What Roommate Questionnaires Should Look Like

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Roommate questionnaires are like high-level exams: both ask obscure questions that don’t help anybody. These forms crush dreams of healthy roommate relationships. Out of empathy for the frustrated, discordant roommates of the world, we’ve made a list of the worst roommate-matching questions and fixed them.

1. Bad Question: Are you planning to be involved in many student clubs?

Via Flickr user David Cintron

Via Flickr user David Cintron

I laughed when I saw this on my school’s questionnaire. Few people would actually say, “No, I’m antisocial,” or “Joining the Quidditch team? I have better things to do.” This information is completely irrelevant since there is no reason why roommates need to be involved in the same activities on campus.


Good Question: Would you rather host a party or visit someone else’s?


Via Flickr user Gavin St. Ours

Via Flickr user Gavin St. Ours

Schools might avoid this one beacuse alcohol is banned in most dorms, but ignoring the presence of partying just creates headaches for everyone. In my freshman dorm, my room and the room next door housed two party enthusiasts and two quieter sorts. The problem? Both rooms had one of each, which was perfectly avoidable. Pairing party hosts as roommates would satisfy both them and non-drinkers. As a bonus, this idea also supports partiers who prefer to keep their rooms private by helping to pair them with similar privacy-minded students.


2. Bad: Are you a light or heavy sleeper?

For students, replying honestly to this question could be a disaster. What if saying you’re a heavy sleeper gets you paired with someone who tries to study with loud music at 2 a.m. every morning? Even if you’re not a light sleeper, wouldn’t you respond that you are? I doubt there’s a single student on the planet who appreciates disrupted sleep, and it’s impossible to know whether you’re a heavy enough sleeper to handle an entirely new set of circumstances. Any question with a clear wrong answer is a bad idea on a form about personal preferences, and this one is a prime offender.


Good: Do you need quiet surroundings when going to bed?


This question's narrowed focus makes it more relevant. Noise at bedtime had a strong negative impact on my freshman year. I’m so annoyingly noise-sensitive that open windows keep me awake, but I’ve known students who like falling asleep to music or a blaring TV set every night. Pairing the TV sleeper with the noise wimp is a bad idea.


Watch our video on how to be an awesome roommate.


3. Bad: Do you consider yourself a clean or messy person?

Via Flickr user Andrew Magill

Via Flickr user Andrew Magill

This has the same problem as the light sleeper/heavy sleeper question. Why should you label yourself “messy” and risk getting paired with someone who creates mountains of trash with every breath?


Good: Would you rather clean gradually or do it all at once?


I rarely have the patience to clean for more than a half-hour at a time. Usually, my space has a fair amount of clutter, but I consistently spend small amounts of time to make sure nothing gets too messy. On the other hand, my roommate spent a whole afternoon about once a month to clean his space from top to bottom. Our room always looked pretty impressive when he finished, but it would have been even nicer if I had coordinated my cleaning schedule with his. Putting this question onto a roommate survey would maximize everyone’s cleaning efforts.


4. Bad: Do you prefer to study in your room or in the library?

Via Flickr user umjanedoan

Via Flickr user umjanedoan

This information does nothing to eliminate bad pairings. What happens if you pair two library studiers? Great, they study in the library. Two room studiers? Provided they’re relatively quiet, they’ll study side-by-side and be extra productive because it’s difficult to procrastinate on Facebook while someone is watching. Ah, but what if you match a room person with a library lover? Simple: one studies in the room while the other goes to the library. How was this question relevant, exactly?


Good: Do you prefer studying alone or in the company of others?


Via Flickr user TRF_Mr_Hyde

Via Flickr user TRF_Mr_Hyde

My freshman-year roommate consistently went to bed at least an hour before I did, so I had to do my late-night work in a study lounge. The problem? Other people were “working” there too. Since I’m an extrovert who is very easily distracted, these study sessions were unproductive because I couldn’t resist talking with everyone around me.


5. Bad: What’s your intended major?

Via Flickr user Northern Ireland Executive

Via Flickr user Northern Ireland Executive

I can’t figure out why questionnaires ask this; it has no bearing on roommate pairings. The question implies that people with similar majors get along better, but that certainly hasn’t been the case in my experience, since my closest friends major in subjects like pre-med and business, not English. These friendships have been a lot of fun for me because they’ve broadened my academic experience much beyond the literature-centered learning of my English classes. Besides, many students change their “intended major,” and many others don’t declare until after freshman year.


Good: What are your interests?


This is pretty open-ended for a roommate questionnaire. Still, most people make friends because they share similar interests, and good friends make the best roommates. If two people play football or violin, why not pair them? The same goes for any interest. While a lot of the joy in a roommate relationship comes from trying new things, it can’t hurt to have some common ground to start with.


For more on roommates:

My roommate, the drug dealer

Ten ways to get your roommate to love you

Embarrassing roommate stories

Sophomore > English > Boston College

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