How to Pick a College Roommate

Lauren Ward
Lauren Ward

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For the last eighteen years, you’ve likely lived under a roof with the same people. Your habits, quirks, and routines have developed over time in tandem with your parents and siblings. Having shared a common space for so long, it’s easy to underestimate the understanding and compromise that went into building those relationships and maintaining a harmonious home. Now, for the first time, you’re going to be living under a different roof with different people. Most colleges allow you to pick a college roommate and will do their best to accommodate you. How you go about choosing a roommate can mean the difference between two peaceful semesters at school… or the emotional equivalent of living two seasons of a Real Housewives reality show.

What Are You Looking for in a Roommate?

Living with new people can be stressful. When you pick a college roommate, that person will likely have different habits, different ideas and different interests than you. The first key to finding the perfect roommate starts by asking yourself! That is to say, find some questions about what you want and the traits you value in a person with whom you’ll be spending a lot of time. Are you looking for a new best friend or prefer a little space? How tidy of a person are you and do you care if your roommate is more or less so? Are you late to bed or early to rise?

Taking a good look at who you are and what you need in a roommate is an essential first step. Be honest with yourself. If you don’t mind laundry strewn all over the floor and you’re the type to leave dishes in the sink it’s probably not best to live with a person that dusts under the furniture twice a week. If you like to get up with the sunrise, two hours before class starts, your roommate probably shouldn’t enjoy binging on the latest Netflix original series until the wee hours of the morning. Make a list of both good and bad traits that you have, and the traits you can and can’t stand in another person. We’re all different and no one is perfect; but understanding yourself and what you expect from the person you’ll be living with can mean the difference between a good year and a great year.

How Do You Find a Roommate?

Unless you’re lucky enough to head off to college with your high school bff, you’re going to have to do some digging. As soon as you’re accepted to the university of your choice, you need to start doing research. Dorms differ from college to college and even building to building. Will you be bunking with just one person in a room or will your it be a suite that houses three, four, or more people? Does your school offer a questionnaire that helps pair you up with potential roommates? What criteria do they use to accomplish this? Discovering what options are available to you before your housing application arrives will put you ahead of the curve.

Besides utilizing the assistance your college offers in finding a roommate, there are some ways you can take matters into your own hands. There are several options to connect with other incoming freshmen at your school. When Facebook first started, you had to have a .edu email just to join. Now your grandmother, your aunt and uncle, and your parents all have an account and probably likes every single thing you post. That doesn’t mean that Facebook isn’t still a useful tool for students. You can actually use it to connect with incoming students that have similar interests to you. Besides groups dedicated to your incoming class, you should easily find groups related to you area of study, extracurricular activities, and many others. If you don’t see any that excite you, create your own! Social media allows you to connect with people in a way your parents never imagined.

Facebook isn’t the only game in town. A quick Google search for roommate finders will reveal a plethora of websites dedicated to connecting you with other incoming students. Sites such as Room Surf and others were started by college students to help take the guesswork out of finding a sustainable living situation. These websites also often offer safety protocols that you won’t find answering a Craigslist ad. Speaking of Craigslist…just don’t. There are safer ways to pick a college roommate in no time.

Once You Find That Perfect Person

You’ve done some reflection, you did your research, and you’ve found the perfect roommate or roommates. Now it’s time to connect with them before you pick up your keys.

Make an effort

Get to know them, uncover each other’s needs, and start building relationships. There’s a lot that goes into moving into a new place. You hope you’re going to love your new roommate, but there’s still a lot to figure out. Who’s bringing the microwave? If you’re lucky enough to have a kitchen, who has the pots and pans? While everyone has their own stuff, you’re going to be sharing some things and now is the time to figure out who has what… and what you need to get.

Find some common ground

Take the time you have before you move in not only to get to know each other but figure out the logistics and dynamics necessary to make the move as smooth as possible. After such an exhaustive search it’s probably fair to say this person is not your next door neighbor. Chances are they live hundreds of miles away and meeting for coffee a few times a week is not in the cards. Luckily there are several apps that can make having a conversation a snap. Kik and WhatsApp are great options for chatting in a way that Facebook and emails can’t compete with. This is especially helpful if you have more than one roommate. Create a group and let everyone chat and get to know each other. Figure out your needs, coordinate your move, and get ready to meet!


You’re about to start a whole new chapter of your life; and now you don’t have to go at it alone. Hopefully you won’t just pick a college roommate. You’ll picked someone with shared values and needs that can support you, just like you support them.

Questions? Let us know!