Roommate Conflicts

Learning to live with someone else, especially someone who may have different habits, likes, and dislikes, can be both incredibly rewarding and very challenging.

Many of our first year students have not shared a bedroom with someone prior to coming to Bowdoin.  Learning to live with someone else, especially someone who may have different habits, likes, and dislikes, can be both incredibly rewarding and very challenging.

The first-year experience, when every student has a roommate, is an important learning opportunity for every Bowdoin student.  The roommate experience is always more positive when students are willing to compromise, put in the effort to resolve conflicts, assume best intentions and try to understand the perspective of their roommate when challenges arise.

We encourage you to manage the emotions that accompany living with a non-family member for the first time and have a few suggestions:

  • Be honest about your likes, and dislikes, schedules and feelings. Talk about ideas and feelings, not just cleanliness, personal space, etc.
  • Be clear about where you are willing to compromise and where you are not. Remember that compromise is always a part of sharing a living space with someone else.
  • Give your roommate the respect, consideration, and understanding you expect in return.
  • Set the “tone” for talking, and set aside the appropriate amount of time for a complete conversation (five minutes before class is not the time for a heart-to-heart).
  • When challenges arise, see it as an opportunity to practice resolving conflict, which is an important life skill.  Ask for help from your proctor or RA if it feels like you are unable to resolve the challenge on your own.

Dealing with Roommate Problems

Problems in a shared living environment are inevitable. Your success will be determined by how you respond to these conflicts — not on your ability to avoid them. Our ResLife staff members are here to assist your as you sort through issues and concerns.

If you need help with a roommate issue, please reach out to ResLife by contacting your proctor, calling residential life at 207-725-3225, or stopping by our office in Dudley Coe.  In almost all cases, you must be actively involved in order to find a successful resolution to the situation. 

At some point of the year, it is likely that you will have a roommate concern. The following tips may be helpful:

  • Talk to your roommate directly.  Do not bring everyone on your floor into the conflict.  It will get back to your roommate and will make the conversation much more challenging.
  • Be gentle, but direct. Remain calm and do not let emotions take control. Feelings such as anger can escalate the situation. If you are not feeling calm, or sense that anger is clouding your ability to have a productive conversation, stop and reschedule a time to talk. Or…have your proctor facilitate the conversation.
  • Recognize that your roommate may have no idea how you are feeling and may have a completely different perspective on the situation.
  • Use “I” statements and speak from your own experiences.  It is never helpful to speak for someone who is not in the room.
  • Make sure you are prepared to discuss criticism or feedback that your roommate may have for you. Be open minded, and remember that you may both need to compromise!
  • Listen to your roommate. Everyone wants to be heard, and only by listening to your roommate’s point of view can you understand and better resolve any conflict.

Residential Life will not move students until all perspectives have been heard and a facilitated conversation is held either by the proctor or a member of the Office of Residential Life staff. Often a facilitated conversation will increase understanding and compromise between roommates and residential life will ask students to remain in their current living situation. We encourage you to seek the help of your RA or proctor when a difficult situation arises.