The Problem with Picking a Roommate


One of the most exciting and nerve-wracking experiences of college is picking or being matched with a roommate. Roommates can either be a positive or negative addition to your college career.

Some people use roommate matching services, some choose friends that they already know as roommates and some are randomly matched by the school.

Sometimes roommate matching services and staying with friends does not work out. Even though schools try to match their students the best that they can, the matches don’t always work out like the school intended because they don’t know the students personally. Picking the wrong roommate can cause people to hold a grudge against a person they don’t even know that well or cause old friendships to end because of frustration.

Caitlin Sheehan, a Clemson student, experienced the frustration of not getting along with a roommate firsthand.

“My roommate was not respectful of me, my space, or of other people in general. She wasn’t focused on school and really only did the things she wanted to do, and if that meant having people over at 3 in the morning on a Tuesday, she did that,” said Sheehan via email of her bad experience with her ex-roommate.

Living with a roommate should be a cooperative experience. Both people have to be flexible and give and take a little bit in order for them to get along. They have to be respectful to each others schedules and lifestyles. If it is a one-way street and one roommate is being respectful but it isn’t reciprocated, then they obviously aren’t going to coexist very well.

If a roommate is being disrespectful, the more respectful roommate may feel scared or slightly threatened and not speak up about how they feel about the disrespect. They might also be tentative to speak up because they are friends with their roommate and don’t want to hurt their feelings.

“I dealt with [it] by just mentioning to her things I wasn’t comfortable with- at first, I was somewhat timid about it because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings or make her feel targeted. But, after months of her doing the same things over and over, I finally sat down with her and my RA to discuss our differences. In the end, we ended up both getting new roommates. I don’t hate her or anything, we actually had some fun times together- we were just not meant to live together!” said Sheehan via email of how she dealt with her situation.

Most bad roommates know that they are bad roommates, and probably won’t feel too blind-sighted when they are confronted by their roommate. There are kind and non-abrasive ways to deal with an incompatible roommate that can solve the issue, but it is really better to prevent all those issues in the first place. That way, the transition to college will be much smoother.

“[The key is] communication. Being open and honest from the beginning is key when living with someone in such a small space. If something bothers you, let them know right away to make sure that the other person knows from the start what is important to you, like having designated study time during the day or when it is ok to have people over,” said Sheehan via email about ways to prevent getting stuck with a bad roommate.

Even though many people get stuck with a not-so-compatible roommate, there are also roommates that get along great and form lifelong friendships.

Roommates can either be a great addition to college life or a burden. By taking steps to prevent being placed with an incompatible roommate, the transition from high school to college is made easier and more pleasant.


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