Sharing a small college dorm room with a stranger can feel intimidating, since you'll probably encounter someone whose preferences and values differ significantly from your own. But meeting new people is a big part of college life. Whether the experience is positive or negative depends on your willingness to reach out socially and take an interest in your roommate personally. In pursuing this approach, you're more likely to find common interests and avoid conflicts that strain relationships.

Do Your Research

Whether you're assigned a roommate or complete a questionnaire, learn as much as possible about the other person. Check Facebook profiles or other social media pages. This is a good starting point, especially if you prefer someone with similar interests, advises Chrish Johnson, Future Educators Association vice president, in the article, "Starting Off Right With Your College Roommate," for Go Teach magazine. Johnson sought out fellow basketball players like herself. To evaluate your interest in living together, start by exchanging private messages about hobbies and interests. Then move to beliefs, educational goals and values, which should help determine your compatibility.

Common Interests

Students often feel more comfortable about exchanging email or text messages, but don't make these electronic mediums your sole contact point, suggests Donna McGalliard, Wake Forest University's dean of student life and housing, quoted in the article, "5 Tips to Getting Along with Your Roommate," on U.S. News & World Report's website. Call at least once or twice before the new term begins, if only to discuss the basic outline of your living arrangements. You'll minimize the risk of unpleasant surprises once you meet.

Get Acquainted

Once you settle into your new surroundings, don't wait to reach out. Spend a few minutes getting acquainted, starting with questions about your new roommate's background, friendships and hobbies, according to tips posted by the University of Northern Iowa's Wellness and Recreation Services. As the conversation evolves, shift the focus to other topics -- such as expectations for the upcoming academic term and what brought you to the institution. To further break the ice, offer help with basic tasks, such as cleaning and arranging your room.

Set Ground Rules

Once you know each other on a basic level, determine how you'll handle potential annoyances. Tricky areas to discuss include how much privacy each person needs and how much activity is acceptable when your roommate wants to study or sleep. Establishing rules for visitors and overnight guests is also important. Don't overlook more basic issues, such as the definition of a clean room -- and who takes responsibility for specific tasks to keep it that way.