A terrific balance between the fun-types of questions and the most essential getting-to-know-you questions.
This article was originally published for The Odyssey on August 8, 2016.
It’s that time of year again! Whether you’re a returning student, or heading in for your freshman year, you’re sure to be feeling a little antsy! College can be a little scary, especially if you have to live with at least one other person in a dorm or suite. You may know this person really well, or you may not know them at all. I’ve personally been granted the opportunity to be given a random roommate twice now, so I can definitely relate to those new-roommate-jitters! No matter if you’re sharing a room with just one another person, or a suite or apartment with a few others, you have to remember to ask them these questions!
1. The Basics
What’s your name? Where are you from? What’s your major and the like. It’s important to get this question out of the way early. So if you have a platform to connect to your roommate(s) before move-in day, make sure that you get this one out of the way.
2. Have you ever lived with anyone before?
Even if they’ve only shared a room with a sibling, that counts as sharing a room with someone. It’s important to ask this so that you are aware of the circumstances that may lie ahead. If your future roomie(s) haven’t ever had to share anything before, they may not be used to the fact and some banter could arise. This way, you can be on your guard if sharing is something they’ll have to adjust to.
3. What’s your schedule like?
Knowing your mates’ schedules is important because you’ll both be super busy, no doubt, with the school year and knowing when they’re going to be studying in the room, or napping is important so that you won’t disturb them on purpose. Establishing time windows for these activities is a good idea so that you’re not getting on one another’s nerves. Obviously it doesn’t have to be so organized that you’re timing your nap to fit in with their studying time, but make sure to discuss this one.
4. How do you feel about guests?
Will they be having friends over a lot, or will you? Do either of you have a significant other that will sleep over every weekend? How will they tell you if they have someone over? Do they have to clear it with you before having guests over? All of these are valid questions and while many know about the sock on the door, my freshman roommate sure didn’t and thought I was totally making it up. Definitely cross this off your mental question list, it’s pretty important to be in agreement on this.
5. Are you planning to go home a lot?
My freshman year roommate went home every weekend and also hated naps. Due to the fact that she went home every weekend, I allowed myself to sleep in and nap as much as possible, so that I could get it out of my system for the week. Knowing when they’re going home is also good so that you don’t wake up questioning where they are or where they went.
6. Are you planning to or are you already involved with clubs/sports on campus?
This is a huge one. If you or your roommate are going to be in and out of the room frequently, leaving early, or returning late, it’s important to know just how busy you both are going to be. I found myself extremely involved with theater my first year of college, so I often came in late and my roommate was long asleep. Knowing that was asleep allowed me to prepare to tiptoe around the room and make sure I didn’t wake her. Knowing each other’s schedules can only help.
7. Do you have a job?
Knowing if they are going to be in and out of the room at random times is important, in case you are randomly locked out of your room and can’t find a resident assistant or something like that. This is also important so you can both establish times for quiet hours/lights out, in case the other person may have to be up early the next morning.
8. Are you a morning or night person?
Maybe you like staying up late and sleeping in and maybe your roommate likes waking up at the crack of dawn to blast their music. This is something you have to establish right away, to make sure that you’ll be able to compromise, if need be. If you find that you and your future roommate(s) are the opposite, know that there are so many resources on campus that you can utilize to study besides you room. Also know that you’ll have to confront your roommate if they wake you up.
9. Where do you fall on the neatness spectrum?
Some people don’t like being asked if they are clean or messy, because messy sounds a lot like dirty. I’m not dirty, but I have been known to let things pile up and clutter my side of the room. It’s better to ask where they land on the scale or spectrum so you don’t offend them and so you’re able to get a good idea of what to expect.
10. What are you bringing that you’re willing to share?
Now that you’ve got all the personal questions out of the way, it’s time to get down to business. Will they be bringing a printer that they wouldn’t mind you using? Or will you have to fight to use the microwave? This question can be a little awkward at first, but is essential if you’re going to be living with someone and will break the ice for similar questions to this.
11. Are you willing to pitch in to buy _____?
Maybe you’re going to buy a printer after you move in, or perhaps you want to split the cost of a microfridge. Asking if they’re willing the share the cost of these things will give you good insight on how considerate they’ll be with sharing too.
12. Do you have any allergies?
Besides the obvious snack foods, such as peanut butter, there may be some other allergies at play here. Maybe you really like berry scented air fresheners but your roommate is allergic to berries. In order to avoid issues with scents and smells, this question is pretty important. You can also ask if there’s any scents or smells that they totally despise. That way you’re not spraying the heck out of your vanilla perfume if vanilla nauseates them.
13. Do you have a car?
If you’re a freshman, this may or may not be applicable, depending on who is allowed to have a car on your campus. If you’re older, or allowed to have one, this could be helpful to both of you. If you ever needed to go pick something up from the store, or from another place in town, or even if you find yourself stranded somewhere, knowing that your roommate has a car will probably be a blessing.
14. How do you study?
Some people need complete silence to focus. Some people like music. Some people like to verbally read their notes to retain the information. I try not to study in my room too much because I think it’s too easy to get distracted, but not everyone feels this way. Getting to know one another’s study habits will help both of you succeed in your academics.
15. Do you like the room hot or cold?
If applicable, this is an important one. I am definitely a cold person and luckily my roommate last year was too. Fighting over the thermostat can not only cause some super annoying fights, but can also break the thermostat. Let’s try and cut down on the maintenance requests this year, shall we?
16. What are your pet peeves?
Another great question so that you’re not stepping on each other’s toes. You never know what could annoy someone. My previous roommate sometimes got annoyed that I didn’t do laundry more often, something that virtually did not affect her at all. The way to an efficient living situation is communication. This way, both of you know to avoid those pet peeves.
17. Do you drink?
This one and the next questions are completely essential, whether you do or don’t. If you have a problem with them drinking, speak up right away so they know not to do it in your presence.
18. Do you smoke?
19. How do you feel about parties?
If perhaps you’re the type of roommate who likes to throw parties, this could be pretty important. If however, you’re looking for a party buddy or expect to be coming in late a whole lot, well, definitely let your roommate know and vice versa.
20. What chores do you not mind doing?
As much as I hate to admit it, cleaning is so important. Even if one of you is dusting and the other is wiping down counters, make sure to establish some sort of cleaning routine. If you’ve got plants, water them. If you have dishes, clean them. I’m not saying every roommate has to have a chore chart or wheel, but make sure to vacuum, dust, wipe down and sanitize at least once a month.
21. What kind of music do you like?
This could be fun, or for testing purposes. If either of you enjoy playing music aloud, this is to be asked only so you can be considerate of their tastes.
22. What are your favorite foods?
23. How do you spend your free time?
Maybe you could spend some free time together, depending on their tastes. Bonding experiences are fun experiences!
24. What was your high school experience like?
25. What are your future goals?
Asking what they want to do after graduation with their degree can spark a whole new conversation. Dig in!
26. Do you have any pets?
27. Tell me about your family?
People love to talk about their families. Prepare to spend at least an hour on this question.
28. Why did you choose this school?
29. Questions about their side of the room.
Ask them about that friend in that picture, or about the stuffed giraffe on their bed. Ask them about their favorite movies and if they brought any. Ask about the origami shark on their desk. Notice the little things.
30. What’s your take on privacy in the room?
If you don’t have the room to yourself, it can be easy to forget what is and isn’t acceptable. Is it cool to be in the room while they are face-timing or skyping someone? Do they want to be in the room while you do it? What about phone calls? Who should leave? All of these questions relate back to privacy in the room. You or your roommate may be very open and totally fine with the other listening in. Alternatively, maybe someone isn’t too fond of you listening to their face-time session. Remember to ask so you can narrow this down.
31. Are any of your friends going to school here?
Knowing that they have friends or will have friends hanging around a lot is a good sign. It means they’re amiable. Hopefully the friends aren’t crashing on your floor every night though.
32. When are you moving in and what time?
Just so that you can schedule your moving time around theirs if needed. If either of you is already moved in, this is also helpful because you have the option to either help the other roommate move in, or make sure you’re nowhere to be found.
33. If something goes wrong, how will you communicate with me?
Some people are extremely passive aggressive. Some people will leave you angry notes. I personally prefer to confront someone and get everything out in the open, so that we can all be honest with one another, but I know that not everyone has this philosophy. Communicating about communication is going to be crucial if this roommate-ship is ever going to work out.
34. Is there anything you want to know about me?
35. Is there anything else I should know?
Maybe they have something else to mention that doesn’t necessarily fit into the questions asked before. Give them a chance to voice this.