If your student is heading off to college and will be living in a residence hall on campus, she is probably wondering, and even nervous, about who her roommate will be. This is only natural, as most students who will be living in a relatively small space with another student may be sharing a room for the first time. You and your student may both be wondering how and when the college will be assigning roommates.
Different colleges use different methods for assigning roommates. Some schools make matches randomly. Other schools send students a questionnaire to determine some lifestyle preferences and then spend many hours making matches based on that information. In some cases students may be matched by computer. Many schools will allow students to request to live with a particular student as long as the request is mutual.
In recent years, many students use Facebook or other roommate matching sites to find a roommate and then make a request. These sites work in much the same way as online dating sites. Students complete profile information and then find matches based on similar profiles. Some colleges encourage such roommate self selection and others encourage students to allow the college to make the match.
As a college parent, there are a few things that you should keep in mind — and possibly discuss with your student.
- Remember that one of the purposes of attending college is not only to learn new things, but to meet new people and to expand horizons. Students who may choose to live with someone they know from high school, or who look for a roommate that is identical to them in all respects, may deny themselves this new experience.
- Remember that a roommate needs to be someone with whom the student can live compatibly. A student and his roommate do not necessarily need to be best friends, or to participate in many activities together. (Many of us can probably think of several good friends with whom we would have difficulty living. Roommates and friends serve different purposes.)
- If your student’s school uses the method of completing a questionnaire as a basis for matches, it is crucial that your student complete the form (not you) and that he be completely honest about who he really is — not who he wishes he was. Questionnaires often ask students whether they are neat or sloppy, early risers or night owls, smokers, study with music or in total silence, etc. If your student does not answer honestly, he will not have a compatible match.
- Do not ask to see your student’s questionnaire before she sends it. Allow her to answer questions honestly without worrying about what you may think of her answers. Remember, the purpose of the questions is to find a good match, not to make an impression.
- Once your student has been assigned a roommate, she should contact that person and make arrangements to have a conversation. If the roommate lives close enough, they may want to get together. It is important that your student get to know the person and not make assumptions based on a facebook profile, last name, or hometown or neighborhood.
- Once your student has been assigned a roommate, let your student handle any arrangements. Do not call the college and ask for any changes or special considerations. If your student needs something, it is appropriate for her to handle it with the college. (This will be one of many times when, as a college parent, you will need to step back and allow your student to take responsibility.)
- Encourage your student to keep an open mind and give his roommate a chance — even if he seems very different. He may learn to appreciate many new things. Even if there are conflicts, those conflicts may teach your student important lessons.
Some of the important lessons and experiences of college may occur as part of your student’s roommate relationships. It is natural and appropriate for your student to be anxious about the match, but she will work it out. Residence Life staff will be available to help your student and her roommate adjust and get to know one another. Your student may discover a new best friend, or may simply find someone with whom she can comfortably share some space.