For a lot of new collegiettes, freshman year is their first time sharing a room with someone else. While dorm life and roommate bonding are wonderful experiences to have and are trademarks of college life, they can also be the source of some drama.
Roommate trouble isn’t uncommon, and there are plenty of ways to solve any issues that may arise. Lucky for you, we’ve got your go-to guide of some common roommate problems and ways to fix them, complete with advice from collegiettes!
1. She’s messy
Everyone has a different standard of cleanliness, so it’s not unlikely that you and your roommate may disagree when it comes to the state of your room. It’s safe to say that the both of you will have to make compromises and work a little harder to keep your space clean now that you’re sharing it.
Alex*, a junior at New York University, says that she’s dealt with messy roommates for a couple years. “Sloppy roommates can be a problem, but it’s one of the easier roommate problems to fix,” she says. “There are tons of ways to talk to your roommate and let her know that she needs to be a little bit cleaner. Everyone can be messy at times, so it’s an understandable problem that’s generally easy to approach if you do it right.”
If your roommate’s messiness is bothering you, it’s best to step up and talk to her about it instead of letting the issue go on.
How to deal
Make a chore schedule. No one likes forcing themselves to do chores, but trust us, you’ll be thankful you did it. A cleaning schedule is a great way to divide responsibilities and make sure that your room is clean on a regular basis. It’s best to come up with the schedule at the beginning of the year so you can stick to it – no excuses!
If cleanliness problems arise throughout the semester in spite of the chore schedule, take it up casually with your roommate. The conversation doesn’t always have to be awkward – it can be a quick, “Hey, do you mind picking up your side a bit? My parents are visiting!” or even just a short note on your whiteboard while she’s at class.
If the problem gets to be more serious, then consider approaching her about it. Remind her that it’s your space, too, and it’s her responsibility to help keep it looking nice. If the problem gets way out of hand and your roommate gets angry or aggressive about it, consider taking the problem to your resident adviser (RA) or another member of Residence Life – they’re there to help you with housing and roommate issues, so take advantage of their assistance!
2. She’s mean
Even if you and your roommate have the same sleep schedules, are both tidy and respect each other’s belongings, problems can still pop up. Some roommates simply just don’t get along.
Katherine, a senior at the University of Rochester, says that one semester she was randomly assigned a roommate who appeared to hate her for no reason. “Whenever possible, she would get up and leave when I entered a room; if we were hanging out with a group of people, she would make faces anytime I said anything and she only spoke to me if she had something mean or condescending to say,” Katherine says.
Eventually, Katherine took their problems to a mediator and began to get them sorted out.
How to deal
Communicate with your roommate and with others, if necessary. “My advice…would be to communicate about the little things early on, because they can escalate quickly and become unbearable,” Katherine says.
No matter what it is that’s bothering you, it’s best to address it sooner rather than later. If your roommate is making mean comments, ignoring you or just plain being disrespectful, try to nip the problem in the bud and address it as soon as you can. This will save you from months of frustration and an awkward, overdue conversation that would otherwise happen at the end of the year (or never!).
“Even if you're good about communicating, you might end up with a roommate who dislikes you and isn't afraid to show it,” Katherine says. “I coped with this by reaching out to other people. My mentor helped me see that the negativity my roommate had towards me said more about her than it did about me, and my friends helped me put things in perspective by finding the humor in the situation.”
If you’re having issues that even the two of you can’t figure out, consider taking the problem to an RA or counselor. He or she can act as a good mediator and help soothe the tension or even help you relocate if the problem is getting out of hand.
3. She’s absent
When you pictured your dorm, you may have imagined you and your roomie hanging out, eating snacks and watching chick flicks every night. While that’s not a completely impossible scenario, it’s not always the case.
When collegiette Ivy first came to Keene State College, she was assigned two roommates. A few weeks later, though, it seemingly dwindled down to just one. “[One of my roommates ended up] sort of moving into someone else's room and would come back to our room only when she needed clothes or when she was drunk and got in a fight with her new ‘roommates,’” Ivy says.
Absent roommates can be tricky, as they’re usually absent for their own reasons. Some girls get invested in their new significant others, make friends in a different building or are simply too busy to hang around the room. There’s nothing wrong with a busy roommate, but it can be kind of a bummer hanging out by yourself when you come home from class!
How to deal
If your roommate’s absence bothers you, try inviting her to hang out on the off days when she does come back to the room. Ask her what she’s been up to lately. If she’s not giving much of an answer, don’t pry, but do be wary. You want to make sure she’s not getting herself into a bad situation!
If you’re truly worried about your roomie and where she might be, encourage her to talk with your RA. She could be getting into a sticky situation with a controlling boyfriend or girlfriend or staying out too late and crashing at other people’s rooms who aren’t exactly wanting her there. If you have the chance to have a chat with her, make sure she’s not getting into any unwanted situations. If she is, try to help her out or direct her to the RA or another member of Residence Life who can help her out in her situation.
4. She’s always in the room
While having a roommate who’s never there can be a bummer, so can having a roommate who’s constantly in the room. It’s always fun to have some roomie bonding time, but you’ll need a break from each other once in a while. It’s easy to get sick of each other when you’re sharing a small space for at least a whole school year!
How to deal
If your roommate is in your room around the clock (except for class time), you might want to have a chat with her. If it’s the case that she’s simply not involved in anything else or doesn’t have many other friends, encourage her to commit to something on campus. Perhaps even consider taking her to a meeting of a club or organization that you’re a member of. Clubs, organizations, sports or on-campus jobs can be a great way to spend your time, get involved and meet new people. You may be able to get your roommate involved while scoring yourself some alone time!
It could be the case where your roommate is more introverted and less involved on campus, so your room is her natural retreat. If this is the case, steer her toward the library or student lounges on campus, or bring her along to one of your club meetings.
If she’s not responding to your suggestions, remind her that there are plenty of other places on campus to hang out and get work done. If it’s necessary, remind her that your shared room belongs to you as well, and that you’d appreciate having the room to yourself once in a while.
5. She’s nocturnal
In college, it’s likely that your sleeping patterns will be all over the place – until you get into a good routine, at least. There are some classes that start as early as 7 a.m. and others that end as late as 10 p.m., so it’s easy to see that students’ schedules may vary by quite a bit.
This was the case with Kira*, a third-year student at Northeastern University, and her freshman-year roommate. “I went to sleep with the lights on every night and then woke up at 7 a.m. as she was just going to sleep,” Kira says.
How to deal
If you’re not a heavy sleeper, this is something you’ll have to take care of right away, as you shouldn’t be compromising sleep for your roommate’s convenience. It’s understandable that based on different clubs and class schedules, your sleeping patterns will differ, but you might have to work to find common ground when it comes to bedtime.
If your roommate’s sleeping schedule becomes a problem, first try to communicate with her about it; she may not even know it’s been bothering you. Consider sitting down with her and going over your schedules, trying to figure out the best times you can have some down time – maybe even consider designating specific quiet hours or bed times if it’s necessary. If it’s something she can’t necessarily fix herself, seek out resources like the library or a student lounge during the day to give her some peace and quiet, and ask her to do the same for you at night. If you just want to stay in your room, think about the alternatives, like sleeping masks or earplugs.
6. She always borrows your personal belongings
For some new college students, having a roommate is like having the sister they never had growing up: double the closet space, sleepovers every night and tons of clothes to share. For others, a roommate is just a roommate, and their belongings are personal, not to be shared or borrowed. No matter how you treat your property and privacy, you should make sure your roommate is on the same page.
How to deal
As soon as you’ve settled in, you should discuss boundaries with your roommate. This could even be done while you’re crafting your roommate contract or cleaning schedule. Make sure you tell her specifically what you’re comfortable sharing and what you’d rather keep to yourself. This can range from sharing clothes to sitting on each other’s beds and chairs. Everyone treats her privacy and property differently, so make sure to remain open-minded and respectful!
If a borrowing issue arises as the semester continues on, you will have to address it. If she happens to borrow a scarf off the back of your chair for a day, simply mention that you’d rather she didn’t do it. If she repeatedly goes through your belongings to pick out her favorite things to borrow, you may want to consider having a more serious conversation about personal belongings. If the issue persists even after the conversation, take it to an RA who may be able to help you out.
7. She brings in a “third roommate”
“The more the merrier” isn’t always a true phrase, especially when it comes to sharing a relatively small space. Unfortunately, some roommates don’t think about this and bring in friends and significant others to hang out – all the time.
“I live with three other girls, and we were all best friends, but [my other roommates and I] don't talk to one of them now,” says collegiette Joanna*. “She had her boyfriend move in with us for the summer without asking us, so he is at our place 24/7, [eating all our food and leaving dirty dishes].”
While the occasional visitor may be welcome, it’s not cool to let your friends in all the time, especially so often that they essentially become new roommates.
How to deal
Joanna says that communication is key, as it is with so many other roommate problems. “I let her know first semester that this wasn’t okay with me, and things were much better second semester,” she says. So, right off the bat, make sure you address the issue.
While it might feel a little awkward telling your roommate to kick her friends out, she has to realize that your room is a shared space. If you’re having trouble coming to an agreement, look at your schedules and find a way to fit in times or days where it’s acceptable to have guests. For example, let her know that she’ll have the room to herself and she’s free to have friends over if and when you go home for the weekend. The night before a huge exam, on the other hand? Probably not.
While your experience sharing a room may not always go smoothly, it will, all in all, be rewarding. As long as you’re communicating effectively with your roommate and letting her know of any issues that arise, your relationship shouldn’t suffer. Roommate bonds are like no other relationship and can last a lifetime, so don’t let silly little habits get in the way of an awesome friendship!
*Names have been changed.