11 Questions to Ask Your Future College Roommate, According to an RA
Preparing for college move-in day is an exciting process — but also an overwhelming one. Between checking off the comically long list of supplies you need and coordinating travel plans with your family, it can be easy to overlook the essential step of actually getting to know your future roommate(s) before you live together. Unfortunately, this can be a crucial mistake, because there’s nothing better than getting along with your roomies — and nothing worse than dealing with tension at home. (Eek!)
I’ve worked with both first-year students and upperclassmen as an RA for the last two years, and during this time, I’ve noticed a direct connection between open communication and positive living experiences — and I’ve seen that, for roommates, the sooner the communication starts, the better things go! Communicating upfront eliminates some of the unknown, begins to establish your roommate relationship, and sets an open and constructive tone for the year to come.
I compiled this list of questions all roomies should ask one another based on roommate success stories, common issues I’ve mediated among my residents, and things I wish I could have asked my own roommates in the past. Asking the questions below will not only help you prepare for your new living situation, but also hopefully get you excited for move-in day!
1. What household items are you bringing, and what are you open to sharing?
Before moving in, perhaps the most important thing to do (and certainly the most practical) is to coordinate who will be bringing what and which items will be shared. Items like a mini fridge, a floor lamp, and a doormat are inherently shareable because of their permanence in the room — but some problems could arise with more personal items like hair dryers, irons, and fans. It’s smart to establish which items roommates can use anytime, which items roommates should ask first to use, and which items you will never share. This helps everyone source what they need to bring in advance, and sets clear expectations once you’re all moved in.
2. What kind of aesthetic do you see the room having?
No, you and your roommate do not need to scramble to find matchy-matchy bedspreads and identical posters over the summer. However, it’s good to know your roommate’s general design style so you can start thinking about ways to coordinate with one another, even if your styles aren’t the same. A solid starting point for this conversation could be to discuss whether your space will be minimalist or maximalist, colorful or neutral, and calming or energizing. You can work out the finer details over time.
3. What’s your preferred level of social activity in the room?
People hold an array of expectations when it comes to visitors and general noise in their dorm. It’s important to know if your roommate(s) want your room to be an isolated study and sleep zone or a more lively social space. The level of activity can certainly fluctuate (preferably with communication in advance!), but it’s good to know everyone’s initial preferences from the start.
4. What’s your zodiac sign?
If you’re a Gemini, do us all a favor, and don’t move in with a Scorpio. Trust me. Jokes aside, asking about zodiac signs can serve as a fun icebreaker to learn more about each other — starting with whether you each believe in astrology. For some, this conversation starter could prompt a meaningful discussion about personality and lifestyle preferences — or, at the very least, you can have a laugh as you look up your signs’ compatibilities.
5. What temperature do you prefer?
When I’m at home, it’s time for sweatshirts, sweatpants, and soft blankets — regardless of the season. That said, I know some people who like to keep it toasty and wear as little clothing as possible when they’re in their own space. Having a common ground regarding the temperature of the room can make everyone feel more at home — and keep you from having a passive-aggressive fight over changing the thermostat. Unfortunately, not all dorms allow you to control your own temperature; still, you can at least plan out what items you can bring to help regulate your climate, such as fans, throws, and space heaters (if they’re allowed).
6. What time do you wake up and go to bed, and what do you need in order to have a good sleep?
Everyone has different sleep schedules and levels of disturbance they can tolerate while in bed. From my own experience, it’s best when roommates generally have the same sleep preferences as one another. However, there are cases when people are heavy sleepers and aren’t bothered if a roommate has lights on or is making noise while they are trying to sleep. (Pro tip: If you’re the one with the more specific sleep preferences, you might want to invest in an eye mask and noise-canceling headphones!)
7. Do you have a partner, and will they ever stay overnight?
If you or your roommates have romantic partners, chances are, your space will host some overnight guests at some point or another. Establishing boundaries ahead of time regarding how often visitors (whether long-term partners or spontaneous sleepovers) should be allowed can prevent conflicts — because no one wants a surprise extra roommate staying every night without having at least discussed it first!
8. Are you comfortable discussing beliefs that are important to you (political, religious, ideological, etc.), and how important is it for your roommates to feel the same as you?
For many students, moving into a dorm is the first time they’re away from home. Having like-minded individuals around can make this transition a bit smoother. Before moving in, it’s a good idea to talk out some beliefs you may hold and discuss whether any differing ideas may upset either of you. It’s never easy to kick these conversations off, but my recommendation is to bring up the most important things to you that you actively practice or talk about on a daily basis.
Of course, it’s not a huge red flag if you and your roommate don’t see things the same way; as long as you approach these topics with sensitivity and respect, you can still live in harmony. However, if there are some non-negotiables that don’t work between you or make you feel unsafe, you may want to consider rooming with someone else. If that’s the case, be sure to let this person know well in advance of any housing deadlines, and emphasize your wish for you both to be comfortable in your own living spaces.
9. Be honest — how clean do you keep your space?
Sure, it’s nice to daydream about having a Pinterest-perfect, spotless dorm room, but that’s not always the case. Be honest with yourself and your future roommate(s) about how much of a priority cleanliness is to you. It’s also a good idea to get clear on what being “clean” actually means. For example: Is the coffee table “clean” if there is no clutter on it, or is it “clean” after someone has disinfected it? A good way to get to the heart of this question is to ask a few more pointed questions, such as “How often do you sweep?” and “How familiar are you with a washing machine?” From there, you can collaborate on a cleaning schedule that works for you both.
10. Do you use the Big Light?
The Big Light is the overhead lighting that comes with every dorm. It’s an efficient way to light the room, but it’s not everyone’s favorite, as it can be super bright and harsh. Some people prefer to purchase dimmer alternate lighting like lamps, fairy lights, or colorful LEDs. If you feel strongly about lighting, be sure to ask about this! And if you know you want to make additional lighting purchases, be sure to run it by your roommate by asking, “Would it bother you if I brought LEDs?” or “ Is it OK if we switch to only lamps after 9 p.m.?” Questions like these will also help establish whether the alternate lighting will be shared or for personal use only.
11. What kind of pop culture or fandoms are you into?
In my own experience at an art school, many of my fellow students passionately follow certain bands, shows, and characters. If you share any of those same interests with your roommate, you could totally bond by participating in the fandom together by watching shows, creating or displaying art, and even writing fanfic. (Personally, my favorite ways to see students show off their fandoms are with cardboard cutouts in their rooms — I’ve seen everything from Bob Ross to Guy Fieri, and I love it every time.) However, if you and your roommate don’t find common ground in pop culture, you can still find ways to mesh your interests. For example, you can get a corkboard and stick on some personal photos, notes, and printable quotes that speak to you — this can serve as a collage of everyone’s tastes and interests and act as a visual representation of your bond as roomies.