How to Deal With Roommate Conflict

Although many colleges attempt to match students with compatible interests, conflicts that arise between roommates due to differences in values and personalities are sometimes inevitable.
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by Sarah Fudin
Community Manager, University of Southern California's online MAT degree program

Leaving for college can be a challenging experience. For students who have roommates, this may be the first time they've lived with people who aren't family members. Although many colleges attempt to match students with compatible interests, conflicts that arise between roommates due to differences in values and personalities are sometimes inevitable.


Maintaining a harmonious roommate relationship requires courtesy, mutual respect, lots of communication and an acceptance of others' differences. Here are ten tips for surviving and thriving with college roommates:

Open communication is one of the keys to a successful roommate relationship. Let your roommate know your likes and dislikes up front, and be open to hearing theirs. If your roommate does something that bothers you, don't let things simmer. Small problems can snowball if they aren't addressed. Friendly communication will keep your roommate relationship on an even keel.

Respect boundaries
Roommates who lay down some ground rules have a better chance of respecting each other's boundaries. If you like to turn in by midnight during the week, let your roommate know that being kept up until 3 A.M. will be a problem.

Don't be a borrower
It may be tempting to borrow a roommate's gadgets or clothing, or to help yourself to their snacks when they're not around, but this can be one of the biggest sources of conflict. Keep the peace by keeping your hands off each other's stuff.

Practice courtesy
Common courtesy goes a long way when it comes to roommates. Avoid being too noisy or having too many visitors when your roommate is home.

Keep your space clean
Roommates who are slobs are only popular with other slobs. Respect the space you share with your roommate by keeping your area organized and neat.

Share your interests
Lose your shyness and open up to your roommate by talking about your interests. Your roommate may have a different cultural or social background. Be willing to learn more about it. You and your roommate are living together, so it makes sense to try and be more than strangers.

When a problem arises, don't let it turn into a stalemate situation. If you're smart enough to get into college, you should be able to work together to come up with compromises that you both can live with.

Be willing to change
College is for learning and growing. Don't get stuck with thinking patterns and habits that you brought from home. As time passes, be flexible with your roommate and adjust your thinking as new situations require.

Look for other friends
If you're lucky enough to get a roommate who becomes a friend, you don't need to spend all your time out of class together. Take some pressure off the relationship by branching out and doing things with other people. Don't feel hurt if your roommate does the same.

Have fun
Keep your sense of humor and try to enjoy the roommate experience.

Some students who are away from home for the first time are unable to handle their new-found freedom. Others bring unhealthy habits developed in high school with them to college. If you're one of the unlucky few who ends up with a roommate who's out of control and you find that your studies are suffering, talk to your dorm RA (Resident Assistant). If you're in an off-campus apartment, it may unfortunately be time to look for a new roommate.

Getting to know a college roommate and figuring out how to live together can be one of college's great learning experiences. When the relationship is successful, roommates can build a friendship or establish a contact that will last a lifetime. Even if you realize you'll never be good friends with your roommate, using these tips to avoid conflict will help maintain an enjoyable, productive atmosphere in your college dorm or apartment.

Sarah Fudin is the community manager for the University of Southern California's online MAT degree program, which prepares students to earn their teacher certification. You can follow Sarah on Twitter @USCTeacher. Outside of work Sarah enjoys running, reading, and Pinkberry frozen yogurt.

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