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How To Set Boundaries With Your College Roommate

Charli Moore Sep 08, 2022

Whether you’re starting college and moving in with someone new or heading back to your dorm room to be greeted by a familiar face, living with other people isn’t always smooth sailing.

My advice? Having those awkward conversations about what’s OK and what’s not cool at the start can save you a load of drama and disagreements further down the road.

That said, it’s not always easy to speak up and set boundaries. To help you feel confident and comfortable in your approach, we’ve put together some handy tips. 


Set Expectations

It’s vital that you lay out what you expect from your roommate on day one. Talk to them about what values you live by and explain what you’re looking for from your college experience. If your expectations don’t align, work out a way to compromise so that you’re both happy and feel good about living together.


Schedule Time To Talk

Arrange a time to talk to your roommate, don’t launch into a serious conversation in the middle of a Netflix binge. You’re more likely to communicate everything you need to say, and they’re more likely to take it on board, if you sit down at a specific time to talk things through. It’s a good idea to write things down too, that way you stay focused and don’t forget anything.


Decide On a Set of Ground Rules

Although it’s good to set your expectations, having a set of clear ground rules that cover the basics can help to avoid any confusion. Talk to your roommate and agree on how you’re going to manage:

-       Quiet times/lights out

-       What’s shared and what’s not

-       Decorating

-       Personal space

-       General cleanliness/room chores

-       Having friends over

-       Protocol when the agreed ground rules are broken


Be Honest

Don’t hide any aspect of your personality or adjust to fit with their expectations when you meet. Equally, be accepting of who they are and always try to find middle ground. Strive to be open with your roommate about things that bother you from the first instance, don’t be afraid to tell them the truth about how you feel. 


Be Reasonable

Best laid plans go wrong, and people make mistakes, so if you find yourself in a situation where your roommate has disregarded the ground rules you both agreed to, just step back, and take a breath. Try to understand their perspective and explain why their actions have upset you. Revisit the rules you both agreed to and discuss how you can both move forward. 


Be Kind

Throughout your time living together, remember that kindness begins with understanding and that being flexible will enable you to avoid hurtful conflicts and reach a compromise more easily. Recognize that building long-lasting friendships with roommates takes time and commitment from both sides and it isn’t always going to be easy.


Ultimately, taking the time to set boundaries and working with your roommate to achieve a happy and harmonious dorm will lead to a much more enjoyable experience of college life.


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