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How to Prepare for College Roommate Issues

For many students, having a roommate is the first experience they will encounter in sharing a space with another person, and the adjustment can be significant. Putting two people together who have different habits, personalities, and who may come from very diverse backgrounds can be problematic. However, it is also part of the college experience.

Learning how to communicate and get along with others in close proximity is a skill that all adults need to develop. No matter how nice each of you might be, there are bound to be tensions and issues that arise. Before you explode or get your RA involved, take a look at some of the more common problems roommates face and how to deal with them.

Your Roommate’s Significant Other Is Always There

Your roommate has developed a new love interest, and now this third person is hanging around way more often than you would like. As if that’s not enough, they’ve begun to turn the place into their personal love nest, complete with the smooching, giggling, and other disgusting noises that go along with young love.

While it’s natural for college students to act on their basic human instincts, it doesn’t mean you need to feel like an unwilling observer at the petting zoo. If the situation has gotten out of hand, take your roommate aside. Gently explain that while you appreciate their need to spend time with their new partner, it’s a small space, and you, too, deserve your privacy.

If you want to be super cooperative, you could let them know you will arrange for an evening to be absent with other activities so they can have the room to themselves for romance. This is more than fair and will show your roommate that you understand their needs, but you insist that they respect yours too.

Your Roommate Is a Bona Fide Slob

If you are both naturally messies, this may not even be an issue. However, if a clean and organized area is essential to you, you will likely find your roommate’s sloppiness unbearable. There are a few ways to approach this situation.

First, you could just come right out and tell your roommate that while you love their free-spirit, their disorganized ways need to come to a screeching halt. This is unlikely to work, as most slobs don’t like being called on their lack of housekeeping skills, and the rest will not care. It doesn’t make them bad people; it means they have a different level of tolerance than you.

Another option is to offer (only if you want to, of course) to organize and tidy up your roommate’s space for them. Maybe they lack the necessary skills to do it and would happily take you up on your offer. Under no circumstances should you organize and clean your roommate’s stuff without their permission, as this violates their privacy.

Lastly, you might consider compromise. Perhaps the clutter makes it distracting for you to study, but you enjoy your roommate and know you can’t change them. Maybe you could find a quiet, neat spot down the hall to study that will remove you from the situation and keep you from reaching a boiling point.

Of course, if the situation reaches levels of dishevelment that are unhealthy or attracting pests, you’ll want to take more aggressive action and get your RA involved.

Your Roommate Keeps You Awake All Night

In College, activities can begin as early as six am and last until late at night, so it’s normal that students will have different sleeping schedules. However, you already know how important a good night’s sleep is to your mental and physical health. If you find that your roommate’s nocturnal habits are costing you valuable rest, you need to talk about it.

If you need to get some shuteye by ten and your roommate rolls in noisily at midnight waking you up, try to establish quiet hours. Explain to them that you need to be awake early and that your sleep is important to you. Ask them if they could be more subdued when they come in and avoid bright lights or loud noises.

The same goes for early risers, though, too. Don’t start crashing around first thing in the morning if your roommate is still asleep. Get things ready the night before so you can get ready and off to class quietly and they can also get some rest.

If you are a light sleeper, you may want to consider investing in a few things like earplugs, an eye mask, or a white noise machine to help.

Your Roommate Takes Your Stuff Without Asking

The care package your Mom sent you is suspiciously missing a few munchies, and your special fuzzy blanket has made its way onto your roommate’s bed. It’s time to talk about boundaries. People are different, and while you may be just fine with sharing, it’s OK to insist that your roommate asks permission first. 

For many people, their belongings are very personal to them and should never be touched. Even something as simple as coming back to find their roommate’s friends sitting on their beds can feel violating. No matter how each of you feels about things like this, it’s vital that you are on the same page to keep from overstepping each other’s privacy. Discuss in clear terms what you need by telling him or her precisely what you feel OK sharing and what you do not want to be moved, eaten, borrowed, or used.

Your Roommate Is Constantly There

If your new roommate is the quiet and introverted type, you might find her constant presence to be a little overwhelming. Every time you come back to your room; there she is. Does she even go to class?

It’s natural to want some alone time in your own space but tread carefully. Remember that your roommate may find the area to be a safe comfort zone and it’s not right to try and kick them out just because you want to be alone. Yes, you both pay for the room, but you may need to take your alone time elsewhere.

If you suspect your roommate is just having a hard time adjusting, can’t make friends, or is depressed or homesick, try talking to them about it. Suggest they tag along with you to an event or even a walk around campus. Maybe they simply need a little extra help coming out of their shell.

Know When to Involve Your Ra

Your resident assistant is there to help with the awkwardness that can come with having a roommate for the first time. They are skilled in mediation and can help you navigate conversations that you might find too difficult to have alone. If your situation with your roommate has reached a level of difficulty that you aren’t able to overcome, it’s time to get your RA involved.

If that doesn’t help, Most campuses will have options for switching rooms or helping you find a more compatible roommate. This is particularly true if the problems become insurmountable are interfering with your studies or well-being.

Recognize When You Are the Problem

We would hardly be human if we didn’t tend to look at other people’s issues instead of our own. However, it’s worth taking a closer examination and reflecting on your own actions as well.

Perhaps the problem lies less with the fact that your roommate has a boyfriend and more with the sense of loneliness you feel. Maybe your obsession with keeping things neat is an attempt to find order in a new world that feels chaotic to you.

There are always two sides to every story, and many problems can be solved by realizing the issues that lie just beneath the surface. You may find that a good, honest, heart-to-heart conversation with your roommate can uncover some of the real reasons behind the tension and bring some much-needed relief to both of you.

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