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4 Things to Remember When Searching for a College Roommate

College roommates studying together in their dorm

Whether you plan to live in the dorms or off-campus, roommates can play a big part in your college life. Here are some tips for finding a roommate and setting the foundation for a positive relationship.

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. If you’re looking for off-campus housing, check with your college or university’s housing office, which usually has listings of rentals close to campus and may also be able to connect you with students looking for roommates. Or, consider using a roommate-finder website, such as Roomsurf or Diggz, or a roommate finder mobile app such as OptN, ZeeMee, CribWiz or Roomie, which cater to students looking for college roommates.

However you go about it, finding a compatible college roommate depends on how you manage your roommate search, and how well you communicate your needs and lifestyle. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Be Honest in the College Roommate Questionnaire OR INTERVIEW

Whether you’re responding to a roommate questionnaire provided by your college or completing a form 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 may 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/drug and alcohol use. 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.
  • Pets. Do you have pets or plan to get one? Some roomies may love the idea of living with a Labrador but not a boa constrictor. If you have pet allergies, or can’t tolerate animals for other reasons, make this known.

Take a look at more questions to ask a potential roommate.


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, video conference or social media. Once the introductions are over and you have finished 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 potential 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.
  • Guests and significant others. Decide how much in-room entertaining you will allow, and how you will handle sleep-over guests.
  • Cleaning. Agree on what “clean” means and how you will share housekeeping duties.
  • Noise. Discuss whether to set aside certain times for study or quiet.
  • Bills and security deposit. If you’re renting a house or apartment off-campus, discuss how and when rent and utility bills will be paid, who will be on the lease agreement, and how the security deposit will be handled upon move-out.
  • Daily schedules. Knowing your roommates schedule – when they need to be up in the morning, the days they work late and come home past midnight, or when they need to use the kitchen or shower, can help reduce conflicts.

If you're living off-campus, you might want to consider writing a formal roommate agreement.


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.

If you’re living off campus, changing roommates can be more complicated, depending on who holds the lease, tenants rights in your area, and your lease agreement. This guide from Nolo Press discusses some of the issues to consider.

No matter who you get as a roommate, you’ll learn a 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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