What are some tips for surviving life with a roommate?

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What are some tips for surviving life with a roommate?

Rebecca Grappo
Founder and PresidentRNG International Educational
Consultants LLC

It’s freshman move-in day. You’re the first person to your room. You’re finally able to get rid of your parents. Bed Bath and Beyond trip? Check. Last minute trip to the grocery store to stock up on granola bars, Easy Mac, and Ramen? Check! Congratulations, you are officially a college student. You feel like the coolest thing since the iPad, and you start to put your Ikea Dorm Room Collection together. You think about what your roommate is going to be like, the parties you’ll go to, how you will be best friends for the next four years, even your kids will play together some day!

Then boom, your roomie walks in, and you realize you don’t want your future children anywhere near this person’s future children. And then you discover the worst part—they have a boyfriend or girlfriend who is just as annoying as your roommate. And if you’re really lucky, the boyfriend or girlfriend will still be in high school, so you get to deal with this punk that your roommate has to call every morning before her significant other goes to school at 6:30am. And your roommate will insist on staying in the room to make these calls (true story).

You try to be cool and give your roomie a chance. After all, if you’ve moved around the world and made new friends everywhere you’ve been, so how hard can this be? But there’s just no moving forward with this person. She’s messy, inconsiderate, talks way too much, is all up in your biz, parties way too much, or even worse, just stays in the room all the time. It finally hits you; your roomie is just downright weird and annoying. What makes it worse is that you’re parents are assigned overseas, so you can’t even go home on the weekends to get away from it all. Chances are, it is very unlikely you’ll have a roommate like this. Sometimes you won’t be best friends with your roommates, but you’ll at least be friendly with them, and can easily inhabit the same jail cell-sized dorm room for a year.

If that’s not the case though, here are 5 survival tips to surviving THE WORST ROOMMATE EVER.

1. Always be honest. You know that feeling when you keep something in for so long, and you just finally reach a breaking point and you just snap at a person? Yeaaaa, you’re gonna want to avoid that at all costs. The best way to deal with an issue of a roommate is to confront him/her before you reach that breaking point. Confrontation is uncomfortable, and always a bit scary, but it’s like cleaning: if you do it a little at a time, it’s so much easier. If you wait till it’s a huge mess, then it becomes a big task that you never get around to, and then it just stresses you out. If you confront your roommate in a respectful matter, chances are he’ll be receptive.

If not, that’s what RAs are for. Don’t be afraid to go to an RA and tell her your concerns—that’s what RAs are there for!

Example: It’s a Thursday night, and your roommate wants to have people over to your room that night to drink (which you know is totally wrong, because college freshman are not 21… right?!). And you had already planned to start writing your big paper that’s due on Monday.

You: Hey [weird roommate’s name], would it be possible to go to someone else’s room tonight? I was planning on starting my paper that’s due on Monday…

Best Case Scenario:

Roommate: Yea, sure! We can just go to [name of weird roommate’s friend]’s room.

Worst Case Scenario:

Roommate: Well we have been planning this for a week now, and there is not really anywhere else to go…

This brings me to my next tip.

2. Always be willing to compromise. Living with a stranger is tough, and it’s probably tough for your weird roommate too (although clearly, she is the one with the weird habits). But, as with any relationship, be it with a significant other, a parent, a sibling, or a friend, it’s important for you to be willing to compromise so that both of you can be satisfied.

Example:

You: Oh, okay… How about they come over a bit earlier, say 8:00, and I’ll go to the library until midnight. Would it be possible to have people leave at midnight?

Best Case Scenario:

Roommate: Yea, that should work fine!

Worst Case Scenario:

Roommate: Midnight?! That’s so early!

3. Don’t be afraid to get an RA involved. You might be surprised to find this out, but most Resident Advisers (or RAs) have been in the same situation. They are also college students themselves, and like to have fun, go out with their friends, and find a quiet place to study, just like you. Most RAs are pretty reasonable, and are there to help.

Don’t think you’re being a tattle tail—often times RAs have a sneaky way of going about things so that your roommate will never know you went to see them. They can also offer some mediation, and tips to help deal with them. Most universities offer roommate contracts that roommates create together, and I highly recommend doing this. Who knows—maybe there are things you do that annoys them. If worse come to worse, an RA can help you get a room switch, although that should be the very last option.

4. Don’t stoop to their level, no matter how tempting it might be. I can’t tell you how many times I was tempted to throw a “rager” the night before my weird roommate’s last final, just to spite her. I will admit, I have stopped cleaning, just so that she would realize how much of it I did… and let that go on for a really long time. But then, I just got super annoyed and ended up having to clean the huge mess anyway. That’s the kind of behavior that just makes things worse, and starts unnecessary gigantic fights.

When you feel the urge to call your parents overseas at 5:30 in the morning so that you can catch them on their lunch break (all while in your room, of course), that’s when you need to revert back to tip number 1. Just be honest—tell your roommate in a nice way that his behavior is not conducive to your way of living. No need to relate your dream about putting ExLax in his coffee before having to give a presentation.

5. You’re in college now, so unfortunately, that means you’re an adult, and you have to act like one. This was one of my hardest lessons in college. So, if you figure out how to do it now, it will save you a lot of anguish later on. Being an adult means dealing with your problems head on, and doing it with as little conflict as possible. One of the best things anyone can learn is confrontation is NOT conflict—it actually helps to avoid it!

So, be adult about having the worst roommate ever. Always take the high road, try to be as patient as possible (even when it might be really hard), but most of all, don’t let that weird roommate disrupt your college experience, distract you from academics and other important university activities, and ultimately destroy what is going to be a truly awesome experience. Take matters into your own hands, be proactive, and do what you need to do to make sure these four years are going to be the best of your life.

Keep in mind, too, that colleges have hundreds of other places you can be besides your room. In fact, you only really need to go there to sleep. Get involved; go to the library, the gym, an athletic or theater performance, or even just a friend’s room. These are all things that will keep you out of your room, and will enrich your college experience (and your roommate’s too, by the way). The more you keep yourself busy, the more you’ll find that you don’t even have to hang out with this person.

When it comes time to put in your room request for sophomore year, make sure you find someone that you can live with easily—and that doesn’t always mean your best friend!! More about having issues living with your best friend to come…

The bottom line is that these should be some of the best years of your life, but only if you make them so!! Don’t let tickle fights with between your annoying roommate and her equally annoying boyfriend, or maggot-infested Chinese food in your mini-fridge ruin your college experience. (Both are also true stories, BTW.)

Part of being an adult is taking charge of your own life, so tell the Worst Roommate Ever to turn down their trashy music, start doing their part, and to be considerate of you! If none of these suggestions work, we live in the 21st century people, so go on the Internet and you’ll find tons of other suggestions on how to deal with these types of people. And last but not least, don’t ever listen to that little voice in your head telling you to put the rat cadaver you dissected in Biology in your roomie’s bed.

Kristina Grappo, who was always the world’s perfect roommate, is a 2010 graduate of Villanova University, a Third Culture Kid, and the daughter of this blog’s owner. She has seen her share of roommates and has found that as a recent grad getting on her feet, her life with roommates is far from over.


Karen Ekman-Bur
Director of College CounselingLeysin American School

It’s important to realize that while you’re trying to figure out how to survive life with a roommate, your roommate is having to figure out how to survive life with YOU! Many schools ask students to fill out forms for the Housing Office during the registration process indicating various preferences. These responses are then used in attempting to match each student to a suitable roommate. Hopefully, you will have a roommate who ends up being a great friend and “survival” won’t be an issue. That’s not always the case, however, so you will want to create a situation in which you both at least feel comfortable. The most important aspect would have to do with being considerate. – Remember that you’re sharing a space. Keep your area as orderly as possible, and hope that your roommate will do the same. – Be aware that there are times when your roommate will need quiet for reading, studying, or simply reflecting, just as you will. – You can probably figure out when a habit is obnoxious. Don’t inflict those habits on your roommate and hope that your roommate’s habits will be tolerable to you. – Be prepared to be helpful when your roommate needs support in any way. The favor will probably be returned. – It’s a good idea to have a conversation with your roommate at the very beginning about what your mutual expectations will be of the shared living arrangement. Discuss situations which could arise and how they should be dealt with. – If a disturbing situation does arise, discuss it immediately, rather than letting the conflict fester and become much more difficult. Try to be open, but not accusatory, when expressing your opinions. Encourage your roommate to be open in expressing his/her viewpoints, as well. In the worst case scenarios, most schools have procedures for arranging roommate changes. These situations hopefully do not arise too often, but sometimes changing roommates is the only solution to a conflict.


Kristina Dooley
Independent Educational ConsultantEstrela Consulting
Long gone are the days when students were just randomly assigned a roommate who they didn’t meet until move-in day. Colleges now make an effort to match students with roommates who have similar interests, standards of neatness, and sleep schedules using surveying tools. In addition, many students now find their own roommates via admitted student Facebook pages or online communities developed by the schools themselves. Because of this, many students find that they know much more about their roommate before arriving on campus and thus have the opportunity before school starts to work out any issues, or simply change roommates. However, if you get to campus and realize that your dream roommate has turned into a nightmare, you should talk with your Resident Assistant (RA) first. Your RA may be able to help mediate whatever the issues are and, if not, would be able to help you if you need to make a move to another room. It’s important to remember that you are sharing a space so make it clear from the start if you are okay or not with your roommate using your things, borrowing your clothes, or eating your food. You should also establish ground rules about what time is too late for visitors, how you feel about boyfriends/girlfriends staying over, and other general courtesy concerns.

Cheryl Millington

Your relationship with your roommate is very important and can affect your entire year in college. Moving from living with your family to sharing a room with a stranger and living with other strangers can be daunting. But, if you’re a fairly easy-going person, you’re not likely to have any issues. Do your best to be a good roommate and be considerate of his/her space needs, cleanliness and level of neatness, television and entertainment preferences, tolerance for noise, light, bedtime, sense of humor, energy level, communication style, personality, etc. Set the example of how you’ll like your roommate to treat you. Be positive. Talk about minor issues before they become bigger problems. Remember that your roommate doesn’t have to be your best friend. Nor is he like your annoying brother, while you’ll have a lifetime relationship with your brother, your relationship with your roommate can terminate when the school year ends. Use your residence advisor, residence director, peer mentor or other individuals and resources if you need help with your roommate. Don’t just focus on the problem also think of solutions. And remember that change starts with you. Many, many others before you have survived living with a roommate and so will you!


Dr. Bruce Neimeyer
CEO/PartnerGlobal College Search
Associates, LLC

First, be honest with them about your habits. If you were honest on the housing application then you should be a fairly good match. If you lied on your application and put down the characteristics of the person you want to be rather than who you really are, you are in for a bumpy ride! I always suggest that students get out their copy of the housing application and go through the likes and dislikes. It is a conversation starter on these issues and can help the roommates to systematically go through the important things that the Housing office sees as real roommate issues over the years. Discussing them can help the two of you to have an understanding of what to expect and if there is a real issue up front, you can agree on how to handle it BEFORE it becomes and issue. If you have a problem coming to an agreement, always feel free to seek out your resident adviser for some ideas of how you can reach common ground. They are trained in helping you with this and it’s their job to be your resource. Don’t be afraid to ask!


Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial
Aid Expert & Author
Payless For College, Inc

Here’s something my 10th grade English teacher said, “Before you begin a debate, you must define your terms.” That holds true for any kind of relationship. Be cordial, honest and keep your stuff neat & clean. Respect your roommate’s wishes so there won’t be a conflict.


Nancy Milne
OwnerMilne Collegiate Consulting

Many campuses will have students complete a roommate agreement form within the first few weeks of school. This is an opportunity to lay the groundwork for tolerating differences. Everything in moderation, thinking considerately and maintaining a sense of humor will go a long way in domestic relations.

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