By: Sarah Kelly, LCPC
Most college Freshmen feel both anxiety and excitement when thinking about their college roommate. Often, they have completed a matching survey and are hopeful that the person that becomes their roommate will also become their friend. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The college years are a major time of transition, change, and responsibility and added conflict with the person you live with can negatively impact your college experience; nonetheless, the experience of managing conflict with your roommate can also foster self-understanding, growth, and an increased ability to compromise and connect with others, even if your differences seem to far outweigh your similarities.
At some point, all people who live together and share space and belongings will encounter conflict. Some of the major complaints and issues that present in living situations may include:
*Borrowing clothes, food, products without asking.
*Not respecting space, privacy and “quiet time.”
*Leaving the room a mess, not picking up after self, invading each other’s space with your things.
*Being inconsiderate, thoughtless, or disrespectful.
*Bringing other friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, or family members in without asking.
According to Sarah Fudin, Community Manager at USC’s online MAT program (Huffington Post), the following are tips for “surviving and thriving” with college roommates:
Communicate-let your roommate know your likes and dislikes up front, and listen to theirs. Don’t let small issues or disagreements simmer, address them respectfully and soon.
Respect Boundaries-roommates who set up ground rules and boundaries with each other have a much greater chance of sticking to these things over the course of their time together. If you are someone who needs to be in bed by midnight, having a roommate who has friends over until 2am will be a problem.
Don’t be a borrower- It is often tempting to borrow something when your roommate is not around, such as a snack or a piece of clothing, but this often leads to major conflict if not given permission. By keeping your hands off each other’s things, you can keep the peace.
Practice Courtesy- common courtesy goes a long way when it comes to roommate situations. Avoid being too noisy or having too many people in the room when you know your roommate is home.
Share your interests- this one is often overlooked. Often, people are coming from different cultural or social backgrounds. Open up about your interests and hobbies and learn about your roommates. You may end up learning or participating in new things you haven’t tried yet.
Negotiate-When a problem arises, don’t let it de-rail the relationship. Work together and compromise to come together with a solution you both can live with.
Be willing to change- College is for learning and growing. Be flexible and adjust your thinking as new situations require. Don’t get stuck in old habits and thought patterns that may prevent you from living successfully with your roommate.
Look for other friends- If you are lucky enough to get along well with your roommate, you don’t need to spend all your time together. Branch out and meet and do things with other people. Don’t feel hurt if your roommate does the same.
Have Fun- Keep a sense of humor and try and enjoy this new experience.
There are times when people try and do all of the right things but due to repeated unhealthy habits or disrespectful actions, the situation does not work out. If you are suffering from your roommate’s situation, talk to your dorm RA or RD to work through alternative options that are available to you.