaking out of anger.

Also, only talk in private. Don’t bring your friends into the conversation to back you up or defend you—this is just between you and your roommate.

When you do talk, suggest solutions, rather than simply creating a list of everything you feel your roommate does wrong.

Understand Differences

If you’re finding yourself at odds with your roommate, you may have to accept the fact that everyone is different.

Determine what you’re willing to compromise on, and what you absolutely can’t handle, and come to an agreement with your roommate.


You may have to accept the fact that you’re not perfect either, and sometimes being annoyed with a person just comes down to differences in personality and background.

Tips for Choosing a Compatible Roommate

You may be able to head off roommate conflicts if you put some time into choosing who you live with.

If you have the option to choose a roommate, don’t automatically assume your close friend is going to the best option. You may want to preserve that friendship and avoid potential conflicts.

Before agreeing to live with someone, have a discussion about your boundaries, your likes, dislikes, preferences and lifestyle choices.

Even if you don’t become best friends with your roommate, you should at least try to find someone who shares similar sleeping and study habits with you so that your schedules mesh well.

Consider it like an interview process before diving into a roommate situation, and at least you’re less likely to find yourself surprised down the road.

A positive roommate situation is a great way to learn, grow and even to make a lifelong friend. If you feel a conflict brewing, be assertive without being offensive, and work to find mature and responsible solutions to the problem, before taking more drastic steps.


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About the Author:

Dan Cheong studied Computer Science at Purdue University. He opened his own online marketing agency, IIMS, during his last few semesters at college and is now running it full time.