From personal experience and observation of other people’s rooming experiences, it is important to know the other person when it comes to picking out a roommate. Yeah, you two may have shared the same interest in television shows, have belonged to Team Edward during the Twilight phase (most) girls have gone through at some point in their adolescence, bonded over Steve Austin’s stats or even already picked out matching sweatshirts (aw), but that is all surface information.

Meaning, once you two start living together, all of that is most likely going to blow off and away. Whatever it is that you two connected over is not going to hold up against the reality of living in the same space as someone for the next nine months. Add that to the pressures of school, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and participating in extracurriculars and you can see why you would want to have a stress-free living situation, which requires constant communication and a well-established connection with the people you live with. In relation, to establish said connection, you need to not only talk with your roommate, but also talk to your roommate.

Admittedly, there is more to living together than the questions I’m about to spew off. However, this covers the more emotional aspects of rooming, which is arguably the most important part. So, with that, here we go!

1. Have you shared a room with another person before?

While the question does seem a bit basic, it does help shape the answers that the other person might give about his or her rooming history and/or preferences. Even so, this question is a good way to start the more serious aspect of the roommate conversations.

2. How do you feel about personal space?

By personal space, I mean the space where your personal belongings are. Are you OK with people randomly using your hairbrush without asking? Or is your hairbrush strictly hands-off with a hazard sign flashing over it? This is a question that needs self-reflection before it gets asked, especially if it’s your first time staying somewhere away from home. This question could also set some physical boundaries that will help both of you in the long run.

3. How involved do you think you’re going to be on campus?

This question doubles as both a way to get to know the other person while estimating how often your roommate will be in the room. Chances are if your roommate is going to be involved with five bazillion activities, they are someone willing to try out new things and will rarely be in the room. Or if they are only signing up for a few (or no) activities, then they probably just want to focus on their schoolwork and will be in the room almost all the time (or never if they decide to study somewhere else). In any case, this is something to talk over as it could also mean you might have to talk them down or encourage them to sign up for a few more extracurriculars, a topic that takes plenty of mental preparation to discuss.

4. How late do you usually stay up?

While this is not a life-or-death question, it does help figure out who will be the one that crawls into the room at two in the morning. Not to mention that you two could talk out what to expect when the other comes back into the room. For example, my roommate would normally be asleep at midnight, but since I normally would stay up until three in the morning studying (and deeply regret it the morning after), I would always work down in the lobby and be super quiet when I come back into the room. This question could also be something that relates to the previous question as well. In addition to studying, I also had plenty of activities that contributed to my late-night study sessions whereas my roommate did not really sign up for any extracurriculars.

5. Do you use [insert name of substance]?

Not only can getting caught using substances affect your roommate’s academic standing and ability to get housing for next year, but there could be much more at stake here as well. Secondhand smoke from the fumes of drugs could greatly impair your thinking capacity, which could work against you if you’re going to be in the room all the time or have an early morning class/work shift. So not only does substance abuse affect your roommate, but yourself as well. If it does turn out that they do abuse substances, try to understand the full scope of the situation and seek out treatment options if it turns out to be a great addiction.

6. How can we best support each other as roommates?

Just like when you lived back at home with your sibling, parent, etc., your roommate is going to be your closest support system for the next nine months and vice-versa. College, as me and most of my friends have found out last year, is a maze that cannot be conquered alone. So how can you and your roommate team up to navigate it? It could be studying together to help keep focus, constantly checking in with each other, having bonding nights, going to appointments together or even just saying “good morning” to each other every day. Either way, your roommate will most likely be the one helping with your ups and downs and might even become someone you will consider to be family.

7. What are some things you expect from me as a roommate?

This specific question actually more or less builds on the previous one, but it is still an important one to ask by itself. By asking that, it helps you two to get to know each other on a deeper level while starting to get a feel for what you two want your future roommates to be like. Do they expect you to be the tidy, quiet roommate that stays out of the way? Do they want you to cover for them all the time, even if it means lying? This could even be a good way to open the conversation about what to expect in terms of living styles. Do they expect you to open the windows in the morning before they take off for class? What chores do they expect you to do? How often can you have guests over in the room and how long?

Something to keep in mind is that while the roommate search may seem daunting at times, it is still an interesting experience to learn from, especially as you meet many different types of people along the way. Some roommates are close enough to almost be siblings while some just never talk to each other. Either way, however you decide to approach the search and interpret the experience is completely up to you and you alone. After all, life is what you make it. 

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