Moving into a new dorm for the first time is exciting! Whether this is your first experience in a dorm situation or you’re just switching room assignments for the semester, the promise of something fresh and new is always exhilarating. And with a new dorm, of course, comes a new roommate.
Unless you’re lucky enough to grab one of the single-person dorms (or maybe you just prefer to be around people), you’ll be sharing your space with another student. My dorm was set up as a suite, with two people in one bedroom and two bedrooms sharing one bathroom. Many classic dorms are set up this way. Others are set up with two or four person bedrooms and a common bathroom for the whole floor. Either way, you’re sharing space with someone, and it’s important to get to know this person.
My first roommate was the sweetest person. She was an English honors major, quiet and respectful, and we slept on the same schedule – late to bed, late to rise! We were matched quite well and I very much enjoyed her company despite absolutely hating the dorm setup.
Our suite mates were also similarly matched. They were, however, our respective opposites. Bright and early at 7am every day they had the music going, talking up a storm and hogging the bathroom. If you’ve never been in a dorm, the walls are thinner than your average apartment, and you can hear everything. That wasn’t quite so pleasant, and earplugs were a worthy investment.
Every school chooses roommates in a different way. Our school had everyone fill out a survey about habits, preferences, and likes/dislikes and matched us best they could from there – at least for the people we were sharing the bedroom with. Some schools set up a Facebook-like site where you make a profile and get to choose your own roommate based on similar criteria. Still other schools throw names in a hat and put you together at random.
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No matter how your roommate is chosen, it’s important that you get to know and trust this person before you start sharing your space with them. Here are 15 sets of questions to help you get to know your roommate better. You don’t have to barrage them rapid-fire, interview style. They can be brought up as important points in a general, get-to-know-you conversation. Make sure to keep it light and friendly, as some questions can be uncomfortable for both of you.
Don’t forget that they need to know more about you, too, so make sure to offer up the same information about yourself. The more you trust each other, the safer and more comfortable you will feel in your dorm.
Once you’ve gotten to know each other a little better, don’t forget to draft up a roommate agreement!
- Are you introverted or extroverted? Maybe you both enjoy a quiet space to yourselves, with few visitors, and time to recharge after a long day. Maybe you both prefer to be where the people are, around noise and bustle and constant go-go-go. If you’re one of each, you’ll need to come to an agreement you’re both comfortable with.
- When do you usually go to bed and wake up? Are you a morning person or a night person? Being respectful of each other’s sleeping times is key to a good roommate situation. In fact, it really all comes down to respect for each other.
- What major are you studying? When are your classes? Some majors take more time than others and may require longer quiet hours for them – or you. It’s also good to know when they will be out of the dorm so that you have some time to yourself.
- Do you work in addition to school? Most students on my floor had their standard weekly schedule (classes/work/etc) posted for their roommate. It’s also common to have a whiteboard on the door or other method of leaving notes about your current location.
- Do you prefer to study in the dorm, or somewhere else? How do you study? Some people prefer to study in the library, a coffee shop, common areas, or even outside. They might like to study in quiet by themselves, or in groups.
- What is your family life like back home? A touchy question for some, but getting to know someone’s home life can provide some insight into how much noise and chaos they’re used to having around them – or creating. It also helps to ask if they’ve ever shared a room before with a sibling or a friend.
- How often do you clean? How do you think chores should be split? Keeping your dorm clean is not only going to be required (and likely monitored to some degree) by your school and RA, but can prevent arguments if you’re upfront and clear on your expectations about cleanliness. You could even put together a chore chart. Who knows – maybe they don’t mind doing chores you despise!
- What do you do on weekends, or for fun? This is a great icebreaker, and a fantastic way to find out if you maybe have any common interests. Do they plan on going to all the football games? Are you both big fans of a particular TV show?
- What all are you bringing? What are you willing to share? Are they bringing a microwave, TV, or game console they’re willing to let you use? How about cleaning supplies like a broom or mop? Don’t forget to return the favor if you plan on bringing something they aren’t. Also, some people are extremely private with their personal things, so respect their boundaries if they choose not to share.
- What are your plans for weekends and breaks? If their family is across the country, they may only be able to go back for holidays, meaning they’ll be around more. If they’re going to school in their hometown, you may have the dorm to yourself all weekend.
- Do you plan on having guests, whether overnight or not? It’s important to establish boundaries right away, and rules on guests is a big one. If they have siblings or a significant other that comes by all the time and that makes you uncomfortable (or the other way around), comports may be in order. You may have to set limits on when and where guests can be.
- Do you drink or smoke? Not everyone is into these activities, and it’s important for you to know whether this is something your roommate actively partakes in. Most dorms are extremely strict about these, but even if it’s not done in the dorm itself, you can prepare for what it might mean for your comfort, especially if you have asthma or other health issues,
- Do you have any allergies, food or otherwise, or dietary restrictions? In addition to common food allergies like peanuts, eggs, or dairy, your new roommate might be vegan or vegetarian, gluten-free, or have other dietary needs. Most people with allergies are very upfront about them, but it doesn’t hurt to ask to what extent they need to be avoided. Don’t forget to disclose any of your own. Also, think about non-food allergies. Are they sensitive to harsh cleaning products, like Clorox? Do they sneeze all night if there are down pillows in the room? Are they allergic to the dog you have at home? It’s important that everyone is comfortable.
- Do you have any pet peeves? How do you handle conflicts? This is a question to really get to know someone. They might be super laid back and carefree, or they might be very uptight about various things. Loud music, dishes left out, or unmade beds may frustrate them or stress them out. Remember that being a good roommate is a two way street, and while you should strive to respect their pet peeves, they should also be respectful of yours. What if a disagreement does come up? How will you handle it?
- Is there anything else I should know about you? This can be the time to discuss other things such as hobbies, interests, activities, commitments, or even things like health conditions and religious affiliations that might be important for each other to know. The biggest thing is that even if you aren’t a perfect match, or you don’t always get along, you should always respect one another so that you can trust each other.
Remember that roommate switches are usually difficult to come by and may result in hurt feelings for both parties. As long as you are both upfront about your expectations about living together in the dorm, you should be able to come to an agreement that works for both of you. You may not be best friends (or you might be – don’t get discouraged!) but you will be living together for a semester or even a year.
Both of you are in college to further your education, but living in a dorm is an important part of the college experience. Keeping these 15 questions in mind when you talk to your new roommate can help both of you have a great time!