How to Get Off to a Good Start with a College Roommate

Whether you or your child is rooming with a close friend or a stranger, there are steps to take now.

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Two students take a stroll around campus at Colgate University, in Hamilton, N.Y.

Whether you're rooming with a friend, an acquaintance, or a complete stranger, sharing a dorm room with another college student can be a big transition.

Starting off on the right foot, however, can prevent many problems from coming up during the school year. Here are our tips for getting on your roommate's good side sooner rather than later.


As a parent, there's a good possibility that roommate issues are the first thing you'll hear about from your child at college. Here are some things that may impact your student's roommate experience.

1. Consider the rooming situation at home: College sometimes represents a child's first time sharing a room. When that is the case, he or she not only has to deal with the the roommate, but the experience of sharing a room as well. If that describes your child, try to pinpoint if an issue is a roommate issue or a room sharing issue. Having that information can help your child work through whichever one it is.

2. Offer resources to your child: Many times, your child will just need a sympathetic ear to help him or her deal with roommate transitions. If your child seems to need more, however, be ready with some concrete suggestions he or she can try or resources offered by the school to help resolve roommate issues. These will enable you to help your child help himself or herself.

[Find out how to explore resources at college orientation.]

3. Know when to step in: Most roommate issues are simply adjustment issues that will not only pass but will probably teach your child important life lessons as well. In some cases, however, involving the university and requesting a room change will be in order.

Consider becoming more involved in your child's roommate issue when the problems have gone on for an extended period of time or when your child's well-being is threatened, as in the case of illegal or dangerous behavior.

[Read more about keeping your child safe at college.]


Parents at orientation or on my tours often ask me if it's better to room with a friend or to opt for a random assignment. Often, what they're really getting at is how they can avoid the "problem roommates" or "roommate horror stories" they've heard or read about.

What I have found to be true in my time at college is that finding a roommate you mesh well with can be tricky, whether it's a friend or someone you've just met. There's no right answer for how to pick the perfect roommate, but here are some ways to prevent future issues with a roommate.

1. Make an offline connection: If you've never met your roommate before, send them an E-mail, Facebook message, or Tweet asking for their cell number, and get a hold of them that way. In my opinion, having a phone call with a roommate beats cyber messaging any day. If they live near you, try meeting up for lunch or coffee.

Even if you know your roommate from high school, schedule time together—a meal, shopping trip, or movie—to spend time together and discuss what living together will be like.

2. Think bigger than who's bringing the refrigerator: The classic conversation many people think of when contacting their roommate concerns who will provide the TV, microwave, and mini fridge. These things are important, but lifestyle questions can be even more important to discuss.

Be sure to ask whether your new roommate is a morning person or a night owl, likes a room tidy or messy, and opinions on guests.

[Consider roles and responsibilities in roommate relationships.]

3. Keep judgments to a minimum: One of the worst things a student can do is judge his or her future roommate solely by their Facebook profile or other social media outlets. Whether you feel this person is completely different from you or your long-lost twin, postpone expectations until you meet them in person.

Even better, give any roommate at least two weeks before deciding you don't match well. You may be surprised by how well you get along.