How to Choose a Roommate

Choosing a roommate can be one of the most significant decisions an undergraduate makes during his/her college experience.  Sometimes it can turn college into a wonderful adventure and sometimes it can cause tremendous heartache. 

Cumulatively, those of us in Residence Life have more than 30 years of experience with the “living on campus thing.” We have observed many great roommate interactions. Unfortunately we have also observed some difficult ones.

Below are some observations put together by the housing and residence life staff on how to discover a roommate that would be a good match for you. These are suggestions, not guarantees. But we would like to minimize poor experiences for our residents. 

A Strategy

At the core of our thinking is the realization that “a good friend does not necessarily make a good roommate.”  We want you to find a great roommate, not necessarily a great friend. Your campus home should be a place you enjoy; it should be that proverbial “place of refuge.”

The first step is to be observant and thoughtful. Think about the people you connect with and why. Think about how you live your life and watch others as they live their lives. Think about messiness, tidiness, cleanliness and hygiene. What is important to you? Do you see others who share these priorities? While a preference for country music, punk rock or the symphony may seem important, they really are not that critical compared to cleanliness, sleep, personality and character. Remember that most individuals are not perfectly compatible; we make choices about what is important and compromise on what is less significant.

The second step is speaking to others about what they are hoping for in a roommate. Don’t be afraid to ask someone; it is like finding a date for prom. Everybody is thinking about it, and everyone is a little nervous about bringing it up. While you should not rely on your RA to find someone for you, ask their counsel; they may have some good observations. 

Step three: Start narrowing down the folks who you would like to ask to be your roommate. Speak with them. Ask them tough questions now, not in September when a concern arises. What are they hoping for? What are you expecting? Realize that every year can be different; experience does not guarantee that you have it figured out. Discuss how you like to have problems addressed, and ask how they resolve concerns as well.

The fourth step: Ask someone to be your roommate. It is not unusual for a student to ask three or four individuals before he/she sets up a connection. Remember this is NOT a marriage proposal. Even when this commitment feels solid, remember that things change. Your future roommate may transfer, withdraw, etc. Don’t despair; be flexible with you expectations and hopes. Examine whether your non-negotiable expectations are really that non-negotiable. Hold onto the important things and put aside lesser priorities. Further, remember that the more roommates you have, the more conversations you should have.

The fifth step is signing up for housing.

Suggested questions and considerations

(This is not a checklist-they are suggestions)

Part I: Goals, Preferences and Habits

  1. How much sleep do I need and when do I like to get it?
  2. Do I already have an adequate number of friends at Fox?
  3. What will my study habits look like next term?
  4. How important is it to have things neat and clean?
  5. How do I feel about my possessions (i.e., what things are okay to borrow and what things I prefer not to have touched)?
  6. What grades do I hope to earn next year and how important is that goal to me?
  7. How do I like to spend my money?
  8. How is my health most of the time?
  9. How do I feel about living away from home?
  10. How do I get along with my family?
  11. How do I feel about having other students/visitors in our room?
  12. What kind of music do I like and when do I listen to it (in the morning waking up, while studying, etc.)?
  13. What is my spiritual growth like and where would I like to be?
  14. When do I like to have my devotions?
  15. What do I like to do for exercise?
  16. What do I hope to do about dating this term?

Part II: Some Things About My Emotional Style

  1. Describe what I’m like when I’m down or upset.
  2. Describe how I usually let people know that I’m angry.
  3. Describe how I am when I feel pressure (i.e., during exams).
  4. Describe those things that are likely to annoy me.
  5. Describe things that will cheer me up when I’m down.
  6. How I am when things are going well.
  7. Describe times when I would prefer to be left alone.
  8. Describe when it is for me to let people know what I am feeling or what I need.
  9. Describe what I am willing to compromise.
  10. Describe “deal breakers” in terms of relationships.