Effects of a Bad Roommate & What to Do About It

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Just like romantic relationships, sometimes roommate relationships just don’t work out. Considering how difficult cohabitation can be, maybe it’s a surprise that any roommate situations turn out well. Still, a great roommate is worth their weight in gold. We’ve all heard the stories about the roommate with a trust fund who took their dorm-mate along on an all-expense paid spring break trip to Cancun or the super tidy roommate of legend who insists on doing all the cleaning so you never have to lift a finger. That’s not generally the situation for most people though, so how do you navigate the ins-and-outs of roommatehood?

However you navigate having roommates, there’s no question that learning to live with other people is an important life skill. After all, the roommate conundrum isn’t just a problem for college students, as a Pew Research study found that one in three adults who are not college students have roommates who aren’t family or romantic partners. Given the ever-rising cost of living—particularly housing—roommates may simply be a reality for a large part of your life.

For most people, though it’s their college or university years that are roommate filled. The college roommate is such a cliche that there are whole genres of film and literature dedicated to it. And beyond fiction, it turns out that roommates can really affect your college experience. A study actually showed that freshmen GPAs went up with each point their roommates did.

Unfortunately, roommate benefits aren’t always positive—having a hard-partying roommate can also have a negative effect as those with binge drinking roommates were more likely to binge drink and sometimes a roommate who drinks a lot can affect their roommate’s GPA negatively.

So maybe it’s not a bad idea to start thinking about a new roommate! Whether you’re randomly stuck together in a dorm, or thrown together in a sorority or fraternity, or ended up in an apartment or house-share with someone, at some point you’re probably going to wish you could find someone new to live with. This is considerably more difficult considering on whether you’re in school or fraternal organization arranged housing, or if you signed a lease with someone.

If a roommate switch starts to feel necessary, it’s important to talk to whoever governs your living situation, be that an RA, leadership in a fraternal organization, or your landlord. Find out the process of switching roommates, and what you would need to do to get the process started. You may encounter some pushback, but don’t give up. While you may first be told to try to work out your problems, if that’s clearly not going to happen there will be another option to help you out of your situation. You just need to keep asking for one.