Roommates 101: To Pick or Not to Pick

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Receive the email. “Your application status had been updated.” Open the acceptance letter. Scream a little. Then join the college Facebook group.

It’s a process familiar to most seniors who choose to apply to college. Today, insert-college/university-name-here Class of 2022 Facebook groups, as well as websites such as roomsurf.com, help prospective students connect and, oftentimes, find freshman year roommates.

Yet how much about a person can really be gleaned from one social media post? Moreover, by what criteria do students evaluate potential roommates, and how does this affect their first year experience?

In light of this recent trend, some universities have taken action. Notably, Duke University announced in March that next year’s freshman class will no longer have the option to select a roommate before enrolling. Other local universities that have opted to end roommate choice include High Point University and Wake Forest University.

Rachel Jensen, a first year at UNC Chapel Hill, estimates that almost all her classmates found their first year roommates on Facebook.

“In my experience, 90 percent of people go in choosing their roommate…it’s definitely far more common,” said Jensen.

While in the minority, Jensen — who was assigned a roommate randomly after filling out a short survey — says she and her roommate live well together.

“We are able to balance each other out,” said Jensen. “I’m lonely when I go home and I have my single-person room.”

Anna Kemper, a senior at CHS, says the number of people who “go random” at Butler University, where she will be a student next year, is a lot larger. She trusts the system and isn’t too worried about not having control over her roommate.

“Even if I’m not best friends with [my roommate] I don’t have to see them all the time,” said Kemper. “There would only be a huge issue if she’s really mean or doesn’t have good hygiene.”

Savannah Dolan, a senior at CHS, and Maura Holt-Ling, a freshman at UNC Chapel Hill, both chose their freshman year roommates before matriculating.

Dolan choose her roommate through Facebook so she wouldn’t have to worry about being put with someone she isn’t compatible with.

“You don’t have to stress out about being put with someone you don’t have similarities with, or someone you don’t think you’re going to be able to be good friends with and live with for a year,” said Dolan.

She and her roommate were immediate friends and Facetimed for three hours before committing to room together.

Holt-Ling also felt an instant connection with her roommate after meeting online and going through what many students dub “roommate dating.”

“We just hit if off right away,” said Holt-Ling.

Kemper opted for a random roommate since she doesn’t know anyone else going to her college and since the university strongly encouraged it.

Jensen, on the other hand, said the decision was basically made for her.

“I decided where I wanted to go to college kind of late,” said Jensen. “I missed the wave of people looking [for roommates] on Facebook.”

Duke University cited diversity as one of the main reasons for their recent policy change. According to a university statement, when students have the option to choose their roommate, they generally gravitate towards students with “very similar backgrounds to their own.”

“Research shows that the more diverse the interactions among students, the better equipped they are for life after Duke,” the letter continued.

Holt-Ling and Dolan both say they have a fair amount of similarities with their respective room-
mates.

“I wanted to find someone who shared a lot of the same interests as me,” said Dolan.

“I reached out to [my roommate] initially because we had some of the same music tastes and liked the same TV shows,” echoed Holt-Ling.

Still, they also emphasized that they and their roommates are distinct people.

“My roommate and I have some things in common, but not everything,” said Holt-Ling.

Jensen feels she and her roommate are less similar.

“We’re pretty different personality wise,” said Jensen. “She’s definitely more outgoing than me … I appreciate that, because I feel like it encourages me to put myself out there a little more.”

Kemper added that similarity does not  equal compatibility.

“A lot of friends I have now I’m complete opposites with,” said Kemper.

All four students emphasized that whether or not someone chooses their roommate before college or is assigned one randomly, they can gave a great first year experience.