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4 Things to Remember When Searching for a College Roommate

College roommates studying together in their dorm


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. Finding a roommate for college isn’t as scary as it may seem.

How to find a College Roommate

Your college may assign you a roommate based on your answers to a housing questionnaire, or let you find your own. However you go about it, finding a compatible college roommate depends on how you manage your roommate search, and how well you communicate your habits and how you like to live. Here are a few things to keep in mind.


1. Be Honest in the College Roommate Questionnaire

Whether you’re responding to a roommate questionnaire provided by your college or completing a quiz provided in a roommate-matching app, the more candid and specific you are in your answers the better your results will be! By keeping your answers honest and straightforward, you can increase your chances of being paired with someone who has similar habits and lifestyle preferences. Here are a few areas you’ll want to address:

  • 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 interests. 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. Rooming with a friend from high school can isolate you at a time when it’s easiest to meet new people. Plus, when you pick a roommate you don’t know, you might be introduced to new friends and activities, people from different cultures or backgrounds, and pushed out of your comfort zone.

You don’t have to be best friends with your roommate, either. Some college 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 email, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Discuss whether to set aside certain times for study in the room.



4. Be Flexible If It Doesn't Work Out

Not everyone will be a perfect roommate. 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.


How is COVID-19 Affecting the Roommate Process This Year?

Due to the current pandemic, colleges are waiting to make decisions regarding the fall semester of 2020. As of now, many colleges are expecting to hold an on-campus fall semester, but this could change depending on the course of COVID-19.

That being said, we highly recommend that you continue to search for your potential college roommate! Although the plan for 2020’s fall semester is still undecided, you should continue to fill out college roommate questionnaires and surveys, and make an effort to connect with potential roommates online. It’s always better to be prepared, even if things may not go the way you planned.

Make sure to check your college’s website and email announcements for the specific steps your college will be taking to prepare for the fall semester.

No matter who you get as a roommate, you’ll learn a very valuable life lesson: how to survive living in a confined space with another person. You never know, your first college roommate might even turn out to be a best friend for life. Good luck!

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