College 101: Finding a dorm roommate
Picture of High school friends. (Don LaVange/Flickr.com)
Just as soon as she gets that response, "yes!" the fear is washed from not only Anderson's shaking hands, but from her mind as she wonders what the possibilities could have been if she went random.
Like most college-bound seniors, Anderson's biggest fear is her freshman year roommate. She will be attending the University of Missouri and had a chance to use the school's two-year-old social networking Web site, You@mizzou.
There are many possibilities for disaster in not having a say in the roommate selection process. And, many students feel they cannot let the choice of their future bunk buddy be determined by a housing office.
"I didn't want to take a chance on my freshman experience," said Anderson.
With social networking sites such as Facebook becoming more and more prevalent in everyday life, finding a roommate has become equally complicated. Many students question whether it's better to find their own roomie or just trust their 18-year-old luck and let their school choose.
Thankfully, the University of Missouri has created their own Facebook-esque site entitled You@mizzou to help future students meet others and find their roommates before they arrive on campus.
"It is a university sponsored moderated social networking site where students pick their rooms and roommates," said Frankie Minor, director of residential life at the University of Missouri.
This is the second year the school has used this site for incoming freshman. "New technology has improved [roommate selection] process in trying to create a sense of community for our school," said Minor.
The University of Missouri is not the only school to use the Internet to assist students in finding a roommate. The University of Georgia has a system called DAWG they suggest students use. It was created in response to the student government's push for a more in-depth involvement in the roommate selection process.
More colleges are beginning to realize the benefits to these Web sites. University of South Carolina has a system called, U-CHOOSE and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, according to miamistudent.net, plans to alter their roommate selection process by creating a site similar to the others previously mentioned.
Yet, some students choose to find their roommates on Web sites not linked to the school. But, is that any less random than, well, going random? Just because you have a picture of someone can you really say he or she is quality roommate?
"I looked on Facebook because I'm really picky and I want to make sure I'm familiar with the people I'm going to be sharing a living space with before I go to school. I joined a group for the dorm I am going to be living in next year and people posted information about themselves. I looked for people with similar interests as mine to message," said Katie Yonover, an incoming freshman at the University of Illinois.
Yonover explained that the group had a survey students could fill out to further narrow down their selection for prospective roommates. The questions on the survey were helpful to her. They were very basic such as 'Are you night person or morning person?' and 'What types of classes did you take in high school?'
However, college housing officials worry about too much reliance on these types of social networking sites. "One reason I am concerned about the use of Facebook is if it is used as a way of screening out based on things like ethnicity, sexual orientation or political views. By prejudging their fellow students on these sites students can inadvertently isolate themselves," Minor said.
Although there are many incoming freshman like Yonover that do use Facebook or other sites, there are still some others who would rather take the risk and not declare a roommate.
"I wanted the typical college experience," Bryan Doyle, a sophomore at Indiana University, said. "So I went random in order to meet new people. We are not best friends but we get along great. I am glad I didn't use Facebook because I have friends who did it that way and now hate each other."
Bree Formentini, an incoming freshman at DePaul University in Chicago, is not declaring a roommate and hoping for the best. At DePaul, Formentini has filled out a questionnaire but is not guaranteed that her roommate will match any of her criteria. "I want someone who is similar to me, but not just like me because I want to be able to appreciate my roommate for who she is," Formentini said.
In fact some schools go as far as to require randomness. According to the Dartmouth College housing office's Web site, the school does not let any student choose or request a roommate.
Peter Collins, now a DePauw sophomore, decided early on that he would not use facebook to find a roommate. Collins decided to room with someone he knew from high school.
"A lot of people told me that it was a bad idea to room with a friend, but I thought everything worked out. I figured it was better to know your roommate and not take the chance of possibly ending up with someone really weird," Collins said.
It is true not everyone has a good experience when they room with someone they have previously met. Meghan Anderson, who will be a junior at Miami University, knew her roommate from orientation programs. After realizing her roommate was not exactly who she thought she was. Anderson agreed to a roommate swap. She still ended up with someone that didn't fit her personality.
DeeDee Selby, an Indiana University sophomore, also roomed with a friend, as opposed to going random or using Facebook. True with any roommate and not just if you are rooming with a friend from home, to make things work you need to communicate early and often, Selby explained.
"The best way to make it work is anything that's bothering you, you need to be upfront about it and be honest, or else it will all build up and that's when people go nuts with their roommates. We are still best friends to this day, Selby said.