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How to Handle a Horrible Roommate Situation

During my freshman year of college, I went to a school out of state and knew absolutely no one. I couldn’t afford a single dorm, so I chose a double and had a random roommate assigned to me. I was eager for this experience initially, and was excited to meet my future bestie! We talked on and off throughout the final weeks of summer and seemed to get along really well, and before we knew it we were moving into our dorm. Then about a month into the semester, things went downhill. I quickly began to feel uncomfortable in my living space (that I was paying thousands of dollars for), and the tension between my roommate and me seemed to grow exponentially. About halfway through the semester, I ended up moving to a different dorm.

Before I was able to resolve my issue by moving, this situation caused me a lot of unnecessary stress. Adjusting to college, especially if it's one several hours away from home is already stressful enough, and feeling unwelcome in your new home doesn’t help. I know that many other people have experienced similar situations, but a lot of times are at a loss for what to do. In an attempt to save someone else from having to move dorms during midterms week (not a great experience to say the least), here are some things I wish someone would’ve told me to do to mend my relationship with my roommate. New Girl Nick Miller GIF Dingus GIPHY / 20th Century Fox Television


Talk about things beforehand.

This might seem impossible if you’re going with a randomly assigned roommate, but it’s not! From what I’ve gathered, most schools let you know your room and roommate assignment at least a few weeks before your actual move-in day. Use this time to reach out to your roommate and get to know each other. It’s super important to talk not just about your personality, but about your habits and how you keep your living space and be completely honest. It’s better to find out now before you’re even on campus if there’s going to be any potential clashing between you two.

Remember the things you talked about, and be a good roommate.

Bouncing off being honest, remember the things that you talked about with your roommate before you moved in. This is why it’s important to be completely honest during your initial conversations because whatever you tell that person, they’re going to expect from you. Don’t tell them you go to bed at 1 am every night, and then try to ask them to turn their lights off by 8:30 pm when you actually move in. It’s your responsibility to be as great of a roommate to them as you expect them to be to you, so make sure you hold yourself accountable when you catch yourself slipping.

Address the first problem you notice.

Despite the preventative measures and setting high standards for your own behavior, problems will still arise. It’s how you handle those problems that make the difference. I don’t remember the first time my roommate and I disagreed on something, but I do know that it was this first incident that triggered the tension between us. However, this definitely could’ve been avoided if either of us had just said something about what was bothering us. Instead, we opted for sweeping our problem under the rug and passive-aggressive comments on FaceTime with our friends, which only made way for more problems to occur. Don’t wait for something to work itself out, or try to convince yourself that it doesn’t bother you as much as it does. Face the problem head-on from the start, and it could save you a lot of fights in the long run.

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Talk to your RA (or some other third party).

A lot of times, getting an outside, unbiased perspective can be really helpful in roommate conflicts. RAs are a really good person to go to in these situations because they go through training to handle issues exactly like these. Go to your RA or a third party and explain to them what your problem is. Tell them everything you’ve done thus far to try and solve it. The person you’re talking to may suggest that you’re in the wrong and give advice on another approach you could take instead to solve your problem. Don’t get defensive if this happens, instead, try those approaches out and see if they help.

Renegotiate your roommate agreement.

My renegotiations with my roommate happened with our RA present, but if you feel like you and your roommate could do this without a mediator, go right ahead. It’s important to be completely honest with your frustrations during this conversation because you’re putting it on paper. If something is really bothering you, bring it up, that way you both can try to come up with a solution that you’re willing to accept. Also, make sure you’re not making intense accusations or being too aggressive because it’s likely not going to get you anywhere. Stay civilized and try to come up with realistic solutions.

See if you can change your housing situation.

Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. I know that for my roommate and me, there likely wasn’t any solution in the world that would’ve made our problems go away, and it was just better to throw in the towel. I was in a dorm, so at this point, I made an appointment with my Community Director and was able to move into a new dorm without a roommate. Unfortunately, most apartments don’t allow you to get out of a lease, so if you’re really fighting with your roommate in an apartment, you can look for someone to sublease your room or tough it out until the lease is done. 


Finally — don’t make your college experience more stressful by ignoring roommate problems! Speaking from personal experience, the conflict will only continue to grow and ultimately affect your life in a negative way. Trust me, tackling your issues head-on will save you a lot of unnecessary headaches, and help make your college years the best they can be.