Six ways to deal with a difficult roommate

Most likely every college student will have to live with one or more roommates during their college experience, whether they live in University housing, an apartment or Greek house. It is also likely that not all roommates will become or remain best friends after living with each other. 

Kevin Butz, second year resident advisor at Hopkins Hall and junior in ACES, said some students may come to college as best friends, but being roommates may bring difficulties to their friendship

“Many times, roommate conflicts arise from a variety of small differences that can escalate because the roommates do not work things out right away,” Butz said. “Emotions boil up until they can’t even communicate together.” 

Resolving roommate situations can be hard, especially because each set of roommates can encounter different problems. After hearing different scenarios on how some roommates may act, University students  responded to how they would handle different situations. 

The anti-social roommate

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This roommate is never seen leaving the room other than to eat or shower, and he may not welcome guests in the apartment or dorm. 

“(I would) at least try and invite him to hang out with me and my friends,” said Michael Cosmos, sophomore in LAS. “It can start by inviting them to dinner in the dining hall or something simple like that.” 

Cosmos said if the roommate still does not break out of his shell, he would try keeping it between the two of them and play video games together.

The messy roommate

This kind of roommate leaves plates crusted with old food around the room that she will never clean up himself. She leaves dirty clothes around for anyone to see and is gone before you can even finish saying the words “clean up.”

“Stop cleaning up after them. They won’t change a thing while you’re enabling their bad habits,” said Morgan Varner, junior in Business. “Make sure you aren’t angry when you bring it up, and bring it up in ways that seem understanding but get your point across.” 

Varner suggests saying something like, “I get that dishes and laundry are time consuming, and we’re really busy, but the food on them is smelling and the dirty clothes are getting a little out of hand.”

The inconsiderate roommate

Whether it’s slamming doors at 2 a.m., eating others’ food without permission, or bringing her boyfriend back to the room every night, this kind of roommate seems to be oblivious to manners and can make others feel unwelcome.

“My advice would be to try to get out of that room as soon as possible, if nicely confronting your roommate about the situation doesn’t work,” said Kristen Immen, sophomore in DGS. “I fortunately was able to switch into a different room with one of my good friends and it changed my whole outlook on college after that. Don’t let your roommate dictate how your college experience is going to go.” 

The drunken roommate

Having a fun and outgoing roommate can be great, but some roommates do not know their limits. They go out to the bars almost every night, vomit in the room frequently and never go to class because they are “too hungover.”

“The most important thing with a scenario like this is finding help for this person struggling with alcohol and maybe even peer pressure,” Butz said. “Giving this resident options is the way I would handle something like this. It’s never about attacking the resident or threatening him or her, but more so informing him or her that these types of choices have consequences and can be life threatening.”

Butz added that it is also important to make sure the resident is comfortable with you, so he is willing to figure out solutions. 

The bedridden roommate

Despite classes, plans and daylight, this roommate is always sleeping. Others might feel like they always have to be quiet in fear of waking him up.

Nick Binkus, sophomore in Engineering, said he would hope his roommate would be understanding of the noise during regular hours.

“If he knows he sleeps more than most people, he will likely be understanding of me trying to live a normal life,” Binkus said. “If he didn’t get the hint, I would talk to him about when might be appropriate ‘quiet hours’ in the room and try to establish some time where I could make some noise.”

The long-distance relationship roommate

Others are forced to listen to all the sappy calls and Skype dates. They are constantly on the phone, and others witness all the crying and fighting that goes on between the couple.

Butz said it is important to comfort your roommate if you two have that kind of friendship, but also not to cross any personal boundaries.

“College can be a tough time for many students because they are away from their families, friends and significant others; however, knowing when and where to have conversations like these is important,” Butz said. “It all comes down to communicating as much as possible with your roommate and deciding on how you want to manage certain conflicts with each other.”


Ultimately, it is essential for roommates to communicate their needs to each other. If the issues continue and become impossible to deal with on one’s own, consult a residence director or go to the University’s Counseling Center, located at 610 E. John St., in Champaign. 

Christine can be reached at [email protected].