College Roommate Challenges

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My Kid Has a Terrible Roommate!

As the mother of a college student and the creator of this site, I spend a fair amount of time on college parent websites, Facebook groups and chats.

Not surprisingly, these groups follow a fairly predictable cycle of comments.

July: What kind of mattress topper? Where do we park during move-in day?

August: I am so dreading the move-in and leaving my child at college!

September: I’m worried about my child, is she making friends? My child is already sick–so many germs.

October: My child’s roommate is awful!

As we are now in October, I thought it was a great time to explore….the Roommate Wars.

Top College Roommate Problems

My Roommate is a Slob

Whether your kid is a neat-freak or takes a more “relaxed” approach to tidiness, if she is rooming with someone who is extremely messy, it can take a toll.

While we parents may silently sit back and remember how we used to tell our little ones to “pick up after yourselves, you’re going to have to live with someone besides your brother someday”-the truth is a super messy roomie can cause stress.

While the kids have been on campus for a few months now, they are still adjusting. Especially freshmen. They’ve been used to having an entire house to roam and in many cases, their own room. Now, they’re in close quarters with one, two, three or more people. That alone is a big change.

Throw in a chaotic environment with dirty clothes, pizza boxes, papers and junk filling the already small space and things can get quite unpleasant. And quite possibly, quite odorous.

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My Roommate Has Sex When I’m in the Room

Judging from the parent discussion forums, this is a very common complaint. VERY COMMON.

Just because it’s common, however, doesn’t make it super comfy for the unwilling voyeur.

Let’s get real. College students are having sex. A lot of sex. That’s reality.

But most college students probably don’t want to bear witness to the sights and sounds of their roomie being intimate with a partner. That’s just not cool.

Kids have a tough time objecting to this for some reason, with the non-sex having roomie leaving the room, sleeping elsewhere or spending time at a friend’s room. While maybe this is a reasonable accommodation from time to time, nobody wants to be kicked out of their own room on a regular basis.

It can be, in a word, awkward.

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My Roommate Smokes Weed or Vapes in the Room

While vaping may be new, smoking weed certainly is not. I remember the girls next to my freshman room in Marycrest Hall, stuffing a towel between the door jam and the floor in a unsuccessful effort to keep their pot fumes in their room.

If your child rooms with a smoker or vap-er, he could understandably be worried about disciplinary or legal issues. Not cool.

My Roommate Doesn’t Respect My Boundaries

Wow, there are some doozies in this category. I’ve heard about the following, just to name a few.

  • Snagging food from a roomie’s private stash
  • Borrowing clothes without asking
  • Taking money, prescription drugs or other valuable items
  • Inviting others to stay in the room and sometimes even in the roomie’s bed when the roomie is away

My Roommate Doesn’t Do His/Her Share

If this isn’t an age-old complaint, I don’t know what is. In fact, your child probably has already faced this issue if he or she has siblings at home. Let’s get real, it’s likely good practice for when your kid has a partner of his or her own.

While there isn’t a huge load of housework for in a dorm room, things still need to be done. Rugs need vacuumed, trash needs taken out, an in-room bathroom needs lots of TLC, etc. All students are busy in college and nobody wants to be stuck doing someone else’s dirty work.

College Roommate Solutions

Soooo, how about some solutions? Of course your kid should be working these problems out on his or her own (because you know, adulting), but that doesn’t mean you can’t offer some advice.

First, a few basic suggestions for all sorts of roommate problems:

  • Have a direct conversation with your roommate–it may not be fun, but it should be the starting block
  • If your dorm uses roommate agreement, see if it helps
  • If you still don’t have any luck, try to enlist the neutral assistance of your resident advisor

Now, on to some quick recommendations for some specific roommate challenges…

The Messy Roommate

This one is something that can be tough to overcome. How about offering some cleaning supplies to make things a bit easier?

Who can resist a dust-buster?

Or, the ever-popular white board? Use it to divide tasks. Maybe shaming the messy roommate into doing his or her share of the dorm work will help…

The Sex-Having in the Room Roommate

How awkward, right? Depending on your child’s tolerance for confrontation, there are lots of options for this one:

  • Talk it out
  • Turn the lights on
  • Invite a friend over (maybe a crowd is what is needed to discourage the amorous roommate)
  • Agree to a “schedule”

Bottom line, this one can be hard to manage.

The Weed-Smoking, Vaping Roommate

This is a tough one. This is one where your kid needs to lay down the law, given the potential legal or disciplinary ramifications.

At the very least, get a room purifier!

The No Boundaries Roommate

Again, the first option is the obvious solution and applies to all categories. If you don’t like how things are going, start a conversation about it. Hopefully that will work. But, don’t hold your breath.

If confrontation doesn’t work for your kid, suggest he install some boundaries of his own.

If the problem is sticky fingers (food, tampons, makeup, you name it), your student could go old-school lock-up. If there is room, this huge lockbox can serve as a secure hideout for his or her “good stuff”.

For an in-your face boundary, how about a lovely privacy screen? Bonus: Can also be used as a defense for the sex-having roomie.

It’s Only for the School Year

If all else fails, chalk up those bad roomie situations to a learning experience. Living with others isn’t always fun, but it is certainly an opportunity for growth. Good luck!

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