How to Find the Right College Roommate

Two casual, happy roommate girls from different ethnicity studying together.
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Being paired up with a roommate for college can often be one of the more stressful aspects of starting school. After all, you're going to be living with a total stranger for a year in a pretty small space you both need to share. So just what are your options for finding a college roommate with whom you can get along?

Fortunately, most schools want to pair you up with someone whom you'll get along well with, too. After all, roommate problems are difficult for you, your roommate, the hall community, and the hall staff, and no one wants to purposefully set two people up for conflict. (In fact, the hall staff will help you to do things, like complete a roommate contract, to prevent problems in the first place.) Keep in mind, then, that your school likely has systems in place to make their roommate matching as smooth, positive, and error-free as possible.

While each school is different, most use one (or more) of the following methods for helping you find a suitable bunkmate.

An Old-Fashioned Questionnaire

You might be sent a questionnaire to fill out (either in hard copy or online) that asks you basic questions about your living habits and preferences. Do you go to bed late, or wake up early? Like your room clean or messy? Do you need quiet to study or are you okay with a lot of noise? All of these are important to consider when thinking about roommate matching, as the smaller things all contribute to a good roommate experience. When filling out any questionnaire, it's important to answer honestly about what your living style really is like -- and not what you'd like it to be. For example, while you may like the idea of getting up early but have been a late sleeper all your life, it's better to just be honest and write down that you sleep late instead of indicating that you'll suddenly change your habits when you start college.

Computer Software

Some institutions will have you fill out a form; computer software will then match you up with another student who has similar patterns as your own. While it may seem strange to have a machine match you up with another person, many of these programs can do a pretty darned good job. They will ask you questions about your own habits and preferences when it comes to a roommate and use this information to pair you up in ways that have been proven to be effective and successful.

Pairing up by Hand 

Believe it or not, some schools still match students up by hand. This kind of personal matching can be done at a smaller school or for a smaller living community (like a theme hall) where the success of each roommate relationship contributes to the health of the larger community. These kinds of matches can be a bit more diverse, as there is more conscious thought from the hall staff in putting people together. They can be a bit ​riskier -- but also a bit more fun.

Choose Your Own Roommate

Some college and universities now use programs that allow you to indicate one or more students that you'd like to live with. If you and that other student both pick each other, you're officially matched! While these kinds of programs can be easy to use and successful in their own ways, they also may not be as good as challenging you to step outside of your comfort zone and live with someone who you never thought you'd get along with.

No matter how you find your college roommate, keep in mind that the staff on your campus likely has several major goals in mind. If you decide you want a roommate, the staff will:

  1. want to make as many successful roommate pairings as possible;
  2. try to match some, but not all, of your preferences on purpose;
  3. look for both similarities and differences that will contribute to your college experience; and
  4. put you not just in a specific roommate pairing but also a hall in a purposeful manner.

While finding a college roommate can be scary, it can also be one of the best experiences you'll have during your time in school. So keep an open mind and know that the person you've just been paired with, whom you've never met, just might be one of the best aspects of your upcoming year in school.