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Stand up for yourself, but know when to be flexible. (Illustration by Katelyn McManis, Columbia College Chicago)

How To Set Boundaries With Your College Roommate

You don’t have to be best friends, but if you get on the same page early on, your living situation will go a lot more smoothly.

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You don’t have to be best friends, but if you get on the same page early on, your living situation will go a lot more smoothly.

Moving into college and living with a new roommate or two can be exciting at first, but it can also prove stressful at times. Choosing the wrong person to room with can seriously impact your academic achievement, health and social life. Therefore, it’s especially important for you to clearly communicate your boundaries with your roommate to avoid any unpleasant squabbles and headaches down the road. Here are some tips on how to clearly establish boundaries with your roommate.

1. Set up a meeting to discuss needs and rules as soon as everyone moves in.

Although it may be tempting to immediately figure out everyone’s sleep and shower schedule, you want to avoid suddenly delving into an important conversation like that with your roommates without warning. On the other hand, you don’t want to wait too long to discuss boundaries, or else bad feelings may fester in the future. Set up a certain time and place for a conversation, and it won’t hurt to make a list of what you want to address — just in case.

2. Ask for permission instead of saying “sorry” later on.

Even when asking to borrow a fork or having friends over late at night, it’s important that you ask your roommate first. It may be tempting sometimes for you to think that your roommate will be okay with your decisions, but instead of assuming and having to explain your actions to your roommate later on, just ask. What might be comfortable and convenient for you may not be for them. You also might be surprised to see that your roommate is okay with a request that you thought they would say “no” to.

3. Don’t be afraid to say “no.”

You may want to look nice and amicable by saying “yes” every time your roommate suddenly asks you for a favor or invites you to a party. It’s important, however, to be honest. Don’t say “yes” when you actually want to say “no.” If you’re afraid they’ll take offense to something, feel free to briefly explain your decision. Saying “yes” to everything may essentially make you look like you will acquiesce to all of your roommate’s needs and will eventually transform into resentment.

4. Be mindful when it comes to space and cleanliness.

Having a conversation with your roommate concerning cleanliness and chores is important, but it’s even more crucial that you stick to what you and your roommates agreed upon. Don’t just leave your dirty dishes in the sink or your dirty laundry in the communal bathroom. Instead, try to clean up as you go. Try to always be aware of the space you’re taking up and the mess you’re leaving behind. Organize a system with your roommates so you know which space is shared and which is unshared.

5. Don’t shy away from confrontation.

No matter how much you love your roommate, there will be situations where they overstep some of your boundaries, intentionally or unintentionally. This might result in you feeling frustrated or shocked over your roommate’s actions. It’s important however, to speak to your roommate and calmly remind them of the house rules you have set together. If you refuse to confront your roommate and try to gloss over their actions, they may start to take advantage of your silence. Don’t be afraid to speak up and tell your roommate what’s on your mind in a mature and respectful way.

6. Don’t feel like you have to be best friends with your roommate.

A lot of people feel like they have to be close to their roommate, but the truth is, you two won’t always be best friends. You may actually be surprised by the fact that you and your roommate might hardly ever encounter each other due to schedule differences. It’s nice to hang out with your roommate once in a while, but don’t force it. Instead, don’t be afraid to make friends outside of your room, who you may actually have more in common with. There are plenty of friendly people out there who would love to get to know you.

7. Just enjoy the experience.

It may be easy for some of you to think, “I can’t wait till I get my own place.” The truth is, you may actually start to miss having someone to talk to every day as soon as you get home. Your roommate may drive you crazy at times, but those moments are sure to become distant memories that you can laugh over in the future. Although one or two years may seem like a long time to live with someone, it usually goes by in the blink of an eye in college. That being said, just make sure you try to enjoy the time you have with your roommate.

Writer Profile

Alice Han

Pepperdine University
Communication Studies (Minor in Journalism)

My name is Alice Han, and I am currently a third-year student at Pepperdine University majoring in communication studies and minoring in journalism. I am originally from Los Angeles, California, but currently reside in Alaska.

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