Years of living at home in the comforts of an unshared bedroom don’t prepare most college-bound students for dorm life. Gone are the days of minimal chores and home-cooked meals, only to be replaced by personal responsibility and accountability for food, cleanliness, and bills.
Most universities pair freshman year roommates randomly, and although some schools send out compatibility surveys in an attempt to match students with similar sleep, study, and social patterns, bad roommate matches slip through the cracks.
Beyond being irritating, having a bad roommate may affect more than your mental well-being. Both your GPA and your social life could be affected negatively by a bad living situation, with first year grades and the desire to join Greek life and other organizations reduced as a result, according to a study at Dartmouth College.
Making the best of a bad roommate situation can take time, effort, and plenty of awkward conversations. Here are the best methods to deal with a roommate who’s messy, rowdy, or just simply unbearable.
The first and foremost option is to confront the issue. If your roommate is leaving the room dirty, not doing his share, or taking from you, bring your issues to light. Avoid getting frustrated by conflicts by taking a break and physically walking off any awkward or nasty talks. Taking a step back from the situation could put matters into perspective and even reduce pent up anger and frustration.
As easy as it can be to argue and air your problems behind a phone or computer screen, communicating upfront and in person is key. Addressing the issues out loud leaves less room for diversion and ignoring the problem. Also, keep the conversations one-on-one. Things can get out of hand if your grievances are voiced in front of friends and others, potentially escalating a small complaint into a larger issue.
College can be a time of peak sexual activity, so sharing a room can become quite complicated. Beyond practicing safe sex and being aware of STDs, create a code or system that works when you want some private time. The “sock on the door handle" is a classic, but in the day and age of texting, it’s easier than ever to notify a roommate that you need the room. Set a time limit for room requests, offer trade-offs or exchanges for kicking your roommate out temporarily, and communicate what you think is fair and what is foul when it comes to “private time" in your shared room.
Another common conundrum between roommates is who contributes what when it comes to food, as well as what is personal versus sharable. Set a calendar of food contributions if you agree to share food. It can track who is responsible for the week's milk and eggs. If you find your food disappearing at a rapid rate, label it clearly as yours, and confront the issue head-on with your roommate.
If all else fails and your roommate is hell-bent on his lax living style, consulting your hallway’s residential advisor (RA) could alleviate the problem. RAs are there to serve as mediators when it comes to conflict in rooms. They can provide the perspective needed to get past misunderstandings and misinterpretations between roommates and personally recommend the best ways to go about your living situation.