Should You Seek Out a Roommate Who’s Different From You?

face expression of manThe fat envelope has just arrived from your top-choice college. While you’re still rejoicing, you realize you’ll have to live with a stranger in a dorm room next year. Yes, you’ll have to fill out some forms to get matched up with a roommate, but even before you get there, you need to decide: do you want to live with someone who is your clone or someone entirely different?

Or, you’re about to graduate and are looking for a roommate situation in a new city. You already have some roommate experience, but it’s been in a dorm and not in a real apartment, so you need to decide how adventurous you want to be. The answer affects your flexibility on issues like noise, visitors and pets – although, if you’re intentionally rooming with someone different, you’re probably craving change and are likely more willing to adjust.

So, without further ado, here are the Pros and Cons of rooming with someone different:


1) New experiences. This all about exploration – if your roommate loves Trance music, late nights and vegan food, you might find you like those things too … now that you’ve finally tried them. And, conversely, maybe your new roommate will learn the virtues of picnics at the local park and art house cinema.

2) New friends. You shouldn’t expect that you and your new roommate will become best buds (that’s a lot of pressure to put on a situation), but you’ll very likely be friendly and you’ll likely meet and hang out with some of your roommate’s friends. It will be an opportunity to expand your social circle – in other words, you won’t just meet one new person. You’ll meet many.

3) Make yourself more responsible. The stereotype is that the person trying something different is uptight and is learning to relax. This is certainly one example. But if you’re someone who has no trouble leaving dirty dishes in the sink for three days or loves lounging around and watching movies and eating brownies all night – well, maybe you’ll start living with someone who’s a little more organized. You may find you enjoy straightening up regularly (even if you don’t like the actual cleaning, you might quite like having a clean apartment) and maybe you’ll start getting out more, rather than Netflixing away most evenings.

And, regardless of how you’re trying something different, by having to compromise with someone unlike yourself, you’ll gain in empathy and responsibility for your actions – and learn from and enjoy the company of unusual (to you) people. In other words, it’s good for you.


1) You know what you like. If you pretty much have in mind what you want to do, you may not want to compromise. Simple. You want someone who has very similar values (and cleanliness habits) to yours. It’s a perfectly natural position, particularly if you’re a bit older and have already tried different living situations.

2) The risk for disaster. Even if you go into the situation with absolutely the best of intentions … you might be biting off more than you can chew. And, if you really have nothing in common with your roommate, small conflicts and misunderstandings can escalate and get out of hand … and end up taking over your roommate relationship. It can end up being miserable.

3) Feeling like a stranger in your own home. No one likes to get home and feel like they’re not home. You need to be able to relax (whatever that means for you) and feel comfortable in your own skin when you’re home – at least for most of the time. Particularly if you’re an introvert, this is vital. If you think you won’t have that by rooming with someone unlike you – or someone who doesn’t understand this need of yours, then look for more sympathetic roomies.

The decision on whether to choose a roommate vastly different than you is all about risk vs. reward. The greater the difference, the greater the risk for disaster … but also the greater the reward of really exploring yourself, what you like, and what other lifestyles there are in the world around you. Generally speaking, neither extreme (too similar or too different) is optimal – instead, try to find someone who challenges you in some ways, but with whom you have some common ground.

Also, when you finally do move in with a roommate, it’s good to establish ground rules. In other words, before any problems happen, you each need to understand what the expectations are for your apartment, or dorm room, or wherever else you may be sharing space. This is particularly the case if you’re rooming with someone whom you don’t know well, or if you and your new roomie have fairly different lifestyles.

To help you chat with your roommate-to-be, we’ve partnered with Form Swift to create an easy-to-use roommate agreement template. Simply sit down (or Skype, G-chat, or whatever) with your new roommate, click on this – Roommate Agreement link, discuss each issue listed, and type the answers directly into the form. Then, print it out, sign it – and voilà! You’ve got a functional roommate agreement.

When reviewing the agreement with your new roommate, you may find that both of you are compromising on a lot of issues. This can be normal, particularly if you and your roommate are quite different – going through the form will help set expectations and give you the piece of mind that things will work out.

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Author My First Apartment

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Alex has rented in Minneapolis, Queens, Brooklyn, and now Chicago. He can kill rodents and roaches when required, and loves picture-hanging projects. If you're ever in town, give him a shout.

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