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18 things to consider when choosing a college roommate

    Starting college is a thrilling chapter in a person’s life, filled with new experiences, challenges, and opportunities for personal growth. Among the many decisions a first-year college student faces, one of the earliest and most impactful is the choice of a college roommate. This decision can shape your college experience, influencing everything from your daily routine to your social circle.

    Think about it: you’ll be living with this person for a semester, a year, or even longer (depending on your situation and other factors), so taking this decision seriously is essential.

    Keep in mind if you plan to live in a college dorm, every college handles pairing roommates differently. Some provide a questionnaire to pair roommates, others allow you to pick a specific roommate, and others do it completely randomly. If you’re living off-campus and looking for a roommate, you'll have a lot more discretion to pick who you want as a roommate if you plan to have one, but also the additional responsibility of finding a roommate entirely on your own.

    Whether you plan to live on-campus or off-campus while in college, and you plan on having a roommate if you have some agency in the decision, it’s worth thinking through the choice. Here’s a checklist of items as you do.

    1. The kind of relationship you want to have

    You may be looking to make a lifelong friend out of a roommate. Or you may want a roommate with a different schedule from yours and different interests, who you can live a separate life from but still get along with while living together. It can be a good starting point to consider this.

    2. Communication styles

    The saying “communication is key” applies to a roommate relationship just like any other relationship. You want to ensure you and your roommate’s communication styles mesh well. For instance, some people prefer to live with people who have more of a direct communication style. Others prefer people who take a softer approach to communicating. Still, others might like a roommate who shares with them as little as possible, generally speaking. There’s no “right” communication style when it comes to a roommate. Instead, it’s more of a question of what’ll work best for you.

    3. Religion

    If you’re of a particular faith and are actively practicing, you may want a roommate from the same religion who shares the same beliefs. Or this might not matter to you at all. This can be a valuable question to ask yourself during your roommate selection process.

    4. Cleanliness (and cleaning habits)

    People prioritize cleanliness in their living spaces very differently. Some people like things perfectly neat at all times. Others simply don’t prioritize living in an organized environment at all. Getting paired with a roommate who prioritizes cleanliness the same way you do can help you keep the peace with a roommate. This could matter more if you share most of your space, such as a single dorm room, where both of you will sleep in the same room and potentially share a bathroom and living area, than if you share an apartment where you’d have more personal space.

    5. Work and school schedules 

    What would your ideal roommate’s schedule be? For instance, if you’ll be sharing space with someone if they have early morning classes when your first class starts at noon, how will that impact your routine and sleep schedule? If a potential roommate has the same schedule as you and is likely home the same hours, how will that affect your study routine?   

    6. Views on finances and sharing

    Some roommates may want to split all expenses, such as food, supplies, and decorations, evenly, while some may have different thoughts. Being aligned on finances and sharing can make a difference in cooperating with a roommate.

    7. Social life 

    Assess if you want a highly social roommate, someone not social at all (or someone in between). For example, if you prefer to be in bed by 9 p.m. every night but your roommate likes to have friends over late, this could impact your relationship.

    8. Interests

    Another way to determine if you and a potential roommate may be compatible is to know whether you have similar interests and hobbies. Do you both enjoy painting? Fitness classes? Reality TV? Having similar interests can be a potential pro, particularly if you’re looking for a roommate who could also become a friend.

    9. Habits

    We all have unconscious habits we may or may not be aware of. Although discussing this while looking for a roommate may be challenging, consider your habits and how they may affect a roommate.

    10. Relationship status 

    Discussing relationship statuses with potential roommates is vital because you want to feel safe in your space. Suppose you’re in a long-term relationship, and your partner may stay over occasionally. In that case, it’s essential to let your roommate know so there are no surprises in the long run, and vice versa.

    11. Pet preferences  

    If you have pets, it's important to let your potential roommate know in case they’re allergic or may not like living with pets. The same is true on their end. Some people will love living with pets, and others just won’t.

    12. Sleep patterns

    Take into account how both your sleep patterns and sleep schedules can impact each other. This factor matters a lot if you’re sharing a room to sleep but might matter a lot less if you’re not sharing a sleeping space.

    13. Study habits

    Consider looking for a roommate who shares similar study habits. This will help ensure that you both can focus and concentrate on your studies in an ideal way. For instance, some people like to study in complete quiet while others might want to study with music and in a group setting.

    14. Living preferences

    Think about your living preferences, such as temperature and lighting. Not everyone will share your priorities, and sharing space with someone who shares your living preferences can help you have a better relationship with a roommate.

    15. Deal breakers

    Are you a neat freak? Maybe you can’t stand strong smells? Maybe you hate having guests over at night? Whatever it is, be honest with yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask your roommate questions to ensure you’ll be comfortable living with each other.

    16. Cooking habits

    If you’ll be sharing a kitchen, consider how that could affect things. For example, you both may enjoy cooking, or one of you may not. Consider how you want to share pots, pans, kitchen utensils, and the kitchen space in general. If you or your roommate is allergic to certain foods, this can be important to discuss beforehand.

    17. Noise levels

    Now that you’ll be sharing a room or living in the same apartment or dorm space, it’s essential to consider noise preferences. Some people like to listen to music, while others don’t. Some people are bothered by noise, and others aren’t. These are all considerations to make when choosing a roommate.  

    18. How you want to decorate

    You’ll likely want to make your space feel like a home. However, now that you’ll be sharing a space with someone else, consider your potential roommate’s style and decorating preferences and how that could impact your ability to get along in a shared space.

    Final thoughts

    Choosing a roommate who you’ll feel comfortable living with and who’ll respect your needs and boundaries is important. Establishing clear communication and expectations from the beginning to avoid any conflict or misunderstandings is usually a good idea, too, to make the experience of living together a good one for both of you.