Living off campus can pose additional challenges and responsibilities that you may not encounter in on-campus housing. This can include things like rent, utilities, lawn care, parking, grocery shopping and navigating roommate issues more independently. Here are some tips to help you make the most of living off campus with roommates.
Create ground rules
While you’re not required to have a roommate agreement off campus, we highly encourage you and your roommates to create one. Even if you’re living with friends, a significant other or the same roommates as last year, it’s important to create or revisit ground rules to avoid conflict around things like rent, utilities, visitors, etc.
Think through your expectations, habits and routines before you move in (or soon after) and come prepared to create a shared roommate agreement. You can use this free Roommate Agreement Template from Off Campus Housing and Neighborhood Relations to help you get started. You can also get free legal advice if you have questions about your lease or rights when living with roommates.
Be a good neighbor
Living off campus comes with extra responsibilities, like being a good roommate and a good neighbor. Here are some simple ways you can be a good neighbor and avoid conflict with longer-term residents:
Understand conflict styles
Everyone handles conflict differently, depending on the situation, their conflict style and who they’re in conflict with. However, there are some common themes that may show up in a person’s response again and again. Exploring how you approach conflict can be a great starting point for learning or refining your skills around conflict resolution.
Take our free Conflict Style Quiz to learn how you approach conflict and how your ‘default’ response may impact your behaviors or attitudes in different situations. You can also share this quiz with your roommates or housemates to start the conversation around how different people handle conflict.
Practice communication skills
It’s best to address roommate issues quickly before they fester. Addressing issues through texting, social media or sticky notes on the door may lead to miscommunication or increased frustrations. This is because we can’t always know how the message will be received by the other person. A simple reminder to “take out the trash” may turn into something more.
Instead, try to address any potential issues in person. It can be helpful to make a plan and think through how you can express your needs before approaching your roommate. Using “I” statements to describe how the situation makes you feel is a helpful way to start.
Here are some examples:
When talking through issues with your roommates, remember to listen for understanding and ask follow-up questions during the conversation. Resist the urge to formulate a response to what the other person is saying while they’re speaking. Instead, you should be focusing your full attention on the emotions, issues and reasoning behind what your roommate is saying.
All students, regardless of if you live on or off campus, can visit Conflict Resolution. They can help you navigate conflicts between roommates, significant others, professors, classmates and more. They also offer free workshops, mediation and coaching sessions if you’re looking to improve your skills around conflict management and resolution.
Peer Wellness Coaching
Peer Wellness Coaches provide peer-to-peer support and are available to meet with students living on or off campus. They can help you navigate concerns related to roommates, relationships, stress, finances and more. Peer Wellness Coaches can also help you set goals, connect with additional resources and create self-care plans.
Off Campus Housing & Neighborhood Relations (OCHNR)
OCHNR is here to help students with all aspects of living off campus, from searching for an apartment and roommate, understanding Boulder housing options and providing free lease reviews with our staff attorney, to navigating roommate disagreements, understanding Boulder ordinances and advocating for tenant rights.
Center for Inclusion and Social Change (CISC)
CISC works with LGBTQ+ students living on and off campus. They can provide information on gender-inclusive residence hall programs, gender-neutral facilities and more. Their office can also help students find inclusive housing and roommates that will be welcoming and supportive.