So you're going to live with a roommate. What's that all about?
Living with a roommate is an iconic part of the college experience. For many students, living in a residence hall is the first time they've shared space with individuals outside of their family of origin. This is an exceptional opportunity for personal growth and learning, but it can also pose some challenges. Read through the resources below to help your transition to communal living.
Building a Healthy Roommate Relationship
Understand that this is a new experience and time of transition for both roommates. This may be a completely new experience for everyone involved so patience and communication is key!
Just like a job interview, your new roommate is getting to know you just as much as you’re getting to know them. The first few conversations that you and your roommate(s) have can set everyone up for success if you all are able to be open with each other about what each of you bring to the space. Share your excitement and energy to make your roommate feel welcomed.
Share what matters to you when it comes to cleaning, guests and your study/sleep schedule! It’s okay if this changes over time, just keep your roommate(s) informed.
Use residential programming and staff to help get to know your roommate(s). There’s quite a few ways to get involved in the halls that can help you get to know your roommate(s). Consider attending a community social or planning a program with them!
Questions to ask your roommate
Some students welcome news friends in the room, others prefer to keep the space more private. For many students, their feelings on daytime guests do not extend to the overnight hours. Make sure you and your current or potential roommate discuss how guests will be handled and approved.
Every student comes to UD excited for their college experience. College is a great time to meet new people and explore different activities. With that in mind, everyone's social like looks different and it's important to be honest with your roommate about your habits and expectations.
For example, are you an all-night gamer? Have early sports practice? A late night rehearsal? Be sure to chat with your roommate about how these impact your shared space.
Some room supplies might make sense to share, others may be off limits. Some things to discuss with your roommate:
- Splitting the microfridge fee
- Will you share a TV or both bringa a TV
- Food shared or not shared
- Cleaning supplies
- Shampoo and soap
What Happens When Conflict Arises
Conflict is a normal part of interpersonal relationships when two or more people have differing opinions about an important issue that they care about.
Some roommate conflicts that arise are regarding
- Room arrangement
- Sleep/study schedule
These usually arise when people are living with each other for the first time and are navigating the new environment. Knowing these before meeting your roommate can guide your conversation to proactively minimize conflict!
- Start with yourself: What is your ideal solution? What do you or the other person need to do to move forward?
- Get a sense of the other side: Try to understand why the other person sees the situation in the way that they do and why they feel the way that they feel. They may have additional information that you don’t know yet. It’s okay if they’re not ready to talk about it yet; you can schedule a time in the future to do so at a better time.
- Explain your perspective: Be direct about your concerns so they know exactly what you would like to talk about. Use “I Statements” where you explain how you perceive the situation and the emotions that it entails. Take your time to explain your thoughts - it can be stressful to have these kinds of conversations so be patient with yourself and the other person while you each get your thoughts across.
- Talk through options: Share what your ideal solution is and allow the other person to do so as well. Talk about what’s feasible and realistic and what isn’t. Be honest about what feels right for you!
- Write out next steps: Find a common space to write out the outcome of your conversation. When you come to an agreement, write out the guidelines and the timeline for upholding these guidelines. Make a plan to check in with each other moving forward to ensure that the plan still works for everyone.
Your Resident Assistant is a great resource for you as you navigate through a conflict! RAs are trained extensively on conflict and strategies for resolution so don’t hesitate to ask them for assistance if you need it.
FAQs for Parents, Families and Loved Ones
Living with someone new for the first time can be a stressful but exciting time for your student. There is ample opportunity to learn important life-long skills such as communication, empathy, resilience and negotiation in a way that is different from anything your student may have ever experienced. It can be tough to hear that your student might be navigating a conflict with their roommate(s) but you are in a critical position to support and guide your student through it.
How can I best support my student when they tell me about a conflict they’re having with someone in their hall?
Recognize it as an opportunity for your student to learn valuable conflict resolution skills. These are skills that will follow them for the rest of their lives, in their personal and professional relationships.
If it’s regarding their roommate(s), ask them about their Roommate Agreement, which gives your student space to work with their roommate(s) to decide on guidelines for the shared space.
Encourage them to talk with the other person directly about the concerns that they have. Communicating over text can make it difficult to convey tone and body language so encourage face-to-face communication if possible. Your student should communicate with them directly, not their friend or someone else, since your student has the best insight into the concerns at hand. If your student doesn’t want to talk with the other person alone, they should talk with their RA about having a mediated conversation.
Talk with your student about potential resolutions for the situation that are feasible and realistic for all parties involved. Talk to your student about connecting with their Resident Assistant or Professional Staff member if they would like to discuss additional options.
Remind your student that conflict is a normal part of human relationships! It can be scary at first, but there are many possible options moving forward that your student should be empowered to use. Remember that your student should choose what feels best for them.
- Your student will have a Resident Assistant (RA) and Residence Hall Coordinator (RHC) who are available within their hall to talk through any issues they may have while living there.
- Both RAs and RHCs are well trained in all of our campus resources and conflict resolution strategies to discuss how your student might resolve their concerns.
- When your student moves in, their RA will talk with them about filling out the Roommate Agreement form in Roompact. This allows students to talk through different facets of their shared living space to get on the same page about what to expect while living there. Encourage your student to take their time to fill it out and ask their RA if they’re having difficulty working through it with their roommate(s)
Can I go to my student’s RA or the Professional Staff member for an update regarding my student’s situation?
No. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal regulation that protects every student’s record/communication and prevents the RHC from sharing specific information about any student.
The RHC can, however, share general information about how certain housing processes work. We recommended that you work with your student to discuss how they would like to communicate process updates to you.
If your student has an open space in their room, they are required to keep that space open, as another student can move in at any time. We want all of our students to thrive in their living spaces and moving into a clean, open environment can make the moving process much easier on all parties.
Students may not intentionally dissuade or discourage newly assigned roommates from moving into the room. Intimidating a newly assigned student is a policy violation, which can lead to termination of the residence hall space without release from the financial obligation of the Student Housing Contract.
Residence Life & Housing is part of the Division of Student Life, which advances equity and inclusion, deepens student learning and drives holistic development through education, experiences and communities.