How to talk to potential college roommates — The 10 questions you need to ask

For many, your college roommate is going to be your introduction to living with strangers. Not just meeting strangers, not just hanging out with them, but living with them. You don’t need us to tell you that living with someone else is a high wire act. Over time, people get comfortable, drop their social graces, and tempers can flare.

All this is to say that it’s important to start off your roomie relationship on the right foot. Doing so should start long before move-in day.

How to get off on the right foot with your potential future roommates

To set yourself up for a successful semester in the dorms:

  • open yourself up to your future roommates
  • learn about them
  • try to assuage their fears

Open yourself up to your future roommates

In the summer leading up to the first semester, every student is thinking the same thing: “Am I bugging my roommate by reaching out to them? Are they not looking to be friends?”

Everyone’s trying to play it cool, stay aloof, not look desperate. That’s why it’s important for you to proactively break down those barriers by making it perfectly clear that you are open to a friendship with your future roomie(s). This means starting text chats, offering to do Facetime/phone calls, and starting conversations that are friendly rather than logistical.

Learn about them

In the months before move-in day, you should be doing recon. Get to understand who you’ll be sleeping three feet away from. What makes them ticks? What motivates them? What do they enjoy?

By asking them these questions, you’ll show your openness to friendship while simultaneously gathering useful intel that you can use to be the best roommate possible. You’ll be able to better accomodate their wants, treat them the way they want to be treated, and engage with them on their interests and hobbies.

Try to assuage their fears

Every incoming college student wonders if their roommate is creep, a weirdo, a murderer.

We know you’re not any of those.

Do what you can to assuage your future roommates’ fears. Humanize yourself: Talk about your pets, your partners, your hobbies. Ask them openly what you can do to be the best roommate possible, and politely explain what you’re looking for out of the relationship, as well. When doing things like discussing who will bring which dorm essentials, show a willingness to compromise.

Go the extra mile to prove that you will be a good roommate, and, subconsciously they’ll likely feel obliged to do the same in return.

How do you start a conversation with a potential college roommate?

There are countless articles with conversation starters for college roommates. We find that the best ways to start a conversation with a potential future roomie is to keep it casual. Although, in a way, you’re interviewing them, you want to try to keep things light.

The way you start up a convo with them depends on how you found them. If you, like many students nowadays, found them on college-affiliated social media, such as the Facebook group for your freshman class, start things off on the right foot by:

  • introducing yourself with a fun fact
  • mentioning something you have in common based on their post on the Group, or from their profile picture
  • Acknowledge the awkwardness and bond over it (“This is so weird, isn’t it?!)
  • Mention a mutual friend or acquaintance

What to ask potential college roommates?

Okay, so you’ve gotten the ball rolling. Now what do you ask them?

Bearing in mind the most common reasons for roommate failures, Here are the ten most important questions to ask potential college roommates:

  1. What would your perfect roommate be like? What would they do? What wouldn’t they do?
  2. Are you a night owl? Early bird? When do you expect to go to sleep and wake up?
  3. Would you call yourself a partier?
  4. How quiet would you like the room?
  5. Would you consider yourself introverted or extraverted?
  6. How clean do you keep your bedroom?
    1. Another way to get this questioned answered, perhaps more truthfully, is: “Do you make your bed each day?”
      1. Someone who makes their bed everyday is likely to be pretty tidy.
  7. Have you lived with anyone before? How’d it go? What was the best part of it? The worst part?
  8. How do you like to communicate? Are you a big texter? Caller? Do you always have your phone on you?
  9. How much do you expect to be in the room vs. out and about?
  10. What are your favorite hobbies?
    1. Things to keep in mind:
      1. Are their hobbies loud? (i.e. playing instruments)
      2. Are their hobbies likely to be smelly? (i.e. playing sports)
      3. Are their hobbies likely to keep them in the room all day? (i.e. playing video games)

How to tell a potential roommate “No.”

No one wants to tell a potential roommate, “No,” but sometimes you have to. If you do it the right way, politely telling someone you’ve been talking to that you’ll be going in a different direction roomie-wise is the kind thing to do. That way they don’t keep their hopes up, and can go off and find a roommate who will be a better fit.

We recommend using some version of the script below:

Hey! I’ve really enjoyed chatting, but after thinking it over, I’ve decided to [live with someone else/live alone]. I just didn’t feel confident that I’d be the best roommate match possible for you—but I’d love to stay in touch on campus! Here’s my number: ###-###-####. Let’s hang out when we get to school. I’d love to [do whatever it is you learned they like] together once we get to school!

7 ways to bond with your future roommate(s)

When screening for potential roommates—or after getting paired up—it’s valuable to try and get some bonding out of the way before school starts. To make move-in as smooth as possible, try these 7 ways to get close with your bunkmate before move-in day.

  1. Have a Facetime call to chat “face to face”.
  2. Make a Google Doc for brainstorming ideas for your dorm room. Get creative! Show your style! Express yourself.
  3. If possible, meet up in person. Do something low stakes like coffee, lunch, or going mini golfing
  4. Try to meet up in person to go shopping for your dorm room together.
  5. Work on a shared Pinterest board with ideas for decorating your room.
  6. Keep in touch in the weeks before school starts. Don’t go dark! Send them movie recommendations, music recommendations, links to events you’d like to do together once you get on-campus.
  7. Play video games together online.

Learn more about living with college roommates:

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