STUDENT AND THE CITY: Are students really expected to get along with their college roommate?

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Student and the City is a column dedicated to asking the big questions that all college-aged students are asking. I will explore different social concepts within our generation involving relationships, lifestyle, social media and more. I speak on my experiences and the experiences of other students on these topics.


College students are poured together from all over the country—and all over the world—and sorted into small, rinky-dink 8 by 8 foot rooms. Some dorm with their high school best friends and are torn apart over what time they should turn the light off at night. Some find a student with similar interests on a Facebook group or through a survey, and after being three feet away from each other at all times, realize they could not be less alike. The last third are paired with a random person of the same age and expected to share the same air, and toilet, every day for nine months. 

The question is: Are students really expected to get along with their college roommate? 

If there was a contest for roommate horror stories, I have a feeling I would win first prize. Having lived with two sisters all my life, I expected to have no problem sharing a space with another. I soon learned, college roommates are nothing like sisters. 

I have had five different roommates since I started school and have had some lovely experiences and some horrifying experiences. I have heard about the struggles and turmoil my friends have experienced from attempting to live with a range of different people as well. 

Turmoil is not uncommon. According to a nationwide survey conducted by the Administration of Your First College Year (YFCY), “In a sample of 31,500 students in a nationwide survey, 50.1% of women and 44.1% of men reported ‘frequent’ or ‘occasional’ conflict with roommates or housemates.”

There are so many different conflicts that can lead to war in your living space. When people move away from home for the first time, the amount of change can really take a toll on them. According to Beaumont, the transition into college can cause students stress, anxiety and depression. 

As a student, you are separated from your family, friends and classmates that you have grown comfortable with from childhood. The structure that high school class schedules provided are removed from your life and you are expected to manage your time and responsibilities yourself. School becomes more difficult and workloads increase. The long-distance relationships with stubborn high school first loves that you are still holding onto cause a lot of stress and heartache. There is a specific social expectation in place for you to live a certain way. 

All of this weight is placed upon your shoulders as you shift into a new way of life—and on top of that, you share a small little room with a stranger who is going through the same thing. 

Living in a residence hall never allows for real privacy. When life gets as overwhelming as it does when you first start college, you need time alone to sort out your thoughts or be sad or listen to loud music and stare at the ceiling. Different schedules or lifestyles or noise preferences can get in the way of this. It is understandable how frustrated a person can get from just hearing the person next to them breathe in the silence when you are about to lose it from the stress.

There are problems every single student faces when living with someone that are normal and should be anticipated. These can include differences in living preferences or issues with guests or opposing ideas of sharing. 

No matter what your problems are, the biggest issue between roommates will always be the fear of confrontation. 

No one wants to confront the person they are living with and risk awkward tension in a space you share and cannot escape. Why start a fight when you can just put up with the issue a little while longer? Regardless of how well you get along with someone, problems will pile up if they are not addressed. 

If you are given no privacy and are expected to tolerate differences while living in the same space with a stranger, how are students really expected to get along with their college roommate?