Being matched with your first college roommate can be even more stressful than picking your major. After all, you’ll be sharing a really small space with a total stranger, and we’ve all heard a roommate horror story or two. So how can you find a roomie you actually like —or can at least live with?
In this latest installment of our College Student’s Guide to Living on Your Own, we’ll highlight all the ways to search for a suitable bunkmate, whether you’re a dorm-bound newbie embarking on your first semester or a college veteran renting your own apartment and seeking roommates to fill the extra space (and those Saturday nights you feel like kicking back at home and binge-watching “Game of Thrones”).
Don’t assume friends make great roommates
As tempting as it is to choose a friend as a roommate, that’s typically not the best decision.
“The qualities that make a good friend only partially overlap with what makes a good roommate,” says Dan Thibodeau, co-founder of Roomsurf.com, a networking site that helps college students find roommates.
In other words, you may love your friend’s personality, but her living habits could drive you nuts. And if it doesn’t work out, you’ll need to search for a new roommate—and possibly a new friend. Yikes!
Rather than stick with friends, Thibodeau advises keeping an open mind and connecting with as many different people as possible.
Check your university guidelines
Before beginning your hunt for a roomie, first read up on how your university assigns roommates. Although many schools assign roommates at random, some use personality questionnaires to determine who’s rooming with whom. If this is the case, the university does all the matchmaking for you—all you have to do is answer a few questions about your personality and preferences.
For many, this screening may be enough to find a decent roommate. However, if you learn that your college accepts requests to room with specific students, it could be worth doing a bit more research on your own into your options (more on that next).
Use social media
Many colleges have Facebook groups for incoming and current students to chat with one another and ask questions about the school. Students often introduce themselves with a short bio and ask around if anyone needs a roommate.
These groups a great way to meet not just other classmates, but also friends and potential roommates.
This process worked well for Amy Bennett, a recent graduate of Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN. Before starting her freshman year, Bennett joined three different Facebook groups for Purdue students and explained she was looking for a roommate. After chatting with a few girls, she found one she thought she would click with.
Sign up for a roommate matching service
Some universities recommend using roommate apps and websites to find someone you’re compatible with, and sites such as Roomsurf.com, RoomSync.com, and MyCollegeRoomie.com can connect you with other users from your school.
On these apps and sites, you’ll generally take a short survey about your living habits and fill out a few “About Me” sections. Based on your profile, potential matches will be compiled for you. From there, you can swipe through your matches and message whoever interests you—think Tinder for roommates.
“The ability to see dozens or more potential roommates and how you match with them is a huge advantage,” Thibodeau says of the online search. You can also quickly trim your list of potential roommates, something that would take considerable time if you had to talk to each person face to face. Online, you can chat with several matches in just a few clicks.
Meeting in person is the best way to gauge a potential roommate’s personality and mannerisms, which are hard to capture in online profiles, Thibodeau says. If a physical meeting is inconvenient, it’s worthwhile to set up a phone call.
Make new friends at orientation
Orientation, which takes place a few months before school starts, is designed to help new students feel comfortable on campus. Hosted events like pizza parties and ice breakers are ideal opportunities to meet other classmates, make new friends, and find potential roommates.
When you find someone you’re interested in, be sure to share contact information and connect on social media. Don’t be afraid to keep in touch—even if the person doesn’t become your roommate, she could become a lifelong friend.
Ask the right questions
To find the perfect roommate, you have to discuss more than what you’re currently binging on Netflix.
When Caroline Sinicki, an incoming freshman at the University of Indianapolis, was searching for a roommate, she treated it “like speed dating” and asked her now-roomie a lot of personal questions.
“I asked her about her sleeping patterns and her perfect weekend plans,” Sinicki says. “But I also asked if she would have boys over, drink alcohol in the room, and if she’d want to go home a lot.”
For vetting potential roommates, Thibodeau says, the most important questions to ask “are those concerning your shared space.” Some examples:
- How clean should we keep our room/apartment?
- Are you a smoker?
- How do you feel about using each other’s things?
- What temperature do you prefer for our room/apartment?
- What music and TV volume is acceptable, especially during sleep and study hours?
- How do you feel about having guests visit or stay overnight?
And don’t be afraid to raise sensitive issues—doing so can ensure that you and your roommate can avoid misunderstandings during your time together.
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