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Questions to Ask a Roommate

Delve a Little Deeper Than Living Habits and Sleep Preferences

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College roommates moving in together
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If you're heading to college, you're practically guaranteed to be paired with a roommate. And chances are, too, that you'll most likely be paired with someone whom you don't know at all. So besides the usual questions, what kinds of questions can you ask your roommate to help figure out more about them and more about their living style?

Keep in mind, of course, that you'll need to cover the basics, like if you prefer to keep your room neat, if you're an early bird or a night owl, and what kinds of things each of you is planning to bring. (Why bring two mini fridges when you can just share, for example?) Branching the discussion out from just logistics, however, can help you get to know your roommate as more of a person -- and help you both figure out how to be a good roommate to each other.

Topic One: Background. Let's say you look up your future roommie on Facebook and discover they live in Japan. Or Kansas. Or New York City. Or South Africa. While you may have some preconceived notions of what they'll be like, you might also be completely wrong. After all, someone could have been born in Japan, grown up in Kansas, gone to high school in New York City, and just finished up a gap year in South Africa. Ask your roommate questions about where they live now. How long have they been there? Where are they from originally? What kinds of places have they lived? Have they stayed in the same house since they were born, for example, or are they in a military family that's moved every year for as long as they can remember?

Topic Two: College choice. You already know you have at least one thing in common with your roommate: you both chose the same college to attend. If you don't feel like you're connecting on anything else, start here. What made your future roommie choose to attend your school? Where else were they looking? Are they coming in straight from high school? Did they take a year or two off? Did the transfer from somewhere else? Take summer classes on campus or at another school?

Topic Three: High school experience. When you think of your high school experience, you likely have a very specific vision in your mind of what your high school life was like. Your roommate, however, may have had a completely different experience. Talk to your roommate about their high school. Was it big? Was it small? Did everyone know each other? Was it hard? Easy? A boarding school? What kind of things were they involved in?

Topic Four: Academic interests. Even if you and your roommate are both, for example, chemistry majors, you likely still have differing academic interests. If you each are majoring in different subjects, ask your roommate why they are so interested in their major. And if you're both majoring in something similar, you can talk shop about what makes you both so excited for this particular discipline. Additionally, keep in mind that intellectual and academic interests don't have to be totally connected to someone's major. Your future roommate, for example, might be an English major but planning on also being pre-med.

Topic Five: Cocurricular interests. Your future roommate might be the Wisconsin state piano champ or a pretty serious Ultimate Frisbee player. They may not, however, want to continue with these interests in college. Ask your roommate what sorts of things they've been interested in cocurricularly during their time in high school as well as what kinds of thing they're interested in exploring once they get to campus. Even if you're not at all interested in the same things, at least you'll be prepared to learn a whole lot about something new once you both move in together.

Topic Six: Working. Some students have to work while in college; others choose to work. For many students, their college job takes up a big part of their lives. Does your roommate plan on working while in school? If so, where? What kinds of jobs have they held during their time in high school? What's their current job? Do they like it? Why or why not?

Topic Seven: Hobbies. As you probably discovered while filling out your college applications, sometimes there are parts of your lives that don't seem to fit neatly into one category or another. Maybe you love playing video games; maybe you love writing poetry; maybe you love going for long runs after a really hard day. Chances are that your roommate has some pretty interesting hobbies, too, and it can be both fun and a great conversation starter to ask about them. What kind of things does your roommate love to do in their free time? What kinds of things do they do for fun? How are they looking forward to spending a lazy Saturday afternoon once they're officially a college student?

Topic Eight: Sports. Your roommate may have told you right off the bat that they're the biggest Giants fan out there. Or they may be a little more shy in letting you know that they happen to follow soccer like a maniac. Whether they're a player, a fan, or both, sports are a great topic to discuss with a potential roommate. Even if you both can't stand watching sports and have never done anything athletic in your entire lives, you'll already have something in common!

While talking to a new roommate can be pretty intimidating, it can also be a lot of fun. You just might surprise yourself with how much information you can learn from the little things in someone's life, like where they work or what their high school was like. And as you both prepare yourselves for your time in college and your time in school, learning the details is an important first step in your journey together.

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