Soon you’ll be headed off to college, and experiencing many “firsts”. Most of these events will be exciting, and you’ll no doubt be thrilled by many parts of your new life. One of those “firsts” might be sharing a dorm room with another person.
But what if you get stuck with a roommate you absolutely despise? Or what if you go away to college with a high school friend, only to discover that you can’t stand living with this person?
First, it’s important to remember that you’re here to learn more than Chemistry and Western Civ. As a young adult, you’re learning how to handle various challenges life will throw at you, and a bad roommate situation is yet another learning experience. So first, take a deep breath, and reflect on how this experience will help you grow, learn communication skills, and experience alternate points of view. Then, try these tips to make your situation more tolerable.
Don’t retaliate. Your night owl roommate kept you up late last night, gabbing on her phone. So it’s tempting to get up at 6 am and blast some music while getting ready for your day. But this is an immature, passive-aggressive way to handle the problem, and will only set you up for a back-and-forth, drawn-out war with your roomie.
Confront them directly. Just say it, directly, and without anger:
“Hey, I don’t mean to be a nag, but lots of clutter makes me feel anxious and overwhelmed. We should make an effort to keep this place neater”
“I’m a really light sleeper. If you’re going to listen to music late at night, could you wear ear buds?”
Talk in person. Don’t attempt these chats via text. It’s too easy to misinterpret someone’s words as sarcasm, and missed texts can complicate the conversation.
Talk about your feelings, rather than attacking. Examples of an attack are words like, “You’re so messy!” or “You’re always so loud!”. Remember to make this conversation about what you are feeling, and what you need in order to cultivate a happy living and learning environment.
Ask for their input. To avoid coming off sounding demanding or bossy, finish up by asking your roomie for their opinion. Use words like, “Do you think this is reasonable?” or “Is there anything you need to address with me?”. Believe it or not, you might be bugging them too! Being open to a two-way conversation fosters much more eagerness to compromise.
Know when to call it quits. If repeated discussions aren’t getting you anywhere, or if your roomie is compromising your safety, it’s okay to call it quits. You might even discover that you can retain the friendship while simply choosing to live elsewhere. Talk to your Resident Advisor about switching rooms. It’s likely that at least one other student is also looking for a new roommate.