Connecting with Roommates
Our goal is to provide the best possible support services to help you achieve the roommate relationship you want. Living with another person is an adjustment, and you and your roommate may not always agree. It’s still possible to have a respectful living environment that allows you each to thrive.
Creating a positive living experience for you and your roommates takes forethought, trust, and good communication. Below are tips about questions to ask so you can establish a strong roommate relationship and stay ahead of (or work through) any concerns.
Remember that you will grow a lot as a college student. This may be the first time you are making rules/decisions by yourself, and this may mean that your needs and preferences change. That is to be expected; it is part of what makes college an exciting time. It also means that it will be important to regularly revisit your agreements with your roommate(s).
Reminder: After you arrive, your Community Advisor will be available to help you have conversations with your roommate (more information below).
Know and Communicate What You Want
An important part of establishing a successful relationship with your roommate is for you to take time to know and communicate what you need from your living situation. Whether you have always shared a room with someone or this will be your first time, consider what is necessary for you to be comfortable and successful.
Remember, you will be making your own rules and decisions once you are at college.
Think about what ideal communication will look like before you move in. Will you use text messaging? Social media? Email? Another application?
If possible, we recommend trying a video conference before moving in so you can get used to one another’s communication styles.
It can be hard to be direct and assertive with someone you just met, but honesty and transparency are often important when negotiating common expectations. If you are nervous about stating what you need, practice with a close friend or family member before reaching out to your roommates.
Even if you don’t share the same concerns, it is important that you listen to your roommate with an open mind. If they are deciding to share something, the concern is important to them, so you owe them the respect of listening with compassion. Be empathetic, work towards understanding, and, if necessary, remind yourself of a time when you felt something was important but the other person didn't understand. What did you want at that moment that you can now do for your roommate?
Note: No form of discrimination, xenophobia, or bias/harassment will be tolerated in our on-campus community. We are committed to fostering an inclusive and engaged community and this means we value the health, safety, and personal well-being of all residents and staff. Residents with any concerns can choose to communicate with their Community Advisor, building staff, and/or the University's Bias Response and Referral Network.
Offensive, disrespectful language is not accepted in our communities and should not be a part of how you communicate with your roommate. If you’re upset, ask to pause the conversation and continue once you have had time to process through it.
One common area for disagreement between roommates is regarding having guests in your space. Whether they are friends, classmates, or a date/romantic partner, it is important for roommates to communicate about hosting guests in your space.
Setting up an agreement about guests should be an explicit part of your pre-move-in communications with your roommate or one of the first conversations when you arrive. Items to ask include:
- Do you plan to invite guests (friends, classmates, dates, etc.) to your room/apartment?
- How often will guests be welcome?
- Are you comfortable with overnight guests?
- Are any of your answers different if the individual is of a different gender?
- How will you communicate to your roommate(s) that you plan to invite a guest over?
Conflict is a normal and natural part of any living arrangement. You may need to make compromises, but roommate relationships are an investment that can lead to positive, lifelong friendships. Even if you already know and consider your roommate to be a good friend, living in the same space will likely mean you will have a different relationship than you’ve had in the past.
You should expect and prepare for conflict to arise around any number of topics. Here are three of the biggest areas where conflicts develop, along with some questions to help you think about what you will share with your roommate(s). We encourage you to talk about these items before coming to campus, and your CA will be there to help you navigate any issues that might develop.
Disagreements can happen when 1) expectations were not clearly communicated, or 2) when agreed-upon expectations are not respected.
Questions to start a conversation
Do you want to share any belongings or expenses?
- Are there belongings you are comfortable with sharing with your roommate(s) (for example, cleaning supplies)? If yes, how will you designate the items that are available to share versus the things that are yours alone?
- Are there expenses you want to share? If yes, how do you want to do that (for example, will you trade off who buys, or will one roommate give money to the other)?
How clean do you need your space?<
- Do you hate it when things are messy? Or do you feel uncomfortable if things are too neat?
- How will you compromise if your roommate has different cleaning habits?
- How regularly will you clean your own space?
- What shared spaces will you have, and how will you share cleaning them?
Being in college means you will be able to make your own rules about things like how late to stay up and when to have friends over. It will be important for you to talk about these things with your roommates as your behavior will impact them as well.
Questions to start a conversation
What do you need to be able to sleep?
- How many hours of sleep do you need? Are you a night owl or an early riser?
- How will your schedule be different during the week than the weekend?
- What would prevent you from getting quality sleep (for example, noise or light levels)?
Will you have food in your room?
- Are there types of food you do not want to have in your room (for example, foods with strong smells)?
- How quickly should the trash be taken out if food is thrown away?
- Do you have food you are willing to share?
- If you share a fridge/microwave, how do you want to divide space and cleaning responsibilities?
Your values may differ from your roommate(s). You may also find that your values change in college.
That is expected; it’s part of what makes college an exciting time. No one is saying you have to agree with your roommate(s) on everything, but you will need to listen to and respect each other.
Questions to start a conversation
What values are most important to you?
- What are your most basic and fundamental beliefs? What is most important to you?
What is your conflict style?
- How do you respond to conflict? Are you comfortable saying when you have a concern, or do you try to solve the problem yourself?
- What are your “deal breakers”, and where are you willing to compromise?
- Are you comfortable having discussions when you are angry, or do you require time to calm down first?
We're Here to Help
Your Community Advisor will reach out during the first month of the semester to offer assistance with completing your Roommate Agreement.
You may also request facilitated mediation with your CA or Residence Director. CAs may be helpful if you want the facilitator to have knowledge and experience with what it’s like to live on your floor, while your RD brings professional experience in mediating roommate conversations. We want you to have a successful roommate relationship, so you should feel welcome to contact these staff members.
It can be tempting to seek a new room assignment at the first sign of disagreement or conflict. This is an understandable response to the prospect of needing to have a difficult conversation to resolve issues particularly if you don't have previous experience doing this. However, it’s important that you try to work on any issues contributing to any conflict before requesting a room change.
Roommate relationships are an investment, and they take time. As such, remind yourself that getting a new room/roommate does not guarantee you will have a better relationship than the one you’ve already invested in.
Most of our buildings are full each year, so we have very few open spaces available to support room changes. It may be necessary for you to move to another building if you request a roommate change, and it is not guaranteed that your new building will be near your old one or that it will match your top preferences for location or room type. We appreciate your understanding.