Improving College Roommate Relationships with Type

RoommatesAs the school year kicks off, new college students everywhere are figuring out what is expected in classes, learning how to navigate new campuses, discovering that not sorting laundry creates pretty pink shirts, and attempting to budget for the first time.  Of course, they are also embarking on the joys and sorrows of learning to live in a tiny room with a person they may have never met before moving in with them.

I often hear stories of individuals who become best friends for life with their college roomies.  They talk about the good old days and end up acting as bridesmaids and groomsmen later on.

On the flip side, I hear harrowing tales of annoyances with keeping different hours, bickering about items being “borrowed” from the fridge or closet, when to have people over, and when to have the door open or closed.  Some of these issues are minor, but some result in requests for room changes or even fights.  Either way, the result is stress on the individuals living in the room and possibly on others in surrounding rooms.

The good news is that many of these issues can be helped using MBTI® type!  Some colleges actually use Myers-Briggs to pair roommates of similar types.  According to Introduction to Type and College, a study showed that room changes decreased by 65% and residence hall damage by 35% after pairing roommates of similar types.  The study even found GPAs to be lower in students with dissimilar roommates.  This is a great idea for schools that can afford to administer the MBTI® to its entire residence hall population, as long as the university does not prevent individuals who want to live together from doing so based on the assessment results.  Of course, many colleges cannot afford such an undertaking, but that does not mean that utilizing Myers-Briggs can’t be helpful.

Many residence halls provide programming to students, and this is  great place to harness the helpfulness of type to create harmonious roomie relationships.  The simple act of doing a group interpretation with several pairs of roommates, followed by an activity can ease tension or even reduce the amount of tension that will eventually develop.  Formal, interactive activities, such as the ones found in The Practitioner’s Field Guide are great for this because they are fun, interactive, and allow individuals to learn about themselves and the others they live around.  If activities don’t fit the bill for your group, you may try discussing some of the following questions in type alike groups, that then share their answers with the larger group.

  • What are you comfortable with when it comes to keeping the door open and having guests over?
  • What is your ideal study environment? noise level while studying? time of day for studying?
  • What is most important to you in your relationship with your roommate, and what kind of relationship do you want?
  • Do you like to schedule activities, like studying and TV time or go with what you want to do in the moment?
  • What are your preferences for cleaning? importance level? idea of clean? responsibility division?
  • What are your views on sharing food, clothes, or other items?
  • What rules are most important to you, and how do you want to follow them?
  • What are your personal boundaries, and how do you let others know what your boundaries are?

These questions are just some examples that may be helpful, and you may find that there is a great deal of type differentiation with some questions and less with others.  Whatever discussions or activities you decide to use, it is important to remind students that all types are valid, and all opinions should be respected.  It is also great to allow the group time to come up with some ideas on how to use their new knowledge of type to improve their relationships.  This may involve agreeing to keep the door open at certain hours or closed at others.  Either way, if a respectful conversation is had, the workshop is a success in my eyes!

Finally, if you want to give this a try but have no access to MBTI® instruments or training, check with the counseling or career center at your college to see if they can set up a workshop for your students.  If you have questions or comments on how you use the instrument, I would love to hear them!



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