The Most Important Questions to Ask a New Roommate


When I was a first year student, one of the biggest adjustments that I had to make to college life was learning how to live with two roommates. While eventually we all learned how to coexist in our dorm room, it definitely took some time to get used to their habits, preferences, and schedules. Now, I’m happy to say that my freshman year roommates are two of my best friends at Siena, but time and lots of open conversations were needed to turn a slightly awkward situation where three strangers were living together into one of the best years of my life.

That being said, you don’t have to become best friends with your roommate to have a good, healthy, and mutually respectful living situation that allows you both to be happy in your new environment. As in all relationships, communication is the key to ensuring a great experience on both ends. Starting off the year with some personal preference questions is an important way to make sure that you get into the habit of communicating your needs and respecting those of your roommate.

To help ease your transition to Siena and the residential college experience, here are some questions you should ask your roommate at the beginning of the semester.

When do you usually like to be in bed by?

Bedtimes may change in college, but it’s helpful to know where they’re coming from.

What time do most of the lights in the room need to go off?

In my room, we called it the “big light.” Desk lamps were fine, but when it was time for one of us to go to bed, the big light went off.

Do I wake up earlier than you?

Are there any alarm tones that are less likely to wake you up? How annoyed with me will you be if I accidentally hit snooze seven a couple of times?

Are you a light or heavy sleeper?

I may or may not accidentally slam drawers while getting ready in the morning. I can stop this if it’s an issue.

Can music be played in the room without headphones on?

If so, what music? Do you hate any type of music? I promise I won’t play it when you’re there.

Does the door always have to be locked if neither of us are here?

Does going to the bathroom fall into this category? What about a friend’s room on the same floor?

How clean do you need the room?

Will you be grossed out if I get lazy busy and don’t wash my dishes for a few weeks days? How often do we need to vacuum? Who is responsible for cleaning the fridge? Wanna make a schedule?

Is your (or my?!) laundry starting to get a little rank?

Let’s chat! It’s easy to forget how long it’s been, especially with a lot of clothes. Pick one day a week that can always be laundry day!

How do you feel about guests in the room?

Do you want a heads up if people are coming over? What about opposite gender guests? Can they sit on your stuff?

Should I worry if you aren’t back in the room when I go to sleep?

I can always send out a quick text if you'd like me to.

Do you need some alone time in your own space?

I might at some point. Is this okay?

Are you allergic to any foods? What about incense or air freshener scents?

These aren’t necessarily allergies, but some scents trigger headaches in some people.

Do you plan on studying in the room or in the library?

I don't know what I want to do yet, but what kind of study environment do you need to succeed? 

What’s your class schedule?

I’m not trying to keep tabs on you, but it’d be nice to know!

And most importantly: are we sharing food?


These questions are all super important for getting to know each other’s habits, but I’ve had experiences where the answers aren’t always completely honest. Sometimes we realize or are afraid that our preferences are the opposite of the other’s, and we don’t want to bother them.

That’s why it’s important to sit down with each other and make it clear that you’re there for open communication if something ever bothers them. Trust me; passive-aggressive noises and comments are fun (for the person making them) for a little while, but they will not get you anywhere. Brushing things off will not help, either, because if you act like something doesn’t bother you it will continue to happen, and the frustration will just build up until it implodes.

Hopefully with the answers to these questions, and frequent communication, your roommate experience can be as wonderful as it can be!