Skip to main content
Living on campus is one of the most significant learning experiences for college students outside of the classroom. For many students, living in a college residence hall provides the first opportunity to share a living space with other people. To promote a living environment that is conducive to sleeping and studying, as well as one that suits the needs of all residents, the Office of Student Life recommends that all residential students be mindful of the following best practices to ensure a positive experience while living on campus.
All residents living in shared rooms on first-year floors are required to complete a Roommate Agreement. This agreement is designed to provide an outline of major talking points for roommates to discuss at the beginning of the academic year. Keep in mind that you will have to compromise with your roommate(s) because you are going to have different expectations. Prior to completing the roommate agreement, residents should take some time to review and complete a Personal Assessment to identify their own living preferences and ensure that they are prepared to advocate for their needs during the completion of the roommate agreement.

As is the case with any situation involving more than one person, open communication is vital. After moving in, take some time to get to know your roommate(s). Go to campus events together, see a movie or grab dinner. Capitalize on this time to understand each other. Understanding is the first step toward building a healthy roommate relationship.

Communicate about HOW you each do things. A chores chart is a fine idea, but what if someone’s idea of “cleaning the bathroom” is wiping down a sink while someone else mops, cleans the toilet, launders the bathmat and towels, and scrubs the shower? Can everyone agree that “your turn to wash the dishes” includes putting them away once they’re dry, or is that a separate chore on someone else’s list? These seem like tiny details if you’ve got a chores schedule worked out, until you add in the stresses of classes and other commitments.

Talk about guests. While the university has a standing guest policy, it is important that you work with your roommates to identify how you want to handle guests in your shared living space. This conversation should include what days of the week guests can be present, times they can be present, and how you plan to contact each other to request to bring a guest over. Additionally, talk about what guests can do and what they can use when in the room. Remember to always ask permission to bring guests into the room; having guests over is a privilege, not a right.

Be understanding. Sometimes a person may just be having a bad day. Listen to your roommate(s) and be understanding; sometimes listening is the best way to find the root of the problem. Living with a roommate and college, in general, is a new adjustment period for everyone. Give your roommate the benefit of the doubt before criticizing their actions. On the other hand, be sure to let your roommates know when you’re having a rough time or are feeling emotional.

Talk it out. Most problems can be solved with communication. Do not let problems build up. Talk openly and honestly about concerns with your roommate. Just remember that timing is everything. If you think your roommate is having a bad day, hold off until an optimal opportunity for addressing the situation arises.

Ask before you borrow. Everyone has a comfort level for sharing items with roommates. Always ask before you borrow something; it will help avoid frustration. Additionally, keep in mind that just because your roommate has let you use something in the past does not give you a standing invitation to use it in the future.

Talk about it in the room. It is important that you discuss the use of personal belongings where you and your roommate(s) will be living. Be sure to visually take stock of all items in the space, including clothing, appliances, office supplies, toiletries, food, cleaning supplies and furniture space.

Sharing a room is a big adjustment for many people. Even if you are the best of friends, always being together may be too much of a good thing. You will both need time alone. Most of the time roommates have different class schedules; but, if you don’t have a natural “break” from each other, talk about creating one.

Remember that little habits of yours might not seem like a big deal, but it could be something that seriously irritates your roommates over time. Just because you did something a certain way at home, doesn’t mean that’s the “right way” to do it. Be aware of your habits and behaviors, and ask for feedback from your roommate(s) to ensure that you’re not creating a headache for others, or creating more work for yourself.

Just because you live together, doesn’t mean you have to be best friends. Good friends do not always make good roommates, and good roommates do not always make good friends. It’s okay to have your own friend circle away from your roommate(s). Part of the excitement of going to college is being able to discover who you are and to define who you want to be. You cannot do that if you are in the constant company of the same person(s) all the time.

Give each other alone time in the room. Remember that all residents in a specific living space pay the same cost for access to it. It’s not fair for one person to monopolize the room or spend all of their time there, especially if that means that someone else is left feeling obligated to spend their free time elsewhere. Everyone needs alone time and to know that they have uninhibited access to their living space at least for a few hours each week.

Don’t stress. Not all roommates become best friends, but most naturally learn how to get along with or cohabitate with each other. In the unlikely event that you and your roommate(s) have differences which you can’t work out, don’t stress. Talk to your Resident Educator and they will facilitate a mediation. If that doesn’t work, they will guide you through the process of submitting a Room Change Request to the professional staff in the Office of Student Life.

The Role of Residence Life. Students who need help with a roommate conflict can talk with their Resident Educator to discuss the issues, get ideas on how to approach their roommate(s), or ask for direct help in resolving the problems.

When Residence Life gets directly involved, we use the following approach:

  • We will not take sides. Our job is to work toward a resolution that is mutually beneficial to all parties involved.
  • Sometimes the roommate who has tried to compromise and resolve disagreements will need to make the decision to move.
  • If a room change is the next step, Residence Life will provide all possible options; however, it is the responsibility of the student who is moving to meet prospective new roommate sand inform the office of his or her decision.
  • Residence Life will not discuss confidential information about any student with a parent or guardian.
  • Residence Life staff members are put in an unsolvable dilemma when a parent contacts us for help, but asks that their student not be told they called. Options for us to talk with a resident after being contacted by their parent, without letting them know that the parent called, are extremely limited.

We hope that no family experiences the “I hate my roommate!” conversation, but if you do, Point Park has resources to assist your student. We are here to help every student thrive, succeed, and enjoy college life to the fullest.

When disputes arise, here’s how to help. Days, weeks or months after your student has moved into a Point Park residence hall, you might get this text, email or phone call:

“I hate my roommate!”

Roommate conflicts aren’t unusual. Many students are sharing a bedroom for the first time in their lives, and suddenly find themselves in tight living quarters with people from very different backgrounds.

At Point Park, staff members of the Office of Student Life are ready to help students resolve roommate conflicts.

But if and when that “roommate call” arrives back home, parents and guardians can help their student work through the conflict.

How families can respond. We suggest the following steps for parents and guardians:

  • Remain calm: after having a chance to vent, your student will typically feel much better, but the parents are up all night worrying. Don’t slip into panic mode – it’s tempting to call the University requesting a room change, or tell your student to come home for the weekend, but these won’t allow your student to resolve the problem. Be supportive and acknowledge what your student is saying without taking drastic action.
  • Keep your student on the path to independence: when your student complains, asking “What do you think you want to do about it?” will show that there is a solution and that your student is the one finding it. Even if it’s painful to watch your student struggle, it will help in the transition to becoming a responsible adult.
  • Listen to your student. Let him or her explain the problems and vent frustrations.
  • Ask your student, “Does your roommate know what is bothering you? Have you talked with them about it?”

If the answer is “no,” talk with your student about how to have that difficult conversation.

If the answer is “yes,” ask your student, “Have you spoken with your Resident Educator?” Residence Life has capable and trained student staff members as well as professional staff members. All are unbiased and experienced in mediating roommate conflicts.

Explain that it’s okay not to be best friends with a roommate, regardless of what popular culture tells us. Encourage your student not to violate University policies and procedures, which can be found in the Student Handbook. Many roommate conflicts are the result of one person making choices that are in direct violation of University policies.

Be mindful of the fact that conflict is a natural part of life. Many parents tell us that their student is “just not a conflict person” or their student “prefers to avoid conflict.” Because conflict is inevitable, residents must develop skills which help them to manage conflict respectfully, advocate for themselves, and resolve minor conflicts before they evolve into something much larger.