Let’s Talk: Resolving Roommate Conflict

The fall 2023 dorm selection for Point Loma Nazarene University students opens in March. Not only will students select a hall or apartment, but they also must choose a roommate. Chances are, no matter who a student ends up sharing a room with, conflict is likely to arise at some point. This can take many students by surprise, especially when the roommate relationship often starts off well.

In fact, even the best of friends can experience conflict. For most students, having conflict with a roommate isn’t a matter of if, but when. That’s why it is important to know how to handle it. Whether sleeping, doing homework or socializing, it is important that students feel comfortable in their own room.

“Your room is one of your only places of sanctity,” said Tim Hall, psychology and kinesiology professor at PLNU. 

Some college students have never shared a room, so it can be tricky finding a compatible roommate. Every PLNU student needs to figure out how to navigate through conflict, and each person may handle it differently. 

“The fact that my roommate and I are so similar has made it work really well,” said Gabby Starkenburg, first-year media communication major. 

First-year students are in a unique situation when they arrive on campus. Some roommates are from different states and have never met each other.

“One of the biggest struggles freshmen come to me with is roommate problems,” said Hall.

First-year students are required to sign a roommate agreement contract stating the responsibilities of both roommates. Hall suggests the students themselves should write the contracts. 

“There’s a deeper level of accountability when you’ve talked about it,” said Hall. 

Hall also recommends having “pre-roommate counseling” when first arriving on campus. This parallels the idea of premarital counseling because it is primarily focused on prevention. In other words, getting ahead of problems before they start. Intentional and authentic conversations about values, preference and expectations can go a long way to decrease the chances of conflict.

When roommate conflict arises, some students report that open communication is the most effective resolution.

Jonathan Kozasky, second-kinesiology major, said he and his roommate are very straight up with each other; they say what is on their mind. 

Whether best friends or acquaintances, some students find that showing respect is the best way to handle things.

“It’s about understanding who the other person is and respecting how they handle things,” said Kozasky. 

Even long-term friends must navigate the conflicts that come from living in a confined space. 

“We definitely talk about it right away, we’ve been friends for over a year so we are comfortable with each other,” said Starkenburg. 

Students find it helpful to set ground rules and go over their daily routine. 

“I’m always up super early so I told him to expect these things and he was completely fine with it,” said Kozasky. 

Conflict is natural in relationships so it’s helpful to acknowledge that fact right from the start.

“You set yourself up for a higher hill to climb when you don’t have these conversations,” said Hall. 

Written By: Cambria Jacobs