Moving in with a roommate your freshman year is one of college's greatest adventures.

Whether you’ll be sharing space with a friend from high school or rooming with someone you’ve never met, a little communication can go a long way in ensuring the transition goes as smoothly as possible. 

Here, college resident advisors (RAs) and recent college graduates share their advice on what exactly you should be asking and discussing when you talk to your future roommate.

1. When Are You Moving In?

It can be tricky to have two people, plus possibly two sets of parents, siblings, or friends carting tons of stuff into a cramped dorm room at the same time. To prevent bottlenecking, consider staggering the times of day you’ll each handle the bulk of your move. Spacing out your moves can also offer some privacy for potentially emotional goodbyes.

2. How Are You Traveling?

As you coordinate who’s bringing what, it’s a good idea to find out how your roommate will be getting to campus. Do they have a car of their own? Are they loading up their parents’ minivan? Are they traveling by plane from the other side of the country? Working out these logistics ahead of time can help you determine what makes the most sense for each of you to be responsible for bringing.

3. What Can You Bring for Our “Kitchen”?

You probably already know to divvy up bigger ticket items, like a mini-fridge or microwave, but it’s also important to discuss the smaller household items that will outfit your makeshift dorm kitchen. 

Ashley Kelley, a graduate of the University of Kentucky, wishes she’d taken the time to talk with her roommate about which kitchen items they’d each bring. “My roommate got there with no dishes because she expected to mostly eat on campus,” Kelley says. However, both roommates wound up eating in the dorm more than not. This left the two of them to share the limited amount of dishware Kelley had packed. They ended up needing to wash dishes and utensils for every meal—an inconvenience that could have been avoided.

4. When—and How—Do You Sleep?

Someone who has no problem staying up all night and someone who heads to bed early might not seem like a good match, but these differences aren’t necessarily a recipe for disaster. The key is to engage in open communication about how to respect an individual’s sleep schedule and feel comfortable in their own living space. 

Naomi Mastico, a former RA at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, suggests asking about their typical bedtime and their routine. For example, do they nod off each night to a sound machine, or can they only fall asleep in total silence? While you may not be able to create a perfect environment, learning about each other’s sleep habits can help you both make compromises and avoid resentment. Mastico reminds incoming freshmen, “No one can be respectful of boundaries you don’t set,” so have this discussion earlier rather than later.

No one can be respectful of boundaries you don’t set.

Naomi Mastico

5. How Do You Feel About Overnight Guests?

The most common conflict Mastico mediated during her years as an RA concerned the presence of overnight guests. Decide how you feel about this issue before the school year starts and broach the topic with your future roommate to make sure you’re on the same page. 

Mastico recommends creating a plan for how you’d like to handle your roommate inviting someone to stay the night—whether that be a friend from out of town or a date. “Be brutally honest here. If you really don’t feel comfortable with someone staying over, make that known.”

6. So, What’s Your Story?

The first step to having empathy for your roommate as a person—whether or not you’ll end up being close friends—is to understand who they are and where they’re coming from. Rob Kearns, a former RA at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, explains, “It’s great for roommates to learn more about each other by telling stories about their background and identity.” These discussions can feel awkward at first especially since you haven’t even met in person, but they ultimately cultivate stronger connections.  

Alivia Houser, a University of Kentucky alum, wishes she’d asked her freshman-year roommate more personal questions before they both arrived to campus. “I was timid to initiate anything because living with someone else was new to me and I’d heard too many roommate horror stories,” she says. “If I’d gotten to know my roommate earlier on, I might have realized sooner how much I liked her.” 

Roommate relationships can be tricky, but they’re a fundamental part of your college experience. Get off to a good start by asking questions that help you get to know each other and figure out logistics before the new year starts.

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