Recently, roommate conflict has been a subject of polarized debate amongst students, parents, and tutors. Today’s millennium generation students are coming to college extremely anxious about their living situation, mostly because they have never shared a room before (Dunn et al. 15). Students face not only the challenge of fitting all their belongings into a small room, but also the challenge of coping up with someone they have never known before. Therefore, this paper argues that sharing a room presents a challenging experience.

Random room assignment by administrators is common in most colleges and universities; however, some students have the privilege of choosing to live with someone they know. Large colleges with very limited resources prefer random roommate matches, as compared to smaller colleges with more staff and resources (Dunn et al.16).   Similarities between roommates’ personalities, interests, tastes, demographic background, and traits have shown little consistency in terms of association with positive roommate relationships. Moreover, roommate conflicts affect students negatively and may lead to a great deal of depression in some. Conversely, a good roommate can contribute positively to the general experience of living in a residence hall (ibid.).

This paper presents an argument concerning roommate conflict in colleges. The paper maintains that differences based on backgrounds, likes and dislikes, are the major contributing factors to conflicts among roommates.

It is noteworthy to understand that negative roommate experience is caused by various factors and can lead to a great deal of stress in students. A student’s experience of living in a residence hall or sharing rooms can either be one of the most rewarding aspects of college life or one of the biggest nightmares, as Conneely et al. observed (51). The expectation of sharing a room with other young students is the most exciting prospect amongst many college students. However, without good relationship, the experience can lead to many students facing conflicts with their college roommates. It is, therefore, vital that by the moment students leave home, they should be able to realize that their roommate may not do things in their favor.

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Roommate conflict can be defined as simple incompatibility. It is caused by lack of good communication, personality differences, or clashing non-verbal signs. It is worth mentioning that it is true that most students lack good communication skills and this can ruin their stay in college. Communicative decisions in conflict are influenced through implicit theories or attributions of both roommates (Conneely et al. 52). Ineffective communication may also be partially a consequence of two parties’ idiosyncratic and incompatible attributions. It has been found that bad roommate relations have a substantial effect on the general college experience. According to a research by Ingalls, poor relationship among roommates is associated with students’ dissatisfaction with their living situations, negative perceptions of university environment, poor emotional adjustment, and lower retention rates. The prolific research into college success and satisfaction provides insight into the negative effects of conflict on college students. In colleges, many young people enter into a period of their lives when a significant number of their relationships transforms. This change causes stress, which is known to have deleterious effects on the success of most students. In fact, depression emerges as the highest barrier to students’ success. The change is also a major contributor to other negative influences, such as sleep disorders, depression, alcohol abuse, fatigue, suicidal feelings, and anxiety (Twale & Muse 404). For example, when a role discrepancy exists, the student may resort to drinking or engaging in stereotypical behaviors that can influence college education negatively. One measure of the probability of the success of any student is roommate satisfaction.


The biggest question that must be addressed in this paper is how students who experience problems with roommates overcome such issues so that they do not affect their college success and college experience. In order to be successful in college, one must be assertive, positive, and openly communicate with his/her roommate. Communication is the most important factor in success of a college student. Positive relationship among college students/roommates is associated with a clearer understanding between roommates of each other’s expectations, verbalization, and open communication of their thoughts and feelings (Twale & Muse 407). Another key to addressing roommate conflict is open communication and appropriate confrontation of roommates when conflict arises. It is true that open communication is the best key to a positive relationship and appropriate confrontation is related to students’ success and retention at college.

Residence Life staff

Twale and Muse assert that, in order to help students in a roommate conflict, the Residence Life staff needs appropriate training in assertiveness, communication skills, and conflict resolution methods so as to be in a position to assist their residents. It is important that staffs in all colleges create time for consultative forums to ensure that students relate well and get to know each other. Developing a consultative role on the part of RAs is crucial since it also helps in developing conflict resolution methods, interpersonal skills, crisis management, and disciplinary issues.

In addition, Residence Life staff must know how to deal with stress, whether from academics or emotional concerns, and address interpersonal conflicts appropriately. Parents must also play some part in ensuring that their children are learning in a favorable environment. They should help students when they are going through roommate conflicts. This is because parents need to get the value for their money that they are paying for their children’s education. Most parents do not participate in the learning process of their children, thus making the students feel neglected. However, a number of parents take an active role in their children’s education, specifically their living arrangements, because they know that it has effect on the general success of the student (Waldo 465).

As much as dealing with the transition from high school to college is a difficult step for many parents, they must relinquish some control over the lives of their students. In this regard, college faculty should make a deal with parents to remain connected to their students’ living environment. The deal must ensure that parents provide enough for their children’s secure leaving at college, since this will help harness s sense of liberty and discover their personality (Wilmot &Hocker). In case of roommate conflicts, parents should interact with their sons and daughters to ensure that they produce excellent results.

Conflict resolution

Then again, having a roommate is usually a wonderful experience, since many roommates become good friends for life. However, unpleasant issues may occur when roommate conflicts are not resolved. In this context, college students or roommates also have a role to play. In order to prevent falling back on their educational success, they should address any conflicts with their roommates in a productive and healthy manner. To begin with, it is important to have time for discussions because, in most cases, when a roommate conflict occurs, the roommates stop conversing with each other (Waldo 467). As mentioned earlier, communication is an important tool in addressing roommate conflicts among collegians. It is important to set aside some time to discuss the conflict, because this provides both parties with an opportunity to present their views to each other. As they say, a problem shared is halfway solved. With an agreement to discuss the conflict, roommates will likely enter the discussion in a calm manner.

Students should establish guiding principles to lead them through the discussion

It is essential that before engaging into a conversation with each other, certain rules must be set, since establishing rules beforehand prevents screaming matches from breaking out because each party will have an opportunity to speak out and present his/her grievances. Thirdly, honesty is another factor that is very important in relationship between roommates. When roommates are honest to each other, they can feel free to discuss their characters or other specific things. This openness will create an understanding of each ones’ point of view and help them willingly compromise. In the discussion, one should be able to point out both bad and good things about their roommates, thereby helping both of them to change their bad behaviors (Waldo, 470).

Developing a roommate agreement

Once both parties have presented their grievances, it is recommended to post a roommate agreement somewhere in the room. It should entail the rules that guide roommates, as well as define the consequences of breaking the rules. If the problem persists despite the efforts to resolve it, it is then necessary to move out and discuss it with a head officer or dorm manger, so that one of students can be transferred to a different room.


Roommate conflict is a problem that affects teachers, students, and parents in the end. Hence, after understanding the causes and effects associated with roommate conflicts, it is essential to look for ways of resolving such problems. This must be a combined effort involving teachers, Residence Life staff, parents, and roommates themselves. In this respect, it is important to understand that roommate conflict is detrimental to the success of any student and must be avoided. Yet, it is also true that interpersonal conflicts are bound to occur – they are a part of our daily life. They are expected to arise in any situation, especially within the concentrated space of a college.

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