A Guide to Roommate Relationships
This fall you will be returning to college and for some, it will be the first time. Depending on your experience, you may or may not have had to share a room with another person, something that comes with being a student that lives on campus. Maybe you are looking forward to roommate experiences with excitement, making or rejoining with a close friend. However, sometimes the thought of having a roommate can be met with some feelings of trepidation.
Often, we have heard stories where students come to college and end up becoming close friends with their college roommate, have friendships that last years, end up being in each other’s weddings, become business partners and other lifetime miles stones, etc. Often college roommates end up becoming like family. It is important that you approach the roommate opportunity with openness that it could be a great experience. However, keep an open mind that you and your roommate may not end up being best friends, but that does not mean that you cannot have a good living experience living with them.
A foundation of your relationship with your roommate(s) will be dependent on your mutual consideration of each other’s feelings and needs. You will find that sharing a room with another person(s) requires open, honest, and ongoing communication, cooperation, and compromise. Relationships of any kind involve a bit of work, some give and take, and an understanding of each other. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind to have a successful roommate relationship:
Take inventory of your living style and know what your needs and quirks are.
Are you messy vs. clean? Are you a morning or night person? What environment do you need to study (quiet, with music)? How often do you like to have company and when? How do you feel about sharing (microwave, fridge, clothing, etc.)? What things are you OK and not OK with sharing?
Clearly communicate what your living needs and expectations are, sooner rather than later.
Each roommate (and suite-mate if applicable) will have an opportunity at the beginning of the semester to utilize a Roommate/Suitemate Agreement, which is facilitated by your Resident Assistant. (To see more about the Agreement details, look under that section.) This is a great opportunity to reflect on your needs and preferences and have a designated time to talk with your roommate about it. Use this opportunity to set the tone.
Be upfront and honest.
Keep in mind, if you don’t communicate, your roommate won’t know what you need or expect. It is possible that you may not feel that comfortable sharing those preferences, but if you do not, you run the risk of becoming more uncomfortable later when your roommate is not meeting your expectations. For example, what if they have company late at night when you need to get up early or they enjoy eating a peanut butter and you are really allergic?
Be willing to make compromises.
A part of putting a Roommate Agreement together means that in addition to communicate what your needs are to your roommate, it means being willing to adjust some of the things you do, such as meeting at other locations on campus with a friend as opposed to having them over at your room late at night. It could mean other things such as being quieter in the morning if your roommate is not a morning person, etc.
Stetson’s Residential Living & Learning department uses features of the Housing Central housing software program to assist in the matching of roommates and assigning students to rooms. Students have the option to fill in a building preference and then their MATCHING PROFILE, which is a questionnaire designed to help match students with comparable needs. Here is generally how the system matches students:
a. Basic Information: Admission Term and Class Status
b. Gender (male, female, non-binary, etc)
c. Building Preference/Location
d. Matching profile questions include:
- Study condition preference
- Morning vs. night person
- Preference to bring a pet or live with a pet
- Where you prefer to study (library, room, etc.)
- Pet peeves
- Roommate relationship expectations (casual or close friendship)
This system assists in matching you with someone who would be comparable to your living needs, preferences, and how you live day to day so that you have the best possible living experience. It is not a fail-proof method but puts each student in a favorable position to be matched well. So, it is really important that you utilize this preference form so that you are given the best possible match. It is also important that you complete the form rather than a parent/guardian to ensure closer accuracy and better matching.
A room is a private space that should be shared equally by everyone living there. In full support of the educational mission of the university, students living on-campus are expected to view academic responsibilities as their primary goal. Therefore, the purpose of a student’s room is primarily for study and sleep, which take precedence over social privileges. As a responsible roommate, it is not appropriate to engage in any activity which would deny your roommate(s) access to the room or make them feel uncomfortable while in the room.
All residents have the right to:
- Be free of intimidation, fear, and physical or emotional harm.
- An environment conducive to sleep
- Study in one’s room free of unreasonable noise and distractions
- A healthy, clean environment and the responsibility of doing their fair share to keep the environment clean
- Respect and a reasonable level of privacy for one’s personal space
- Free access to your room without pressure or intimidation from your roommate(s)
- Reasonable and cooperative use of shared room equipment and materials (outlets, bathroom, kitchen, etc.)
- Host guests with the expectation that the guest will abide by university policies and respect the rights of the roommate(s)
- Ask that guests leave the space to accommodate, sleep, study, and comfort the roommate(s).
- Expect that your personal property will be respected and that your property is secure when it is in the room
- Expect that the rules and regulations in the Guide to Residential Living, and the Code of Community Standards, will be followed and that no one will be put at risk of harm through actions that violate policies
- Communicate issues constructively, openly, and timely—either in private or with the assistance of Residential Living and Learning staff.
The rights listed above are a suggested basis for agreements between roommates. It is worth spending time discussing these rights and using them as a basis for developing expectations between you and your roommate(s). Please remember that with every right goes the responsibility to respect that same right when it is exercised by another person(s).
Creating a Roommate Agreement is a way to set some boundaries and expectations with your roommate before problems arise. Topics range from shared living values, study time, cleanliness, sharing possessions, noise levels, temperature control and any necessary accommodations for health and wellbeing. Finding common ground early is important to maintaining a healthy dialogue.
Shortly after the semester begins, your Resident Assistant (RA) will host a community meeting to explain the roommate/suite/apartment agreement. You will be asked to meet with your roommate(s) and complete the agreement by a specific date. Your RA will be able to track your progress and follow up. Please remember that staff members are available throughout the year to revisit previous decisions should they not be working out for you and your roommate(s). You will always have the ability to make changes to the agreement at any time. Our number one priority is to assist you in making your experience at Stetson University a positive one.
We talked about this?! So, communication has broken down and now you need to approach your roommate with an issue. If this happens, it’s helpful to have some idea of how you are going to go about it.
Make it a rule to talk about the things that concern you when they become problems. When something is a problem, say something to the other before it becomes a habit or gets out of control. Don’t gossip or talk behind your roommate’s back! If you really need to talk about it with someone else, talk to your RA.
How to address an issue:
- Approach your roommate in private.
- Confirm first that it is a good time for both of you to talk. If one of you feels rushed or blindsided, they will be less able to communicate effectively.
- Be direct. Be clear about what is bothering you. If you don’t actually say that there is a problem, your roommate won’t be able to do anything about it! Subtle hints rarely work.
- Discuss the issue with regard to behavior rather than personality traits. This tactic is less likely to put your roommate on the defensive. (ex. I am uncomfortable when the room door is left unlocked when we are not here vs. You keep leaving the door unlocked)
- Be patient. Listen intently to your roommate and remember that there are two sides to every story.
- Each person should be given a chance to present what they feel the problem/issue really is.
- Revisit your roommate/suite/apartment agreement, which of your guidelines are working, and which of them needs to be reconsidered? Once you renegotiate expectations, consider posting it within the room.
- Remember that a solution will probably involve each person giving something and getting something. The solution may not be your ideal scenario, but it should be an improvement in the current state of things.
Residential Living & Learning believes that the on-campus living experience is one of the key most impactful and educational opportunities a student has while in college. Living in a shared community gives students a chance to grow socially, in maturity, and as an adult where they can learn to share life with others, communicate their needs as well, work through challenges as well as grow to understand others. These experiences help students prepare for the workforce in ways such as being an employee, community leader, business owner, etc. This certainly includes how to get along and work with people of all kinds of needs, personalities, and backgrounds.
We understand that occasional roommate conflicts may occur. Often, we do not have the immediate ability to have students change rooms anytime there is a conflict, nor do we believe that is advantageous to their personal growth. Instead, we have laid out a system to prevent as well as address any roommate conflicts.
Step 1: Roommate/Suitemate Agreements
This is the opportunity that each student, whether new or returning has the opportunity to communicate their needs upfront at the beginning of the year so they start out in an informed place and are set up for success. This form is provided for you and followed up on by the Resident Assistant to ensure that it takes place.
Step 2: Students Address Concerns Directly
Each student is encouraged to take an opportunity to speak with their roommate about whatever their concern is and see if things can be resolved by having a direct conversation. Many times, this takes care of the issue and things get worked out. Each student who feels that they need to address something with their roommate should do so in a diplomatic way and also be open to hearing from their roommate things that they may need to adjust as well (refer to the How to Approach Your Roommate section). Referring to the Roommate Agreement set at the beginning of the year and working to update it can be helpful.
Step 3: Utilize mediation option with the RA
Resident Assistants have a lot of knowledge and skills and one of those includes supporting their residents to address concerns such as living preferences. RAs can assist roommate pairs/groups in facilitating a discussion in order to have a more favorable outcome. Sometimes students prefer to utilize this option to have support and help with clear communication. After mediation, a bit of time to correct concerns should be given before taking any additional steps.
Step 4: Meet with your Residential Life Coordinator (RLC)
If the RA has completed a mediation with students involved, the students can then utilize the RLC, who is the professional staff member overseeing the building and is there to support all residential students. The RLC will gather information and work with the students to see how the concern can be resolved. This can result in the facilitation of a second mediation should the first session not have achieved the desired outcome.
Step 5: Room Change request
During the room change period, a student can put in a room change request if their needs still remain unmet. This option typically opens up a few weeks into each semester once room roster verifications and U.S. Census processes are complete. There is no guarantee that your room change requests will be granted and/or preferred living options be available. Residents should be prepared for this process to take some time to accommodate given the likeliness of available bed options, location, etc.
Step 6: Moving and Follow Up
Should you be granted a room change, you should plan to move your belongings within 48 hours to your new room (Stetson does not provide service for moving). You must complete the checkout process which includes cleaning the room prior to returning the key(s) to ensure you are not assessed damage charges. You are not to change rooms until you receive official written approval from RL&L and provided the moving instructions. Your new RLC and RA will be informed to ensure you are acclimating to your new space and/or community.