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Roommate Conflicts

Male student with parents

For many students, living in the residence halls is the first time they have had to share their space. Life on campus can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it can also be trying at times. Learning to live with someone else — especially someone who may have different habits, likes, and dislikes — can be difficult for some students.

While this is a time for your student to learn about their new roommate, it is also a time for them to learn about themselves. They will need to reflect on their own behaviors and how these actions may positively or negatively impact others.

The experience of having a roommate and making new friends can be a fundamental part of each student’s college education. It is a learning experience that will allow them to share their own experiences and gain insights from others as they form friendships and bonds in their community. The roommate experience can be successful and enjoyable, but it will take effort, compromise, and understanding on the part of both roommates.

We encourage you to help your son or daughter as they manage the emotions that accompany living with a non-family member for the first time. Some things to remind your student about include:

  • Talk about ideas and feelings as well as just “things.”
  • Be honest about your feelings, likes, and dislikes.
  • Be willing to compromise, but know on which issues you will not compromise and on which you are willing to negotiate.
  • Give your roommate the respect, consideration, and understanding you expect in return.
  • Set the “tone” for talking, and set aside the appropriate amount of time for a complete conversation (five minutes before class is not the time for a heart-to-heart).
  • Discuss roommate problems with your roommate, RA, or RD only, and not with just anyone who happens to be walking by.

Dealing with Roommate Problems

Problems in a shared living environment are inevitable. Your student’s success will be determined by how they respond to these conflicts — not on their ability to avoid conflicts. Our Residential Life staff members are here to assist each student as they sort through issues and concerns.

Finding Their Own Voice

It is imperative that students address these issues themselves. Although you may be tempted to take care of the problem for them by contacting Residential Life staff, the roommate, or the roommate’s family, this will not help your student learn to deal with similar situations in the future.

In addition, if you feel you must intervene in some way, we ask that you not do so without your student’s knowledge. In almost all cases, in order for a successful resolution to the situation, your student must be involved. This is a part of their own educational experience. Help them to navigate their way through difficult situations, but allow them to find their own path…their own voice.

If your son or daughter needs assistance in dealing with a difficult roommate situation, encourage them to speak with their RA or their Resident Director. When your student calls you with a concern about a roommate, sharing the following tips with him or her may be helpful:

  • Make sure you have the facts straight.
  • Be gentle, but direct. The longer you wait to confront the problem, the worse it will become.
  • Expect some defensiveness, possibly even after the confrontation. Give your roommate an opportunity to think about what you have said.
  • Don’t cloud the issue by checking with everyone else on the floor before you give feedback to your roommate.
  • Speak only for yourself.
  • Make sure you are prepared to discuss criticism that may be aimed at you. Be open minded, and remember that you may both need to compromise!
  • Remain calm and do not let emotions take control. Feelings such as anger can only escalate the situation. If you are not feeling calm, or sense that anger is clouding your ability to have a productive conversation, stop and reschedule a time to talk. Or…have your RA help to facilitate the conversation.
  • Listen to your roommate. Everyone wants to be heard, and only by listening to your roommate’s point of view can you understand and better resolve any conflict.

Residential Life will not take action or move students until all perspectives have been heard. Encourage your son or daughter to seek the help of the Residence Hall staff when a difficult situation arises.