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How to Deal With Roommate Issues

Not all roommate relationships are rainbows and sunshine. Here are some tips on how to properly communicate and resolve issues between you and your college roommate.

As a high school student, you most likely have visions of you and your future college roommate studying together in peace, hitting the latest parties with your buddies, or running through fields of flowers and rainbows holding hands in absolute bliss. I was one of the lucky few who managed to be both close friends and wonderfully compatible with my college roommates. Then one day, I became a resident assistant (RA), and I quickly learned that the roommate relationship wasn’t always sunshine and happiness.

Each college has a different process for selecting roommates. Some may even let you request a roommate, whether it’s a friend or fellow high school student. Living in a dorm room with someone you know means that everything will be perfect, right? Well, not necessarily. You may be best friends when you’re hanging out, but just because your personalities are compatible doesn’t mean your routine and behavior will be, too. So even if you know someone going to the same college, I encourage you to branch out and have separate roommates—that way, you’re both meeting new people, and your friendship won’t be ruined by anyone’s bad habit of accumulating dirty laundry (or whatever situation you may encounter).

A bad freshman year roommate can truly make or break your college experience, so if you’re not happy with your situation, don’t be afraid to speak up. Universities are more than happy to accomodate your housing needs if that’s what it takes to keep you enrolled and enjoying yourself at school. But if you’re in a situation where you encounter a bump (or two) in the roommate road, avoiding the problem is not the answer. Communication is key with anyone you share space with, so don’t be afraid to nicely convey anything that’s bothering you. And on the contrary, be open to concerns from your roommate. Just because he/she hates your dirty dishes hanging around doesn’t mean he/she thinks you’re a demon from the underworld. 

Don’t be afraid to take advantage of your RA, too. These students are specially trained in answering questions and handling circumstances like these, so if you’re too intimidated to talk to your roommate first, speak with your RA about how to approach the situation and properly communicate your feelings to your roommate. Chances are, your RA will follow up with your discussion, too, and will be able to help mediate any additional problems, if they arise.

At the end of the day, it’s the education that’s the most important part of your college experience, so don’t let a bad housing situation get you down. If the classes, student life, and environment don’t all fit your fancy, then you may certainly find yourself thinking about tranferring. But there’s a reason you chose your college in the first place, so do what you can to make your living situation as ideal as it can be, and I promise that you’ll be well on your way to the rainbows and sunshine you originally wanted. 

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About Catherine Seraphin

Catherine Seraphin

Catherine Seraphin is currently the Multimedia Project Manager at Harvard University and a former Assistant Editor/Online Specialist for CollegeXpress. Catherine graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Journalism, a minor in English, and course concentrations in Business. She was previously an in-depth arts reporter for Penn State’s student-run newspaper, The Daily Collegian, and interned as a features reporter at a paper based in Southern Massachusetts. Catherine previously had a full-year internship with a well-known higher education PR firm. Her favorite experiences during college include her two years as a resident assistant and her involvement in THON, the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. There, she was on the PR committee that helped THON become the third most tweeted topic worldwide. When she isn’t working, you can find Catherine shopping, reading, or running.


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