How to Find Quality Roommates

By Lorena Roberts on June 23, 2018

When it comes to college living, having roommates is just a part of life. From the moment you move into your freshman dorm until you graduate, it’s likely that you’ll have to share your living space. Unless you come from a family of money, and they’re willing to dole out all kinds of money for you to live alone, more than likely you’ll have to live your college years with at least one roommate, if not more.

There are several options when it comes to housing in college. You can choose to live in a studio apartment, which, in my experience, is pretty expensive.

And then there’s the option of living in a two-bedroom apartment; sometimes, this is worth the few extra dollars per month… until your roommate starts inviting her boo to stay over on a daily basis.

Then there’s the option of living in a townhouse with two roommates, which can be nice, except we all know “three’s a crowd” and the drama will just be insane.

And then there’s always the option of renting a house and living with five of your closest friends. But think about sharing a bathroom with all those people, not to mention the number of guests that will be making themselves at home in your common spaces on a weekly basis.

So unless you have the budget for a studio apartment, it looks like you’ll need to brush up on your roommate matching skills. My advice: I would not leave it up to the apartment complex’s management to roommate match for you. If you don’t want to end up living with people who take your things (makeup, clothing, food, etc), or people who don’t respect your space, I’d suggest doing your own digging when it comes to finding quality roommates.

Apartment complexes will often offer to find a roommate for you. They’ll list “roommate matching” under the amenities of the complex. However, this doesn’t always play out to your benefit. I can tell you from experience that the roommate matching sheet that the managers will use consists of questions like:

  • “Do you have pets?”
  • “Are you a student?”
  • “Are you a morning or evening person?”
  • “Do you enjoy having people over?”

I can attest to the fact that as a college freshman, my Resident Assistant (RA) gave my roommate and I a “roommate contract” to fill out after a few days of living together. There were things on this “contract” that I’d never even thought to ask someone! But as a college freshman, we were actually sharing a room. So when she stayed up late at night on the phone, or when I had 8 a.m. classes and she was going to bed when I was getting up, at least we had some boundaries.

Everything from “how often can guests spend the night?” to “do you shower in the morning or in the evening?” was listed on our roommate contract. Once it was signed and turned back into our RA, any disagreements we had from then on out resulted in us consulting our roommate contract.

Finding a roommate (or roommates) can be overwhelming. Where should you even begin? You know hundreds of people, but how many of those people could you actually stand living with for the next year (or longer)?

If you’re on a college campus, there are endless opportunities for you to meet people. However, there are a few things you should think about prior to inviting someone to live with you:

via Pexels.com

1. Do you want to live with friends?

Sometimes it’s more complicated to live with people you’re friends with. Everyone needs their “alone time” to recharge and recuperate. Before you think about asking the new girl you met at Chess Club to become your newest roommate, think about how often you want to have social interactions. Sometimes it’s easier to live with people you don’t have anything in common with. You won’t have to interact with them on a daily basis if you have nothing to talk about, you’ll just simply need to agree on what temperature to set the thermostat and how to take turns running the garbage to the dump.

On the other hand, if you can imagine a life of living with your friends – go for it. Just know that you could be walking into something that’s a lot harder than it has to be. When you live with friends, suddenly your social life and your home life are merged. You’re constantly given opportunities to socialize and hang out. Before you know it, it can be easy to lose track of the time you spend collecting your thoughts and processing your day. Depending on the kind of person you are, living with your friends may or may not be a good idea.

Infographic by Lorena Roberts

2. What do you want your evenings/weekends to be like?

Do you enjoy spending your evenings alone in your room with Netflix and a box of Wheat Thins? Or are you looking for someone to conversationally stimulate you after a long day of class/work/studying? Imagine your perfect roommate, and maybe even write down what you’re looking for in a good housemate. (This is starting to sound a lot like dating, but trust me, you’ll be thankful you followed these steps ahead of time.)

Consider your ideal interaction when you walk in the door after a long day. Do you want to be greeted by your two roommates and all of their closest pals who have come over to “study,” but they’re actually tipsy at 6 p.m.? Or are you wanting to come home to a quiet place, where your roommates keep to themselves for the most part, and all of you spend the majority of your time at home in your room alone?

There are thousands of scenarios you could run through in your head, but it’s important to at least spend a little bit of time thinking about these types of things. If you don’t think about them now, you could get yourself wrapped up in a sticky situation — and trust me, it’s much harder than you think to break a lease.

3. What are the top ten things you are annoyed by, and how can you make sure your irritation becomes a conversation and not pent-up anger?

Much like you’ve made a list of all the things you’d like in a roommate, make a list of all the things you wouldn’t like. Then, make a game plan for yourself as to how you’re going to resolve issues with your roommates. It’s not time to start looking for someone to live with if you don’t have a communication plan.

Will it be okay to solve things via text or is it better to talk in person? Will they feel as though you’ve attacked them when you confront them regarding their annoying habits and lack of cleanliness?

When is it best to discuss things that you’re upset about? At night? In the morning? Weekly/monthly roommate meetings?

Making a communication plan is probably the best thing you can do for you and your roommates before you end up moving in together. Otherwise, you’re not going to be able to move past the small things.

Once you’ve taken care of these preliminary roommate-search tasks, it’s time to create a game plan for actually finding a roommate.

So where should you begin? There are thousands of college students on any given campus, on any given day. So how do you even start to think about who to choose as roommates? Here are some tips for finding quality roommates:

Start with people you know:

Whether you have mutual friends, you met once at a party, or you’re in the same club together on campus, it’s good to start with people you know. Especially if you’re freaked out about making a Craigslist ad, beginning with the people who share a commonality with you is most likely to start you off on the right foot (and make sure you don’t end up living with a roommate like “Dexter”).

Networking through clubs you belong to and friend groups you’re a part of is the best way you can meet people who could be potential roommates. When you meet someone you think might be a good fit, ask around about them. What kind of person are they? Who have they lived with before? Why hasn’t it worked out in the past?

There’s no such thing as asking too many questions when it comes to deciding who you’ll be sleeping close to for the next 12 months.

Take advantage of social media:

In this day and age, it’s insane not to turn to the help of social media when it comes to finding a roommate. Whether you join a “Find a Roommate” Facebook page for your college/university, or you follow a feed on Twitter that leads you to your roommate/soulmate, social media can be one of the most useful resources you have access to.

Consider posting on your feed that you’re looking for a roommate/roommates. By the time it gets shared through your friends/followers, you’ll have at least one person reply to the post, I’m sure of it. The power of today’s technology is irreplaceable.

Be creative with the outlets you choose to use.

Sure, many people will tell you that Craigslist is not the place to post an ad for a roommate. However, if you go about it the right way, you might find that Craigslist gives you access to thousands of people. You are more than welcome to place as many restrictions on your post as you’d like:

“Must be a student at _________, no pets, good credit, and can pay one month’s rent as a deposit.”

Sometimes Craigslist actually provides a good outlet to connect you with people that other kinds of social media/technology can’t! Not everyone who scrolls through the Craigslist roommate postings are creepy old men. Many students will use Craigslist as a place to find roommates if they’re running out of options and they’re feeling pressured to sign a lease.

Make sure the interview process is in-depth and covers all of your bases.

I’m a strong advocate for “interviewing” roommates before you decide to live with them. Just like any job, there are qualities you’re looking for in a roommate, much like employers look for certain skills in applicants. Don’t be afraid to meet for coffee (maybe twice) to go over some baseline living habits.

Remember to establish who’s name the utility bill will be under, what day you’re going to pay it, and how you’ll handle splitting expenses. Do you prefer to share food items used by everyone, such as water bottles and butter? Or are you strictly buying groceries for your consumption only?

via Pexels.com

Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions.

As popular as it is to get into illegal activities in college, you might not be okay with that happening under the same roof as you. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Let it be known that you will not tolerate it.

Or maybe you will.

And better yet, if you’re going to be the one participating in dangerous/illegal activities, that should be something you and your roommate(s) talk about before you decide to move in together. It’s much harder to address that kind of issue once you’re all living under the same roof.

Finding roommates is stressful, overwhelming, and exhausting. You’ll hit dead-ends. You’ll meet people who will flake on you. You’ll get frustrated with people because they don’t live up to your expectations. And then you’ll find people who suit you. You’ll find people who make you feel welcome in your own home. Who put up with you on your bad days and celebrate you always. Eventually, you’ll find people you feel comfortable around. And if you don’t, there’s always the option of taking out more student loans for a studio apartment.

Best of luck!

Lorena graduated from The University of Tennessee in Knoxville last December with a BA in Honors Psychology. After some serious soul-searching, she's decided to pursue a Master's in teaching in order to teach middle school math! In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her Whippet mix, Gio, at the dog park and binge watching Netflix with endless cups of Hot Cocoa.

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