It’s back-to-school season and that should mean you’ve figured out your living situation for next year. Regardless of where you’re living – be it in a 10X10 cell in the dorms or a dingy old apartment off campus – or who you’re living with, now’s the time to set ground rules and figure out how to make your living situation work for the school year.
I’ve had a lot of roommates – nine in four years to be exact. I’ve also had varying degrees of success with roommates, and the common factor that determines whether things are good or bad in all situations is the level of communication. If you communicate early on about what you want your living situation to look like, it will make things easier in the long run, guaranteed.
To help you start the conversation with your roommate, here is a list of questions you should be sure to ask. Will it be weird to bring these up with the stranger assigned to you by the school? Maybe, but 3 months from now, you’ll be glad you had the awkward convo.
1. What’s your stance on overnight guests?
This question can refer to both friends visiting and people you are hooking up with. Figuring out your policy on this question is probably one of the most important. You’ll want to figure out how often people can stay, if it’s okay if anyone stays over on a school night, and, if you share a bedroom, what the roommate is supposed to do. I don’t think I need to tell you this, but it is NOT okay to hook up while the other person is sleeping in the same room, even if they’re passed out.
2. Do you smoke – cigarettes or otherwise?
Most residences try to keep smokers and non-smokers apart. If you are a non-smoker living with a smoker, try and set up a designated smoke area outside, and have rules about cigarette butts. Finding out if your roommates do drugs is also important, as you should make them aware if you are not comfortable having them use (or bring their shady lady friends over) in your place of residence.
3. What time do you wake up and go to bed? What are your morning and nighttime routines?
Finding out what hours your roommate keeps is important, especially if you’re sharing a room. Having a designated lights-out time is always good to ensure everyone gets the sleep they need (and reading lights are a great solution if one roommate wants to stay up reading later). Also, find out how much time they take to get ready in the morning – if you spend 20 minutes in front of the closet, or like to listen to music getting ready, it could affect a sleeping roommate.
4. How often do you think cleaning needs to be done? How would you split up cleaning duties?
If you and your future roommate both wash dishes as soon as they’re used, or have a certain day of the week you like to clean, you may not need a cleaning schedule. If both of you are somewhat lazy and messy, a cleaning schedule could be useful to ensure one person doesn’t have to pick up after the other. Deciding if you can split the cost of cleaning supplies is useful too.
5. How often do you party? Do you drink? How much/often?
While how much someone parties can change significantly when they start college, it’s good to get a sense of how much they think they’ll be partying. If one roommate has a class at 8 am on Friday (ew!) and the other has the day off, maybe have guidelines for when they need to be home, or if they need to crash elsewhere if they’re planning on coming in late.
6. Are there any bills we’ll need to split? Are there any big items we can share?
If you’re sharing a res room, chances are you only need one mini-fridge, one TV, etc. Decide who will bring what, as splitting items at the end of the year gets tricky. If neither of you wants a fridge at the end of the year, look into splitting the cost of renting one from the school if that’s an option. And if you’re living off campus, figure out now who will be paying which bills so you don’t end up in the dark, sans cable because everyone thought someone else had paid the bill.
7. Do you watch The Real Housewives? Isn’t Kelly Bensimon CRAZY?
Hey, having TV shows in common makes for instant roommate bonding. But even more, if your potential roommate doesn’t think Kelly is crazy, you might want to find someone new.
8. How often do you study? What environment do you like when you study?
Music on/off? Complete silence? What time of day? In the room or in the library? These are all ways to gauge your roomie’s study habits, and it’s important to know what works best and how it will fit in with your preferred study regimen. You’re in college to learn, after all.
9. What items are you open to sharing? What items do you not like to lend out?
Knowing what you can and can’t borrow is key. (Especially after a long day at the ‘brary when all you wanted was that extra slice of pizza from lunch and you come home to find the roommate has eaten it….) Decide if you want to share any food products, or other household items. Also let your roommate know if you are not okay with them borrowing your computer, favorite sweater, boyfriend, etc.
10. What size are you?
What? Sharing clothes and shoes is the biggest perk of having a roommate.
Get these things out of the way now and you’ll be smooth sailing through second semester and beyond!