The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a College Roommate

There are a couple ways to choose your college roommate.

Source: Flickr user tulanesally.

After applying to multiple colleges, waiting for response letters, and finally accepting admission to the school you’re going to attend in the fall, you thought all the tough choices were over. Unfortunately, the big decisions are just beginning–the rest of your life will be full of them.

But there is good news–most of the decisions you’ll have to make in the next few years are fun ones, like which dorm do you want to live in, do you want to be in a living learning community (LLCs), do you want to try being a vegetarian, and how many more minutes can you sleep and still make it to class on time?

As the anticipation and excitement that comes with the thought of being a college student becomes more real, there is one major thing you need to be figure out before you can make the transition. You don’t just have to decide where you’re going to live, but who you’re going to live with. And this can be a bit tricky on how to find a roommate for college. 

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There are quite a few things to consider when selecting a roommate–here’s the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How for successfully navigating the roommate selection process.

Who will you know on campus?

Are you going to school somewhere close to home where the majority of your classmates will be the same as your high school peers? If so, perhaps living with someone from a different area will give you a fresh perspective, or the novel experience you’re after. Or, will you be traveling to attend school out-of-state where you won’t see any familiar faces? If you’re attending college a fair distance from home, living with someone who attended your high school or who is from your area might be a bit comforting. It’s all about finding that balance and knowing how much of home you’re going to need with you.

Who will you have to reach out to for help?

Do you know anyone else on campus? Sure, on-campus resources, like professors, mentors, and tutors can be great, but who will you go to when you’re feeling a bit homesick? Who will you call when you’re actually sick and desperately need a cup of chicken noodle soup? If you don’t have any other friends attending college at the same school as you, your roommate might become the new shoulder your cry on. So, do you need a roommate that’s dependable, or are you okay with someone who is here and there and not super reliable?

Who can you see yourself living with for the next 8 months?

Before you start your roommate search, you should take a minute to reflect (seriously) on what you’re looking for. Chances are you’ve had your own room for the last few years, are you really prepared to share your space, what little of it you’ll have, with someone else? Choose wisely, because having a roommate is a big deal, but remember, you can always move after room freeze is over.

What are you looking for in a roommate?

Again, what specific qualities are you expecting from your roommate? Do you need to live with someone who keeps their space perfectly tidy? Will dirty dishes and laundry get on your nerves? Are you looking for a new BFF or someone to show you around the big city? You’re leaving your family and moving away from home for the first time, so what will you need your roommate to be like in order to ensure your own success?

What characteristics do you have that may not mesh well when living in close quarters with someone else?

When you’re choosing a roommate, keep in mind that they aren’t the only part of the equation. They have to choose you too. Now would be a good time to take a look in the mirror and figure out if there are any annoying habits that you have. Take the summer to practice taking your dirty dishes to the kitchen sink. Get in the habit of turning the TV volume down after 10 pm. Sometimes it’s the small things that get under people’s skin–you know your own pet peeves, but be aware of how others perceive your behavior too.

What do you expect from your relationship?

This kind of goes back to the who. What are you expecting in terms of a relationship with your new roomie? Do you anticipate being BFFs immediately after move-in? If you’re moving to a new city or state, are you searching for a new partner in crime to explore with? Or are you the kind of person that is just looking for someone to share space with to cut down on living expenses–you spend most of your time on your own anyway?

Where are you looking for roommates? 

Where you’re beginning your roommate search may have a big impact on whether or not you find a good match. As a freshman in college, you probably–no, definitely–should not be looking for a roommate on CraigsList. Honestly, just thinking about that terrifies me.

Instead, try social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, where you can do a bit of creeping AND actually talk to people. Find the incoming freshman class page for the school you’re attending and start talking to some of your fellow first-years. Another great place to find a roommate is at your school’s admitted students weekend or scholarship days. Rome was not built in a day, nor are good roomie relationships.

Where do you plan on living?

Something else to keep in mind when you’re looking for a roommate is where you want to live. If you’ve decided to apply for a LLC, your roommate has to be part of it too. If this is the case, maybe being randomly paired with someone else who has applied for the LLC would be a good option.  On some campuses there are other themed housing options (e.g., wellness dorms) in addition to Greek life, co-ed housing, apartment-style housing, suites, doubles, triples, and quad-dorms. The options really are endless, but if you’re already chosen a roomie, you both need to be on the same page when it comes to choosing your space.

When did you start your roommate search?

It’s never too early to start looking for a roommate. As soon as you’ve committed to a college or university, the next big step is figuring out housing. If you’re trying to find your own roommate instead of putting your fate into the hands of the random selection gods, then you should start your search as soon after committing as possible.

When did you apply for housing?

On a similar note, you should pay the fee to hold your spot and apply for housing as soon after you’ve made your decision as you can. The sooner you apply for housing, the more likely you are to get your first choice dorm and/or LLC. Check with your school’s housing team to see what their policies are. In some cases, you can apply for housing before having chosen a roommate and then add them later, whereas others require that you list your roommate on your housing application.

Why did you decide to live with a roommate?

Are you looking for a roommate to be part of your new social circle? Or are you looking for someone to be there when you get home at the end of a long day? Are you willing to live with someone who doesn’t have the same habits, interests, and expectations as you?

Why should someone want to live with you?

What do you have to give a roommate? Are you the listening ear, supportive shoulder, or microwave sous chef? Are you funny, organized, helpful, or motivating? What is it about you that would make someone say, “yep, I want to live with them”? Think about these things before you try “selling yourself” to a potential roomie.

How does one go about applying for housing and selecting a roommate?

Your housing application information should have been included as part of your admissions packet. Otherwise, you can always find it online on the school’s website. Before applying for housing, be sure to browse through the floor plans of the options available to you. This will tell you how many roommates you’ll have (singles, doubles, triples, etc.). Again, you should apply for housing ASAP after accepting admission.

How do you fill out the roommate match questions to ensure that your “match” actually matches you?

If you’re choosing to use the random pairing or are letting the college choose your roommate for you, you’ll probably have to fill out some kind of profile or questionnaire. These usually include things like: what time do you usually go to bed, where do you prefer to study, do you keep your space clean or are you more messy, etc. When you’re answering these questions, be as honest as possible. If there’s something you’re dead set against (e.g., a roommate who smokes) you can mark that and you will not be paired with someone who fits that criteria.

Choosing a roommate can be kind of stressful. In some cases, it can feel like as big of a decision as actually choosing which school to attend. But don’t worry, if you get to campus and live with your roommate for a few weeks and find out that your lifestyles are just too different, you can always move. I swapped roommates my first semester of college, and after I moved my college experience was much more positive. In fact, I lived with different people every year of college and it all worked out.

So have fun with it! Be open to meeting new people and trying new things. Sometimes the best roommates are the ones that are completely different than you because they can not only introduce you to new cultural experiences, but they can also expand your ways of thinking–and isn’t that what college is all about?

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