Having Roommate Struggles? Here Are Tips I Wish I’d Known Coming Into Freshman Year

It’s getting to that point in the semester where everyone’s getting into the groove of the new school year, and for most of you freshman, getting used to sharing a very small space with a complete stranger. By this point, you probably know whether you’re friends with your roommate, have a neutral relationship, or, for you unfortunate ones, don’t get along at all. As someone who was very unlucky with my random assignment my freshman year, here are eight things I wish I had been told:


1. Your RAs are your friends (kind of).

Yes, it is a rule that your RAs are not supposed to get close with students they’re in charge of. However, your RAs are also there to help you with any problems you may be having with adjusting to college life. Now, I’m not the kind of person who randomly vents to the first person who will listen. I prefer to keep my business private, but looking back I wished I had confided in my RA. They’re there to help, regardless of what the problem is.


2. Set boundaries from the start.

My former roommate latched onto me and followed me everywhere I went. If I went to lunch, she went to lunch. If I went down the hall to hang out with a new friend, she went down the hall to hang out with my new friend. If I went to the bathroom, she went to the bathroom. Just kidding, but you get the picture. I basically had a shadow everywhere I went. As someone who can’t be around the same person 24/7 without getting irritable, it was very overwhelming for me to constantly be around the same person. The best thing to do is set boundaries right from the get-go. Let your roommate know that unless you personally extend an invitation like, “Hey, I’m going to lunch, wanna join?”, they probably shouldn’t tag along!


3. Communicate.

I know this one seems obvious and overplayed, but you can’t even begin to solve the problems until you’ve laid them out on the table. Allowing your issues to bottle up and fester inside only makes it worse when you finally do tell your roommate. This doesn’t just mean you getting to say what’s upsetting you, though. Part of being a good communicator is listening to the other party’s complaints and willing to accept that yeah, sometimes you’re the bad roommate.


4. Be kind.

Okay, full disclosure, I can be a grinch when I get mad. Yeah, it may take a lot to make me mad, but once I’m there it’s not pretty (or kind). But this advice isn’t just for dealing with a difficult roommate.  It’s also for dealing with anyone who has gotten under your skin. Try to think about how you would like to be spoken to. Don’t immediately go on the defense, reach for your empathy, and if you can’t find any, reach for sympathy. Always, always, always default to kindness, if only to make you feel better about the situation.


5. Allow yourself to talk about it, but with someone removed from the situation.

When I was in the midst of my roommate woes Spring semester of my freshman year, I realized that my roommate problems were coming between me and my friend group here at university. My friends grew tired of me coming to them every time there was an issue, which was pretty much a daily occurrence. I realized that I needed to find someone else to rant to and began calling one of my parents every time something happened that made me mad. Even if I just left a voicemail ranting about whatever it was that made me want to call them, it made me feel better and allowed my friendships here at school to breathe. Your RA, an on-campus counselor, your parents, a different family member, a trusted friend, a diary, all are cathartic alternatives to poisoning your friendships with complaints about your roomie.


6. Be honest.

If your roommate asks if you’re upset and you are, tell them. It’s pretty simple.


7. Don’t passive aggressively post on social media.

This probably goes back to the communication issue, but social media has become such an integral part of our lives that it deserves its own bullet point. My former roommate took to social media to complain about me 24/7. It got to the point to where my friends felt uncomfortable following her and not saying something to me about it, but also didn’t want to violate her privacy by informing me. Basically, not only is subtweeting/finsta-ing about someone you live with extremely rude, it also makes everyone around the two of you much more involved than they probably want to be.


8. If all else fails, contact housing.

If the situation is so bad you can’t stand to be in the same room as the person, there’s always the option of contacting your campuses housing services to see if you can transfer to a different room. Yeah, it stinks that you have to be the one to move, but it’s better than staying in a miserable situation.


At the end of the day, it’s the luck of the draw whether you’ll get a compatible roommate or not. Just know, you’re not the first, or last person to be going through what you’re going through. One of my favorite quotes that stuck in the back of my mind my entire freshman year is a Winston Churchill quote that you’ve probably heard before: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Your roommate situation may seem impossible, but there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel!