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A Guide for Successful Roommate Relationships

Moving into the Residence Halls at Michigan State University is an exciting experience. You are now a Spartan and part of a unique community. The Department of Residence Life wants to offer you some tips on how to better adjust to your new living situation. The key to a good relationship with your roommate begins with communication!

 

Living with someone can be a great opportunity to learn about yourself and others. If you have conversations with your roommate early, problems can be avoided. Whether they are people you've known since kindergarten or people you just met on move-in day, roommates can become close friends for life.

Don't forget to ask questions to REALLY get to know the person with whom you are living. Some possible questions to ask:

What's your family background like? Did you grow up with siblings?

What types of things were you involved with in high school? Did you have a job?

What makes you really happy? What are your pet peeves?

What made you choose MSU? What is your major?

What are some of your goals (personal and academic) for this year? What do you want to get out of this experience?

What time do you go to sleep?

What are your study habits?

 

My Stuff or Ours?

As roommates, you will be sharing a small space for 10 months. As crazy as it may seem at first, all of you really can fit in the room with most of your stuff. However, for things to work smoothly, it's important to discuss some issues right away. First - be fair. Make sure that you and your roommates are all allowed the same amount of space for personal belongings. Next, talk about your expectations.

Do you mind lending personal items (clothes, food, class notes, etc)?

What items are OK to share - the TV, stereo, computer, microwave, etc?

What are items we'd prefer not to share?

Do we want to buy things together - loft or carpet? If we end up moving apart, how will we settle costs?

 

Guests

As much as you are entitled to have your friends visit, each roommate has the right to sleep and study. And if your roommate is studying or sleeping, don't invite all your friends to hang out, play cards or watch the game. (Go to someone else's room!) Make sure that your roommates are comfortable having other people spend the night in the room. Don't expect your roommate(s) to live with your significant other, or move down to the study lounge every time your significant other visits.

How do you feel about guests of the same or opposite sex? How about guests staying overnight is that okay?

How much advance notice would you like when someone is coming to visit?

Are there times when you do not want to have guests in the room?

How do we deal with problems that result from having visitors?

Is it OK for my guests to remain in the room when I am not there?

 

Noise

One of the hardest adjustments in sharing a room is noise - especially if you are used to your own space. Talk about it!

Do you like the TV/stereo on when sleeping or studying?

Do you study in your room in quiet or go to the library or study lounge?

What kind of hours do you keep - night owl or early bird?

 

Cleaning the Room

Keeping the room clean is always an issue; and for those students living in suites, there's an extra room to clean... the bathroom. It's important that you talk with your roommates and suitemates and come to some agreements on cleaning.

How are we going to take care of cleaning our room and the bathroom?

What will our cleaning schedule be? Who will buy the cleaning supplies?

Do we need to come up with a shower schedule for class days?

 

Other Issues

The policies regarding smoking, drinking and drugs are clearly stated in Spartan Life. Therefore, any decision concerning these policies needs to be made by all roommates together. So, two more issues to discuss are:

Are you willing to accept consequences if you and/or your roommate are confronted by staff or other residents (for alcohol, noise, drugs, etc.)?

Is your lifestyle (or your roommate's) going to jeopardize your standing with the University?

 

Cultural Issues

If your roommate comes from a very different background, you may find that you have different customs and values that can affect your living situation and the way you handle conflict. It is important to keep the lines of communication open so that you and your roommate(s) feel comfortable discussing these differences.

If there is a problem...

In any situation where you spend a lot of time with someone, conflicts may arise. If you decide in advance how to talk about problems, they will be much easier to work out.

Rules for Good Discussion

  • From the very start of the conversation, try to stay positive and calm.
  • Focus on the behavior - not your roommate.
  • "Own" your feelings. No one can make you feel something - you choose to feel that way. Whenever possible, be sure to use ‘I’ statements.
  • Listen to your roommate's perspective. Let them speak without interruption.
  • Make sure you understand what is being said. Never assume anything.
  • Be as accepting of feedback as you are giving it.
  • Remember that this is not a win-lose situation. The goal is to find some kind of compromise with which you can all live. Try to be as objective and rational as possible.
  • Remain calm. If emotions are running too high, take a break and talk again later.
  • Work to get to the heart of the problem right away. Don't waste time on the little details.
  • If working on a roommate contract, write down your concerns separately, and then share them with your roommate. This will help to facilitate an honest and open discussion.

And when things can't be worked out, seek assistance from someone else, like your Mentor or OCAT Aide. They are available to assist you in mediating any conflict, helping you and your roommate to develop a roommate contract, or plan next steps to resolve the conflict. Do not hesitate to ask for help!

For Parents Only!

As a parent, it can be difficult to sit by while your student is experiencing a roommate conflict, and the desire to get involved is understandable. However, we encourage you to let your student try to handle the issue themselves. Remember that Residence Life staff is available to assist your student.

The Do's and Don'ts of Helping Your Student Deal with a Roommate Conflict

  • Do encourage your student to talk to their roommate about any concerns as soon as possible.
  • Do encourage your student to go to their Mentor for help.
  • Do be supportive of your student. Being involved in a roommate conflict can be very stressful and your support is crucial.
  • Do offer suggestions, but do not try to solve the problem for your student. Working out a conflict will help your student learn valuable life skills.
  • Do keep in mind that there are always two sides to any conflict. Encourage your student to consider his or her roommate's point of view.
  • Do suggest that your student be open to moving if the conflict cannot be resolved. On the other hand, don't immediately encourage your student to try to get a new room. Many times roommate conflicts can be worked out, and going through the process builds skills that cannot be gained by a "quick fix" solution such as changing rooms.
  • Do remember that roommate conflicts often take time to solve – a ‘quick fix’ is not always available.
  • Don't call Residence Life staff without talking with your student first.
  • Don’t call your student’s roommate or parents. This is more likely to escalate the conflict than resolve it.
  • Don't believe that experiencing a roommate conflict is a unique experience. Many students go through hard times with their roommates, and most are able to resolve their differences in a way that meets everyone's needs.
Don't buy into the myth that roommates have to be best friends. Often, best friends don't make the best roommates. People can coexist well without sharing all the same interests and friend groups.