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The Great Roommate Match

Students in dorm room

If you plan to live in a dorm, your roommate may be one of the first people you meet. Here’s how to improve the odds of finding a roommate you’re compatible with.

Once you know where you’re going to college, the next big milestone, if you plan to live away from home, is finding your freshman roommate. Your college may assign you a roommate based on your answers to a housing questionnaire, or let you find a roommate on your own through a roommate-matching app, like Roomsurf.

Finding a compatible roommate depends on how you manage your roommate search and how well you communicate your habits and how you like to live. Here are some tips.

1. Be Honest in Housing Questionnaires

Whether you’re responding to a questionnaire provided by your college or you’re completing a quiz provided in a roommate-matching app, the more candid and specific you are in your answers, the better the chances you’ll be paired with someone with similar habits and lifestyle preferences. Here are just a few areas you’ll want to address:

  • Neatness. If your idea of clothing storage is the floor, say so. Nothing drives two sane people crazier than putting up with each other's idea of order.
  • Environment and sleep. If you like being around high-energy people and loud music, make that clear. If you crave quiet and eight hours of sleep a night, admit it up front. If you need to get up early for class or athletic team training, or you are a night owl who can’t function before noon, say so
  • Smoking/vaping. While smoking and vaping is prohibited or restricted in many college dorms, it can be an issue if you’re rooming with someone off campus. If you have this habit—or cannot tolerate it in others-- admit it. Same goes for your attitudes about drug and alcohol use, and partying in general.
  • Personal. Mention hobbies, religious observance, sexual orientation, gender identity sports, recreational passions—anything that makes you who you are.

2. Think Twice about Rooming with a Friend

While rooming with a friend has advantages, students have told us that it’s not always the best idea for freshman year. It can isolate you at a time when it’s easiest to meet new people. Plus, a roommate who you don’t know before getting to college can introduce you to new social circles and activities, give you the opportunity to get to know someone from a different culture or background and push you out of your comfort zone.

You don’t have to be best friends with your roommate, either. Some students are friendly, respectful and polite to their roommate but keep separate social circles and activities.

3. Set the Foundation for a Good Relationship

Take any opportunity to interact with your roommate before you arrive on campus, whether in person or by e-mail, phone, or social media. Once the introductions are over and you have finished freshman orientation, have a friendly conversation with your roommate about how to deal with potential sources of friction. Some colleges even encourage roommates to draw up a contract that spells things out. Here are some topics to cover:

  • Pet peeves. The more you deal with them up front, the less the resentment will build.
  • Sharing. Decide how you will share resources, such as food. Decide how much “borrowing” of each other's possessions, such as clothing, is okay. Be clear about any items you do not want to share.
  • Company. Decide how much in-room entertaining you will allow, and how you will handle sleep-over guests.
  • Room cleaning. Agree on what “clean” means and how you will share housekeeping duties.
  • Studying. Discuss whether to set aside certain times for study in the room.

4. Be Flexible If It Doesn't Work Out

If you’re unhappy with your roommate or living situation, talk to your Residential Advisor. Some colleges allow dorm room swaps if all occupants agree to the switch. Most housing offices will consider room or suite reassignment as space becomes available. Be patient. A roommate is not forever.

No matter who you get as a roommate, you’ll learn an invaluable life lesson: how to live with another person. You never know, you might even end up making a great friend.

What's Next?

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