Six guiding questions to ask a potential college roommate

If you are a senior and have gotten into college, you understand that celebration is quickly followed by a new checklist that’s waiting to be completed. Orientation sign-up, housing applications and the, for some, dreaded roommate search. If you’re deciding to opt in for a random roommate match, I applaud your courage because, at least with me, I wanted to make sure I found the right roommate: someone who shared similar habits, yes, but also someone who I could connect with and have as a close friend. I called it ‘shopping for a built-in friend’ the other day to a peer, though they quickly shut it down because of the connotation, but I think the idea holds true. We are essentially speed dating to see if someone is compatible to be your roommate and friend, but that’s really overwhelming. To help you with your search, here is a list of good questions and noticings to look out for when trying to find the best fit for you. When I was interviewing my potential roommates, after they answered each of my questions, I answered them in turn. As a disclaimer, it’s important that you be completely honest with them and yourself about your answers because they don’t want to be fed false advertising as much as you don’t. These questions can be asked in whichever order flows with your conversation too. 


  1. What are your sleep, study and cleanliness habits? What do they want in a roommate regarding all of these things? Do they care how organized you are?

*follow up: Are they gonna have habits, like alarms or wacky sleep schedules, that are going to disturb you or vice versa? Are they a morning person or a night owl?

These habits don’t have to necessarily be the same, you just want to be careful that they don’t clash. 


  1. It’s a Saturday night: what do you want to do with your free social night? 

*follow up: Do they like to go out or stay in? Are they naturally an extrovert or an introvert? What do they do for fun or in their free time in general? 

These questions are SUPER vital to helping you visualize what your life together will be like. You don’t want a roommate who is way too social or unsocial for you because it matters to the environment you will be creating with each other. Think about what ways you usually live successfully now, and what kind of roommate you need in order to continue to have a comfortable lifestyle. 


  1. What do you want out of your college experience? What are your goals or bigger picture ideas of how you want these four-ish years to pan out?

*follow up: This gets them talking about their vision for college. As they describe what they want and don’t want (if they want to spend every waking hour in the library or try to strike a balance between studies and social activities). Notice if that sounds like someone you want to be around. Granted, you might not have the same roommate all four years, but a question like this gets them talking about their dreams for college, so see if they align with yours. 


  1. What are your family, friends and loved ones like? How many siblings do you have? Who’s your best friend and what are they like?

*follow up: Even if they aren’t very close to all of their friends or family, most everyone has a loved one. This might be a pet or an aunt or a long-distance partner, but you also just want to get to know them as a person. A great way to do that is to observe how they talk about things or people that they are passionate about. When they describe their relationships, do they seem aware, loving and happy with the connections they’ve made. This is a huge tell as to what kind of friend they will be for you. 


  1. If you had to describe yourself in 3 words, which ones would you choose and why? How do you see yourself? How would your loved ones describe you?

*follow up: This might be putting them on the spot with an uncomfortable question because some people get awkward when they have to talk about themselves, but it is a great tool to, again, observe how they speak about themselves. Generally speaking, it feels good to be around people who feel happy with themselves and the choices they have made for their life. Besides this though, this is an opportunity to notice how they view their own character or self which is super telling to the kind of person you will be around all the time. I can’t stress how important a question like this is to understanding the person and environment you are choosing to love in freshman year of college.


  1. What are your top 3 values in life (like loyalty, trust, kindness, authenticity, etc.) or in a friendship (can be the same values too)? 

*follow-up: here’s a hard hitting question that will help set the tone for what kind of relationship they want and to see if that’s what you want too. Definitely give them time to think about it because it is a deeper one, but notice if they get nervous at the idea of self-reflecting or getting more introspective. If this is a trait that matters to you like it does to me, don’t compromise it. If they aren’t open to having conversations like this, but you are looking for a real friend, don’t settle for a roommate who doesn’t value similar things just because you feel you need to hurry up the process and get a room application done already. 


Those are the six golden nuggets of wisdom I have for the roommate search, but I want to be clear that there is more to an answer than just the words people choose to say. Be observant to the little details that are so vital in communicating who this person is. Ask yourself as they speak: Are they optimists or pessimists? Are they critical of others or are they nonjudgmental? Are they listening to respond or to understand? Are they making you laugh or are you making yourself laugh because you’re just that witty? Did your conversation feel like it went by fast or slow? Are you excited after speaking with them or do you have doubts? 


All I can say to wrap it up is listen to all of your gut feelings. In addition, try to meet with them on FaceTime, as close to face-to-face as you can get. Also, don’t agree to be roommates after one video session, even if they insist because you’re so amazing, unless you are 100% sure that you’ve talked about everything you need to know and have no doubts about whether it will work out. 


It’s an exciting yet potentially stressful time. If you can, try to enjoy getting to know potential roommates because either you’re talking to the person you’re going to start your college journey with or a new college friend.