Freshman Dorm Life: Choosing a Roommate

As you prepare to move into a college dorm, should you room with a friend from high school? Or should you play roommate roulette and take a chance on living with someone you've never met before?

Going to college can be scary enough on its own, so having a familiar face around can be comforting. On the other hand, college is when you start becoming an independent adult. It's time to move on from high school; opening yourself up to new people and relationships is part of that change.

Some friends from high school do make good roommates. Other times, sharing a dorm room ends a friendship that's been close since first grade. Whether you live with a friend or a stranger, remember that successful roommate relationships depend more on personalities than shared history.

Considering a high school friend as a roommate

If you're thinking about living with a friend, ask questions like the following and consider the answers carefully:

  • Do you like to stay up until Jimmy Kimmel signs off, but your roommate goes to bed at 9:30?

  • Which things do you share, and which are off limits? (You might get miffed if your roommate eats your last cookie, but your roommate could be equally upset if you borrow her shoes without asking.)

  • Is your friend a neat freak while you let the laundry pile up for a few weeks?

  • Does one of you like to party more than the other? What are the boundaries? What about overnight guests? You might get along fine with your best friend as a roommate, but not appreciate his girlfriend's every-weekend visits from your hometown.

If you decide to dorm with a friend from high school, give your roomie some space to be her own person.  Having a familiar face to come home to can be comforting, but you don't have to tag along every time she goes to the cafeteria or hangs out in a room down the hall.

Also remember that people change. Your best bud might never attend a party while in high school but suddenly have a keg in your dorm room every Tuesday night. Even you might change: many an average high-school student discovers that grades and studying are far more important to them once in college.

Taking a chance on a stranger

There's little doubt that the first few days of living with a person you've never seen before will be awkward, but it can also be a wonderful surprise — even if you have little outwardly in common.  What if you've never played sports but you get paired with a member of the football team? What if you are a Methodist from Michigan and your roommate is a Muslim from Egypt? What if you crave a cheeseburger while studying but your roommate is a vegan who's sickened by the smell of meat?

Remember that college is a place for learning, and your roommate can teach you things, too. You might learn about different lifestyles, cultures, political views, family situations, and much more from the stranger who shares your living space.

Living with a roommate

If you respect your roommate and her property (as well as her study, social, and sleep habits), if you coordinate your study and cleaning schedules, keep communication lines open so you can talk through your disagreements, and make the effort to be friendly (even if you're not really friends), you can live with just about anybody.