You just received your roommate's name and contact information. You're a little nervous, a little excited. Your mind is buzzing… where to start first? Facebook? Google? Your friends? Just how much cyber stalking is appropriate when it comes to someone you'll be living with? If you really want to get to know your new roomie you'll have to go a little more old school and pick up the phone.
How You Most Likely Were Matched
You have been paired with your roommate for a wide range of reasons: some may be left to chance, others may be strategic. Smaller schools have more time and resources to pair roommates personally based on questionnaires and other information. Larger schools may use software to match you.
You may have been purposefully placed with your roommate to expose both of you to new backgrounds, experiences, and personalities; you may have been paired with your roommate with lesser goals in mind. Either way, you now have the name of the person with whom you will (most likely!) live for the next nine months. Congrats!
Before You Call
There are a few things you should keep in mind before contacting your roommate for the first time. First and foremost, remember that both of you are likely nervous and excited about similar things: leaving home, starting college, having a roommate, figuring out your meal plans and where to buy books. This is a great place to start to connect.
Second, before contacting your roommate, try to think about what you know your living 'style' to be like. Keep in mind that this may be different than what you want your style to be like. Do you like a clean and organized room? Yes. Are you good at keeping it that way? No. Make sure you know how you actually are so that you can set realistic expectations for both of you. Try to be honest about your own patterns and what you know you need to feel balanced. College life is stressful, so if you know you need to go out dancing until 3:00 a.m. to relieve that stress, come up with a plan for how to handle returning home really late without waking your sleeping roommate.
During the Call
Try to remember that you don't need to work everything out during your first phone call or email. (Email is great, but you most definitely should try to connect via phone, if possible, before meeting on move-in day!) You can decide who brings the mini-fridge, the TV, etc., later. For the first phone call, do your best just to get to know the other person. Talk about his or her high school experience, goals for college, major, why you both picked the college you did, and/or what you are doing between now and when you start in the fall.
While many roommates end up being great friends, don't put that expectation on yourself or your new roommate. But you should set a pattern of being friendly. Even if you end up living totally different lives once you're at school, it's still important to be on friendly and respectful terms with your roommate.
Lastly, and most importantly, expect to be surprised. This may sound scary at first but remember: you have focused on going to college for a long time. You want to be challenged with new ideas, interesting texts, and mind-blowing conversations. One of the most important lessons to learn about college is that this kind of true learning doesn't just happen in the classroom! It happens in the conversations that continue after class as you walk to the cafeteria. Your roommate may currently be living in a different country than you. Your roommate may seem to be totally different than the people you hung out with in high school. Your roommate may seem to be… just too different. Sure, this is scary, but it's also a little exciting.
This is your first college experience in many ways. You may not be on campus yet, but you are meeting someone who hopefully will be somewhere in the mass of students throwing their graduation caps with you in several years. You and your first-year roommate may not be best friends, but you undoubtedly will be a part of each other's college experience.
As long as you're honest and respectful with each other, things should be fine. So snoop on the internet as much as you like, spend a little time figuring out what your living style is, take a deep breath, relax, and have fun on your first phone call with your new roomie!