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A How-To Guide to Preventing Conflict with Your College Roommates

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A How-To Guide to Preventing Conflict with Your College Roommates

by Jenna Winkelmann

If you’re living in a dorm during your first year of college, chances are you won’t be living solo. It’s a given that you’ll be living with at least one other student which can be a wonderful experience. You could be living with a friend; the one you’ve always wanted to have constant slumber parties or on the flipside, a stranger who could turn out to become your new best friend.

Whoever your roommate is, it’s important to prep for the reality that not everyone lives the same way you do. That’s right, we’re all different, and we all like to do things our own way. So, it’s important to try and sort out your living arrangements before getting your freshman year started, or you may quickly find that you and your new roomie could have a rough go of it right out of the gate.

There are several things that you can do to prepare for a year of harmonious living. Here are 5 ways to help prevent possible conflicts with your college roomies:

Sign on the Dotted Line

One of the most important parts of living with roommates is the Roommate Agreement. You’ll want to establish expectations right from the start while creating boundaries for everyone. Make a point to sit down with your new roomies and talk about your living styles. Do dishes get washed immediately, or is it okay to leave them in the sink for a few hours? What temperature is comfortable for everyone? You get the idea…

You want to make sure that everyone gets to have a say as to their preferences, and then establish compromises where everyone can agree. If this is your first experience with truly compromising and all that it entails, do some research into what that term really means.  Seriously.  Google some stuff.  It’s not effortless as it sounds.

For some first timers to what we’ll call ‘the compromise experience’, it’s easy to just say yes to others, sometimes losing out on what really matters to us just to keep everyone happy.  Some of us are real people pleasers by nature and that’s ok but simply giving in to everything is not necessarily what compromising is all about. 

Compromise is a situation where some of the wishes of each person are implemented.  You’ll have to sacrifice some stuff to get some stuff.  It’s a give and take and it’s a skill where you need to identify your priorities, aka: your must-haves, along with the other stuff that you can really do without. You really need to do a deep-dive and be honest with yourself in determining the difference between your needs and your wants, the latter of which is the negotiable part.

Once you have your set rules, write them down and make sure everyone signs it. That way if any problems arise in the future everyone can look back at the agreement and sort it all out.

Communication is Key

Communication is a huge part of living with others and well, life in general. It’s equal parts talking and listening with the listening part often overlooked. Lots of times, drama arises from miscommunication, and you’ll want to put in the effort; establishing friendships where each of you feels comfortable and safe sharing your thoughts, speaking freely all while listening intently. It’s important to be not only clear but also to be kind. Nobody likes being yelled at or spoken down to. If your roommate feels like they’re being attacked, chances are they’ll get defensive instead of trying to listen.

You’ll find that most of the time the person causing the issue was not doing it intentionally and when discussed, likely will do their best to compromise with you. Sometimes you might find that the person causing the issue had some underlying reasons behind it all that they weren’t expressing, like family or relationship stress, self-confidence issues, financial burdens, etc. Open communication will lead to a better understanding of each other and oftentimes, uncover ways that you can also be of help to eachother.

Keep the Peace

When sitting down and talking about your list of woes, it’s important to make sure the environment mirrors the mood you want everyone to be in. Lots of times a space can affect a person’s mindset, setting the tone for conversations and ultimately, reactions.

Make sure to create an environment that radiates a calming and supportive mood. Put the phones away and give your complete, uninterrupted focus on your roomie/roomies. If you want to set the tone even more, it could be nice to diffuse an essential oil in the room before a discussion takes place. Lavender is at the top of the list for giving off a calming and relaxed vibe.  Simply place a few drops in an essential oil diffuser a few minutes before your convo to help you establish a feeling of stress-free, calm in the room.

Remember, it is a lot easier to have tough conversations when everyone is feeling nice and peaceful, rather then riled up.

Be Good. Receive Good.

If you want your living situation to thrive, you’ve gotta put in the work. The saying goes that you can’t receive what you don’t give.

Now you may wonder, “How do I know if I’m being a good roommate?” There are a few questions you can ask yourself that can help you figure it out: 

  • Are you listening to your roommates’ concerns, or do you cut them off?
  • Are you allowing them to express themselves without judgement?
  • Are you responding in a polite and respectful manner or are you flying off the handle?
  • Are you respecting everybody’s boundaries? Are you clear on what those even are?
  • Are you making sure to clean up after you make a mess in the shared living space?
  • Are you making compromises and doing your part?

If you answered yes to these questions, you’re probably a great roommate!

Top 10 Common Issues to Avoid

There are a lot of issues that students have with their college roommates. Here are some of the most common:

  • Paying for rent/household items. (Pitch in and be on time)
  • The usage of shared spaces. (The key word here is ‘share)
  • Respect your roommates’ things. (Shared space doesn’t necessarily mean shared stuff)
  • Being too messy (Usually the biggest offense in the roommate world)
  • Being too clean (OCD is real and not everyone has it. Compromise here)
  • Being too noisy (It’s all about headphones and cell phone etiquette)
  • Boyfriend/girlfriends coming over too much (This can get out of hand real quick)
  • Different schedules (Usually leads to different sleep schedules. Be mindful)
  • Different ways of socialization (Some peeps are shyer than others)
  • Different values (This is a big opportunity to expand your horizons)

Some of these could be an issue with your roommates, while some may not come up at all. It’s important to talk about stuff both in advance as well as an ongoing basis as things come up. It’s always helpful to avoid waiting until things get out of control.  Nip them in the bud to keep things smooth sailing.

Take Responsibility for Your Screw-Ups

We’re all human. We all make mistakes.

When you do mess up, it’s important to cop to it and apologize. It can be hard to own up to your mistakes, but it’s necessary to move on and to keep things from snowballing. It’s natural to butt heads with people every once and awhile. Just make sure to start the year with clear boundaries to prevent as much conflict as possible and keep that lavender diffusion on heavy rotation!



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