One of the exciting things about going to college for the first time is getting roommates. Unfortunately, far too often that “exciting experience” can feel more like a nightmare. Roommate problems are a common complaint among college freshmen. But, because so many universities across the country require students to live on campus their first year, there’s often no escaping dorm life and the roommates who come with it.
College is hard enough on its own for new students. You have to handle being away from home, adjusting to a new schedule, and feeling like a full-blown “adult” for the first time. Dealing with difficult roommates on top of everything else can be overwhelming.
You might not be able to change the personality or habits of a complete stranger. You might not even be able to get a different dorm or switch who you’re living with.
But, there are things you can do to deal with difficult college roommates. Let’s cover a few tips that can make dorm life easier for you.
Talk Things Out
If you have problems with your roommate, chances are you aren’t the only one feeling the tension. Unfortunately, the longer you ignore the elephant in the dorm, the bigger it will become.
One of the best things you can do is sit down and talk with your roommate. If you have more than one, hold a “meeting” so everyone can openly and freely express themselves. Even though it might feel easier to do a group text or write an email, it’s important to communicate these issues in person. If you’re not sure what to bring up, consider some of the following topics.
- Your individual needs
- Problems you can’t ignore
- Habits that are causing issues
- Unfair actions
Often, an open conversation can make a big difference and will help to strike a balance between you and your difficult roommates. It’s important to remember that you’re all strangers coming from different walks of life. They might not realize the things they are doing are bothersome to you because it’s what they’re used to. You might be doing things they don’t like, too. Having a conversation will clear the air for everyone.
If you talk and things don’t change, consider continuing the conversation with your RA. They might be able to serve as a mediator and make it easier for a healthy, productive conversation to take place.
Don’t Spend So Much Time in Your Room
Your dorm room is supposed to be a safe and comfortable place while you’re in college. It’s normal to want to hang your favorite posters and pictures, decorate your corner to fit your personality, and hang out in bed listening to music, studying, and eating bowl after bowl of ramen.
But, when you have a difficult roommate, it’s often better to spend less time in your dorm. That doesn’t mean you need to become a partier. Instead, fill your time between classes with activities and hobbies that interest you. Try things like
- Joining campus clubs
- Going to the movies
- Getting a study room at the library for you and your friends
- Working out at the campus gym
It might not seem fair to feel like you “can’t” be in your room. But, keep in mind that you’ll only have these particular roommates for a year. Many colleges allow you to pick (or at least request) your roommates after your freshman year. So, if you’re having difficulties with your current ones, spend this year building strong friendships and having fun. Next year, you can spend more time in your dorm with people you get along with!
Take Care of Yourself
You’re not going to be able to avoid being in your dorm 24/7. So, when you have to be “home,” it’s important to identify coping strategies that work for you. Your mental health shouldn’t be compromised because of a bad roommate. Try distracting yourself from the unpleasant environment through things like studying or watching Netflix. Soothe yourself by listening to your favorite music. Or, try things like deep breathing, mindfulness, or meditation to reduce stress and find an inner balance.
Stress is already a common problem for college students. It can lead to issues like
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Weight gain/loss
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the stress of your roommate situation, consider reaching out to mental health resources on campus. Most universities across the country have some type of program available or even a counselor on staff that can help you manage your stress and take care of your mental wellness. If you know that some of your roommate’s issues also stem from mental health struggles, including depression, encourage them to get help too.
College is meant to be an exciting and unforgettable stage of life. Don’t let it get tainted by bad roommates. You can’t control everything, but you can control how you react and respond to the situation. Keep these ideas in mind if you’re dealing with difficult dormmates, and remind yourself that things won’t be this way forever.