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Navigating Roommate Relationships

Sharing a living space with a roommate can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your college journey. Whether you discover a new interest, learn new skills, or develop a strong friendship, living with a roommate can be an enjoyable adventure. Nevertheless, sharing a living space also presents its share of obstacles. It's natural for conflicts to arise in roommate relationships, and it's crucial for everyone residing in the same room or apartment to address and resolve these issues.

University Housing Services is here to help you with any conflict you experience with your roommates/suitemates while living on campus. Below is a guide for students living across campus in our residence halls and university apartments. The guide provides tools and information to utilize when working through conflicts with your roommate. Attempt to use some of the tactics listed below in talking with your roommate, and if you need assistance navigating your roommate relationship further, contact your RA/CA or RHC.

Parents, Families & Mentors:

Although living with someone may be challenging for your student at times, it is also a great opportunity to learn and practice life-long skills such as patience, communication, advocacy, and compromise. Parents, families, and mentors can greatly help their student transition to having an enjoyable roommate relationship.

Review our document on how to Assist Your Student Through Their Shared Living Experience


For advice on how to live with a roommate, read the tips below around Connection, Communication, Compromise, and Care.

  • Connect

Having a wide array of emotions is normal when you are preparing to live with a new roommate(s). Before moving in, you should consider reaching out to your roommate(s). Think about your own needs so that you can express them to your roommate(s) accurately and openly when planning for the upcoming year.

  1. What kind of environment do you feel most secure?
  2. How would you describe your lifestyle to a total stranger?
  3. What do you want and need out of a roommate?

Answering these questions together will give you an opportunity to get to know one another and start the planning process for your shared living experience. As a reminder, getting to know someone over the phone or by looking over their social media profiles can be hard, so be cautious about making judgments about your new roommate(s) before you meet them in person. Additional items you might want to consider discussing:

  • Sharing belongings (food, clothing, etc.)
  • Substance Use (alcohol and other drugs)
  • Guests
  • Noise
  • Privacy
  • Cleanliness

**Be sure to visit the  Move-In page  for a list of what to bring and what not to bring to campus.**

  • Communication

As a general reminder, everyone has different beliefs, values, experiences, communication styles, and expectations. The same applies to you and your roommate. While living together, you may become the best of friends or only see each other when you’re in your room. No matter how close you are, you must work together to establish and maintain a positive living environment. Consciously choosing a compassionate attitude can make living with another person easier for everyone. The most important elements of living with a roommate include:

  • Open & Honest Communication
  • Respect
  • Cooperation & Collaboration
  • Boundaries
  • Flexibility

Typically, the most significant roommate conflicts begin when personal expectations do not match reality. To avoid this, talk to one another about your needs for a healthy living environment, including your quirks, needs, and pet peeves. Even if you’ve known your roommate for years before living together, make sure you share your expectations openly. Having those difficult conversations at the beginning is vital to creating a successful living relationship. To ensure you have an easier transition into the conversations, your RA or CA will complete a Nest Call with you and your roommate. During the Nest Call, you will work together to fill out a  Roommate Agreement. The agreement can be revisited throughout the year as a tool to help defuse disagreements or change as you each realize what you need to succeed in your living environment.

  • Compromise
While living together, you and your roommate might disagree, and a conflict might be the product of that disagreement. Conflict is a normal part of life, especially when living with others. Your needs might have changed since the beginning of the year, or you may feel that your rights as a roommate have been violated. When instances like that occur, you need to communicate with one another and revisit your Roommate Agreement. No matter what started the conflict, we must learn to manage conflict in a healthy, productive manner. Most of the conflicts we’ve seen between roommates begin because of poor communication or because of the pet peeves of an individual. Addressing the conflict as soon as it occurs reduces the likelihood of the conflict escalating, unlike if the problem is ignored.
  • Care

Demonstrating empathy and care during roommate conflicts will help as you and your roommate(s) work to Connect, Communicate, and Compromise. Below are some tips to help de-escalate a conflict.

Tips for De-Escalating a Conflict

  • Breathe!
  • Make sure you’re speaking at a respectful pace and volume
  • Acknowledge that people may have different viewpoints than you
  • If you realize that you’re in the wrong, apologize
  • Try to keep the conflict just between you and the other person
  • Be mindful of the time and place that you decide to have a discussion
  • Be aware of your body language and eye contact
  • Be clear about what’s bothering you and what you want using "I" Statements
  • If the other person is not being clear, ask questions for clarification
  • Try not to use words that place blame and may make the other person defensive
  • Consider compromise when finding a solution
  • Be an active listener
  • Withhold judgment
  • Remove anything that may distract either of you from the conversation
  • Be patient; it may take time to find a solution

You and Your Roommates All Have Rights in Your Shared Living Space:

  • To study free from undue interference
  • To sleep in a safe, quiet environment
  • To converse on the phone with family and friends while being mindful of others’ sleeping and studying schedules
  • To have guests visit
  • To ask guests to leave
  • To live in a clean, comfortable space
  • To have personal property respected
  • To customize the space
  • To engage in respectful, effective conversation

If you have attempted all the tools mentioned above but need further assistance with your roommate relationship, contact your RA/CA or RHC. They will be able to provide additional information about the room change process within housing.