roommates in a stylish dorm room from Dormify
Aja Darden

Big Sister Series: How to Choose Your Freshman College Roommate

Hey Alexa, play "Celebration" by Kool & The Gang because it’s time to celebrate! We know it might be hard to say goodbye, but it’s almost time to leave high school behind and say hello to college life. Being an incoming freshman can be stressful and exciting all in one—you have to research, find and apply to the schools that are right for you; wait for acceptance and/or rejection letters; apply for scholarships; and finally commit to a school. (Oh, and don't forget about creating allll the Pinterest moodboards for your dream dorm room and newly independent college life along the way.)

Another important part of the rising college freshman experience: finding your freshman year roommate. You might already be wondering about how to get college roommate, but if this is the first time you're thinking about it, don't worry: your friends (and recent college grads) at Dormify have you covered!

In this post, we'll go over all the dos and don'ts of choosing a roomie, as well as some advice about living with college roommates during your freshman year. We're here to help ease transition into your new shared living situation, and the secret to success lies in knowing what to expect, and how to resolve any potential problems or challenges that may arise.

college freshman roommates in a stylish dorm room from Dormify

If you're like many other incoming freshman students, college represents your first time living away from home. The upside? Living in student housing on a college campus is such a memorable experience, and one that can help you create lifelong friendships. You can assert your independence without worrying about making it home before curfew. The potential downside? As a freshman in a dorm, you'll likely have to share a living space with anywhere from one to seven other college students. The result: a new experience that can be exciting, fun and really difficult at times. 

So, how do you get a college roommate?

Just one word: network! College is your chance to come out of your shell, as people often say. You'll need to connect with other new students if you want to get to know your roommate(s) before moving in together. Facebook groups are one way to do that; your school probably has a Facebook group or a group chat on an app or website where new students can introduce themselves and find potential roommates and new friends.

Some tips on what to include in a post to introduce yourself to potential new roomies: 

  1. Your name
  2. Class (freshman)
  3. Major, if you have one in mind already
  4. Where you're from originally 
  5. The specific dorm you’d like to live in
  6. A few interesting facts about you
  7. A picture, if you'd like to share

How to vet a potential college roommate

Now that you've found someone with roomie potential, your next step is to get to know them better. The goal here is to determine if your lifestyle can mesh with theirs—or if you're open to making some accommodations for each other—so that you can share a small space for an extended period of time. So, it's a good idea to boost your chances of finding a compatible roommate by preparing a list of questions to ask. Here are some questions to consider posing to any potential roomies:

  1. Early bird or night owl?
  2. How do you like to study?
  3. Do you drink, smoke, etc?
  4. What does your class schedule look like?
  5. How do you feel about guests?
  6. When it comes to living with others, do you have any pet peeves?
  7. Do you have any allergies that have implications for our shared space?
  8. If we have a disagreement, what approach would you take to work through it?
  9. What dorm items are you open to sharing? What would you prefer to keep separate?
  10. Are you bringing any large items that could be shared, like a TV, area rug or mini fridge, that we may not want duplicates of?

The next step in your college roommate search: Meet each other IRL (or the next best thing)

Before you make a final decision to room together, it's a good idea to try meeting in person (or via FaceTime or video meeting). If you don't already know your potential freshman roommate from high school or another network, you'll benefit from a live convo with them to get a sense of their personality and overall vibe. If the stars really align, you and your potential roommate(s) could meet up in person when you tour the college campus—but that's not in the cards for everyone, especially those who'll be going to school out of state. Don't worry: A video chat is still a great way to connect, ask questions and make sure your personalities and lifestyles are a good fit.

college roommates in a styled dorm room from Dormify

Yes, college roommate drama happens ...

Living with a roommate in college isn't always a positive experience. For a lot of students, the combination of being away from home for the first time and sharing every inch of personal space with a stranger (or multiple strangers!) can be really stressful and overwhelming. In short? The potential for conflict—and by default, drama—is high. You'll need to be prepared to compromise and potentially make some sacrifices, because it's practically guaranteed that you and your roommate won't always agree on everything. When an issue comes up, talking with your residential advisor (RA) is a good place to start. An in-person conversation moderated by a neutral third party will allow you to dig into what's happening, be constructive and respectful of each other, and find a solution that (hopefully) works for everyone. If the situation can't be resolved or it feels like living with your roommate(s) will have negative consequences for you—like make it difficult to study, sleep or feel safe in your dorm—then you have the option to switch roommates. Just keep in mind that it can be more difficult to switch rooms in the middle of the semester versus at the start of a new one, so make sure you're really thinking through your choice of roommate!

Some college roommate tips from the pros

Tip 1: Setting boundaries early and sticking to them is really important.

Have conversations with your roommate(s) early on in the semester to establish the rules for your shared living space. For instance, you and your roommate should mutually agree to not play loud music or be disruptive while the other is studying. Having those conversations up front can help you align on priorities, reduce friction down the line, and make it easier to hold each other (and yourself) accountable.

Tip 2: Respect your roommate's space.

If you treat your roommate (and their half of your shared living space) with respect, they'll probably return the favor. It can be helpful early on to divvy up any chores that need to be done in your space (cleaning the shower, wiping down areas where you eat or prep meals, etc) so it's clear who's responsible for what each week. Living independently can be an especially hard transition for students who are used to parents tidying up at home, so make sure you're both committed to keeping common areas clean.

Tip 3: You don't have to be besties.

This might sound crazy, but it's ok if you and your freshman college roommate don't end up being soulmates. Being thrown together with a total stranger for the crazy transition period that is freshman year can be stressful, and feeling the added pressure to turn that random stranger into a best friend can make the transition even harder. Would it be amazing if your freshman roommate is actually a kindred spirit you share everything with and do everything with and stay besties with forever? Sure. But it's also totally fine to have a roommate that you just peacefully co-exist with—you may not have a ton in common, but they're a great roommate. In fact, you might decide that it's actually better that way—once you find someone you can live with easily, you might end up rooming with them all throughout college!

Wrapping Up: College Roommate 101

We're not gonna lie: There are real challenges that can come with trying to coexist with a roommate in a small space during a major life transition. But there are plenty of things you can do to set yourself up for success—from being thoughtful about your roommate choice to being considerate in your shared space. Living with a new person can teach you a lot about compromise, respect, conflict resolution and more, and these might be some of the most important lessons you'll learn outside of the classroom during your time at college.