More than 20 million young adults can enroll in college in a given year; and, depending on the institution, up to 100 percent of student bodies will live in university-owned housing. For many, that marks the first time they’ve ever had to share living space with a complete stranger.
If you find yourself under a single roof with a fellow student, it’s important to ask a few questions beyond how they’re doing and where they're from. Knowing more about your roommate’s habits and lifestyle can help make for a better, safer experience.
1. ARE THEY DIABETIC?
While it’s not necessarily comfortable to pry into someone’s medical status moments after meeting, having a roommate with a chronic condition means knowing what to do in case they have any urgent-care needs. For a diabetic, that could mean assisting if their blood sugar drops to perilously low levels.
2. WHAT ARE THEIR DRINKING HABITS?
While most college students are not of legal age to drink, the reality is that alcohol consumption is a common occurrence on campus. Having an idea of your roommate’s typical routine when it comes to drinking or recreational drugs can help determine whether you’ll be comfortable sharing space with them. And talking about it early can help you set boundaries and ground rules in order to create an environment you're both happy to call home.
3. WHAT’S THEIR SLEEP SCHEDULE LIKE?
Having a roommate who’s up late while you’re crashing—or vice versa—can interfere with study habits. The same is true for mornings, where you might not want to be bothered by someone who’s up and around hours before you are.
4. ARE THEY COMFORTABLE WITH GUESTS?
Small residency rooms don’t leave a lot of space for big gatherings, and even one additional person can feel like an intrusion. It’s best to ask your roommate how they feel about visits: their frequency, length, and whether their bed or chair can be used by a third party [PDF]. You may also want to ask your roommate if they mind being involved in conversations or would prefer to be left alone when you have guests.
5. DO THEY SMOKE?
Few—if any—schools allow smoking in dorms, but that doesn’t mean the habit won’t become a problem for you: Smokers can carry the smell of nicotine in their clothing and living space. If you’re particularly sensitive or have any allergies, it’s best to find out before it becomes a problem.
6. WHAT AMENITIES DO THEY HAVE?
Mini-fridges and microwaves are two common appliances for tight living spaces, and there's really no reason to have two of each. Figuring out who has what can help you both conserve space and money.
7. HOW DO THEY WANT CHORES DIVIDED?
Maybe you're a neat freak, and maybe your roommate prefers to leave piles of clothes around. Having clarification about what's expected of each party when it comes to cleaning up can mean less aggravation down the road.