Figuring out where you want to live and whom you want to live with in college can be awkward for many reasons. Maybe the girl you chatted with on Facebook before the semester started who claimed she was easy-going turned out to be a neat freak who tossed out your syllabi, or perhaps the fun roomie you were hoping for turned out to be a total frenemy who ignored your mutual roommate contract. She drove you crazy all year, but it has to stop: There’s no way you’re letting it happen again next year.
This year, you’re going in prepared. What if your roomie thinks you’re total BFFs? How do you tell your roommate you don’t want to live with her anymore? What if you want to live in a certain building, but a girl you really want to room with can’t afford a certain apartment? There are solutions for all of these awkward situations, but you have to go in knowing how to deal.
Here are five inevitable awkward housing situations that will come up when it comes time to finding housing for next year and tips for how to deal with them:
1. You and your roommates have different budgets
Your roommate can’t stop raving about the apartment she found with enormous closets, and a full kitchen with granite countertops, but you and your tight budget were hoping for cheaper digs. Or maybe you found a great place within your budget, but your roomie’s balking at the rent. What do you do?
In this case, it’s best to talk it out and work together to find a happy medium.
“For me, one of my friends couldn’t afford an off-campus house and it was a little awkward,” said Rachel, a junior at the University of Delaware. “We told her the price and she started crying and eventually backed out of the whole thing because she couldn’t afford it. But by then we had a lease ready to sign for a place we all loved and we had to deny it, so that wasn’t fun.” Rachel says her friend avoided her for a little while out of embarrassment, but now everything is back to normal.
Before you even start your apartment search, make sure you and your friends are clear about what your budgets look like. Once you’ve found a place you love, be sure to be upfront about the costs of living with your friends and potential roommates. You want to make the transition as smoothly as possible, and you don’t want to put your friends or yourself in a tough situation. If the girls find an apartment that’s above your budget, make sure you let them know right away; that way, you don’t end up locked in to a contract you can’t keep, nor will you have to back out last minute and leave your friends in a bind. Discuss ways to lower your costs either by finding a new place within your price range, or even by coming to some sort of agreement; for example, maybe you’ll take the smallest room for a lower rent. Be flexible where you can, though; both sides may have to give and take a little bit on the price, but settle for a price somewhere in the middle.
Julia, a senior who goes to school in Worcester, Massachusetts, had someone drop out of an apartment because of the price a week before they were supposed to finalize the plans. She says that her potential roommate brought up that the price of the apartment was too expensive for her after they’d all decided they wanted to move into it. “If an apartment/building is too expensive for you, you owe it to your other roommates to let them know ASAP,” she urges.
Julia believes that if you let your friends know right away that you can’t afford a certain apartment, they will understand and be supportive of you. “With my situation, nobody was judging the other girl for not being able to afford it, and things would’ve been much smoother if she’d just told us straight away,” she says.
To prevent this from happening to you and your friends, suggest setting a budget before you go housing hunting. How much do you all want to pay a month? Could you reduce the cost by inviting more friends to live with you? These are just a few factors to consider that could prevent some miscommunication down the road!
If you are left in the sticky situation of figuring out housing if a friend drops because of the price, have a backup plan. Never rule out campus housing as an option, and keep a few collegiettes in mind who would be willing to jump in on an apartment and split rent if somebody backs out last minute.
2. You don’t want to live with her
If you don’t want to room with someone who asked to live with you next year, you have to break it to her eventually. But, you have to tread lightly:
“You have to be really nice about it,” says Abigail*, a freshman at American University. “Even if you’re not, you have to look interested, and then you have to say that you have some options and you need to look over them and think about it and get back to her. It’s important to thank her for thinking of you, and say you’ll let her know.” Unless you know she’d be the roommate from a horror flick, don’t write her off right away. Consider the possibility of rooming with her, but if you absolutely know that you have other plans, let her know as soon as you can that you’re already committed to another roommate.
If you want to get out of living with your current roommate again, you need to be a bit more direct. Have a conversation about your plans for next year, and let her know some reasons for wanting to get a new roommate. If you’re having roommate problems, your reasons for wanting to get a new roomie may be obvious (and she most likely will feel the same way), but if you reasons are different you need to make them known.
In this case, honesty is the best policy. You can’t worry about hurting her feelings because you have to do what you believe will be best for the both of you. Just be sure to let her down gently! If you want to have the experience of getting to know someone new and living with a new collegiette or want to live with a friend, you have to let your current roommate know so that she can make arrangements herself.
3. The elusive roommate
If you haven’t tried to fix your roommate problems by the time you have to sign up for housing for next year, you might find yourself on the receiving end of being dumped, meaning your roommate might have made other plans without talking to you at all.
“My best friend moved out on her roommate this past semester,” says Allison. “She just waited until the semester ended and moved out. She texted her and told her she just wasn’t happy in that room.”
This is what you want to avoid at all costs, collegiettes! Even if you’re not friends with your roommate, you still want to be civil and respect each other. In college, you want to avoid burning bridges, not only because you’ll be running into this person during the rest of your time in college, but also because you never know who your boss might be down the road! How awkward would it be to be applying for a job only to run into the roommate you hated freshman year?
Be proactive to avoid this happening to you. If you’re unsure of what to do for next year or if your roommate hasn’t mentioned anything, send your roommate a quick text asking if the two of you can talk. Try to meet in person (preferably in your room or in a non-confrontational setting) and just talk about her plans. Ask her about next year, and she might bring up her plans without you having to spill your housing concerns.
4. Odd one out
So maybe you loved your roommate from freshman year and you both want to room with each other again, but she’s already got a best friend higher up on her list to live with. If you figure this out too late in the process, you may find out that you’re either out on the street, or living in a triple room with your old roomie and her new BFFL.
Triple rooms are usually cheaper, but more crowded. If you’re in a triple, beware of being the odd one out. You certainly don’t want to always feel like you’re the girl getting left out. If your roommate wants to live with her new best friend, consider the options that you have. You can either pick a new roommate, hope for the best and get a random roommate or try to live with a best friend of your own!
Of course, it’s best to avoid this scenario altogether—if your current roommate is deciding between you and her bestie, don’t be afraid to give her a deadline for her final answer. Explain that you don’t want to be in a situation where you’re scrambling last-minute to find someone to room with, and she’ll understand!
5. The search for one more roomie
After freshman year, housing options open up for college students. You can live off campus, in a suite-style dorm or be a resident assistant. The possibilities are endless. When it comes to wanting to live in a suite-style dormitory, things can get hairy:
“[I’m in] the awkward trying-but-not-trying to find another roommate stage,” says Charlotte, a freshman who wants to live in a suite-style dorm room next year. Charlotte and her two roommates need to find one more girl to live with in their suite.
If this is you, go on the hunt for one more roommate! Chat with potential roommates by inviting someone to get lunch or coffee with you and your two roommates, and see if the four of you mix well or clash! It’s best if the fourth roommate can get along with all three of you, so she doesn’t feel like she’ll be invading the beautiful arrangement you already have.
Many colleges also have an online search system built into their websites to help students find additional roommates. You might even be able to search based on lifestyle preferences, like whether they’re night owls or early risers, whether they like the room cold or warm and the likes.
Be sure to check around with collegiettes on campus who might still be looking for a roommate, or see if your college has a housing page where you can look for potential roomies.
Let’s face it: Talking about housing will almost always be awkward if you’re not prepared for the conversation. Talking things through with your potential roommates is key to making sure you all are on the same page for next year!
*Names have been changed.