Five Tips for Finding the Perfect Roommate
- Student Tips
While awful roommates make for great movie material, they’re far less entertaining in real life. The truth is that ending up with an awful roommate can be detrimental to your university experience. However, there is a bright side: If you find yourself in need of a flatmate, there are some simple steps you can take to minimize your risk of getting one who thinks she’s a cat and maximize your chances of gaining a lifelong friend. Read on for five tips aimed at helping you find the perfect roommate.
1. Know what you want.
How can you expect to find the perfect roommate if you haven’t even figured out what, exactly, that means to you personally?
For some people, a perfect flatmate may be someone who is quiet, unobtrusive, and keeps to themselves. For others it may be a wingman or wingwoman for wild parties and nights on the town. Determining what traits you’re looking for in a roommate and committing these things to paper can help you sort must-haves from nice-to-haves to no-ways.
Also, if you already have roommates, make sure to consult with them, as well.
2. Be as specific as possible.
Knowing what you’re looking for in a flatmate is only part of the process. Equally important? Communicating what you’re looking for to prospective roommates. A lot of this comes down to advertising. Ultimately, finding a roommate is a matchmaking process. While showing your apartment in its best light is a smart way to amp up interest, the process is less about casting the largest net and more about casting a smart, strategic one. In addition to saving you headaches down the line, it can also save you time in the short run by weeding out untenable candidates from the onset.
3. Arrange a meet and greet.
People present very differently in person than they do on the phone or in an email. Obviously, the former matters much more than the latter when it comes to living arrangements. So why would you ever enter into a roommate situation without meeting the prospective candidates first? If possible, set up the initial meeting in a safe, neutral public location like a coffee shop or your school library. If the person is coming to check out the apartment, meanwhile, make sure to have another trustworthy person present.
Having a list of questions at the ready can help you address the important points without getting distracted. Questions about everything from employment status to entertaining habits can offer a better picture of what living with someone will really be like.
Also, keep in mind that friendships don’t happen in mere minutes so you may not immediately felt like you’ve just met your new BFF for life. However, you should be able to tolerate -- or better, enjoy -- being in his/her presence, and this should be fairly obvious even within a short period of time.
And don’t forget that you aren’t the only one doing the evaluating. Being courteous, professional and honest throughout your interactions can help ensure that you don’t end up the one people are telling roommate horror stories about later.
4. Talk money.
Talking about money isn’t easy, but it’s not necessarily going to get easier if you ignore it during initial conversations with potential roommates. Be clear in both your advertising and interviews about the financial commitments expected: What costs will be shared, and how and when will payment take place? Writing these expectations into the lease adds another level of protection.
5. Ask for -- and check! -- references.
Even if a person seems perfect on paper and the interview backs up your initial impression, resist the temptation to go straight to the roommate offer. Always, always, always ask for and check references. After all, without this act of due diligence, all you really know is what someone tells you. Checking out their social networks can also help you get a better sense of what a roommate is really like.
One last thing to keep in mind? Even if you do find the perfect amazing person to live with in college, being a good roommate takes effort on both parts as well as mutual give and take. Wondering what that involves? The Guardian’s “The Art of Being the Perfect Flatmate” offers useful insights. (A hint: wearing clothes in public areas is a good start.) The best part? The skills you learn and hone while living with someone else easily translate to the rest of your personal and professional life. So consider the process all part of getting your money’s worth out of your college education.
Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.