The Best College Roommate: Friend or Stranger?

on December 8, 2013

Given all the decisions and choices to make in beginning a college career, one you may prefer to leave up to the luck of the draw and your school’s housing office is the choice of a roommate. But, if you do have the opportunity to make the choice yourself, there are some things to consider before deciding between living with a friend or someone new.

The choice between a BFF or a stranger is deeply personal and, of course, depends on the individuals and the situation involved. Is this future roommate a true friend or just someone you know from school? How much can you find out about the newcomer before you settle in together?

Here are some positives and negatives to consider with both situations:

• Pro friend – Obviously, the first thing to recommend a friend as roommate is familiarity. You are friends because you share something: a history, a hobby, or other interest. The familiarity can also ease homesickness. And you have a built-in friend as you get to know new people and your new surroundings, so you can approach the college experience as a team.

• Con friend – Living together is different from sleeping over or meeting up. This is when you’ll find out if your friend’s habits could be enough to test your friendship and perhaps even mean the end of it. If you are a neat freak and your good friend is a slob, it could become a serious issue, although it obviously didn’t matter before. Talking these things out should be easier with a friend. And there can be enough time to make other living arrangements before a final break is inevitable. But, before making a final decision to room with your friend, ask seriously if it is worth the possibility of losing that friend.

• Pro stranger – Living with a stranger automatically takes away the danger of losing a good friendship should cohabitation prove difficult. At the same time, it could be the perfect chance to make a new, trusting friendship because you will get to know and hopefully work through any personal disagreements that living together exposes. And, setting ground rules ahead of time will be less likely to hurt anyone’s feelings.

• Con stranger – Not knowing the person you are to room with means you are left to the whims of fate as to whether you can get along. You could be complete opposites in personality and outlooks. Your roommate could be an extrovert with friends coming over all the time, while you prefer a night with a good book. Or they could stay up late, while you are an early riser.

There is no certain answer to the question of whether it would be better to room with a person you know or take your chances. Just be aware of what is at stake, both pro and con, in the realm of maintaining or creating friendships.


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