Now that many high school seniors are committing to their colleges of choice, a lot of buzz is going around about choosing a roommate. I am reminded of this old wisdom: Never room with a friend from your hometown or anyone that you know well, your freshman year.
The logic behind this is simple. Meet new people. Branch out. Spread your wings. Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.
My daughter will be heading off to college in the fall. She insists that everyone is choosing their roommates nowadays. What she is referring to is colleges and universities that now have Facebook pages, on which incoming freshmen can socialize with each other months in advance of setting foot on campus. Incoming freshmen are using these Facebook pages to pair up with other incoming freshmen who they think will make good roommates.
I understand why choosing a roommate this way is so appealing to teenagers. Social media to teens is as important as, (or possibly even more important than), their physical relationships. In my day, incoming college freshmen would have to wait with anticipation until orientation day to meet other freshmen classmates. That anxiety (or excitement, depending on how you interpret it) is all but eliminated for teens today because they can chat online and gather all sorts of information about each other prior to meeting. But does this cyber-networking result in a roommate pairing that will work? Hopefully.
I think the traditional system of randomly pairing up freshmen roommates is better for this reason: If kids can learn early on to accept, get along with and appreciate others who may be quite different from themselves, they will have learned one of life’s most valuable skills. Conversely, kids who limit themselves to associating only with like-minded people will eventually have to deal with co-workers, neighbors or even in-laws who have different ideas and opinions. Like a box full of crayons, the world is made up of all types of people: easy-going, outspoken, assertive, abrasive, timid….. They all bring something unique to the world but they all need to get along.
Of course, students who are assigned a roommate cannot be paired up with anyone, which is why those questionnaires issued to incoming freshmen are so helpful. My daughter prefers to study at bedtime, using the bed as her desk. And music has to be playing. She can stay up very late and still manage to get ready quickly for school in the morning. Oh, and she is perfectly content hanging out in a tremendously messy room. Personally, I don’t love her system but it works for her. I wonder how it will work in college when she shares a room with a stranger. But that is her job: to figure it out.
Choosing a roommate could be an option that works beautifully for some students. It does seem logical that a person who shares some of the same interests — country music, Stephen King books, indoor soccer, frozen yogurt, the same major, etc. — has potential for being a good roommate. But in all likelihood, even two people who have a lot in common will differ in some ways, too. Differences that are less discernable over Facebook. include motivation and work ethic, integrity, learning style and trustworthiness, to name a few.
If you really think about it, most adults have a variety of friends. They may have a common bond, such as being mothers to middle school kids or members of a certain health club. Other than sharing that common bond, though, friends can be markedly different from each other in terms of education, occupation, or personality. But these differences are what make the friendships so rich and enduring.
My daughter has a variety of friends. They are musicians, athletes, actors and students with varying degrees of talent and ambition. A friend of hers from another town likes to hang out and watch classic Disney movies, like Beauty and the Beast. They both sing and act, so this is their way of bonding. My daughter likes to take long walks and simply talk with her co-worker/friend. All of her friends vary in personality and interests but all have enriched her life in unique ways and I have a feeling the bonds will endure even when they all go their separate ways.
Freshmen roommates, chosen or assigned, are not guaranteed to work out. Some will switch roommates after a semester or after a year. My own freshman roommate was very different from me. She was very outgoing and I was quiet. We did not become close friends but she respected my need to have more quiet time and thanks to her, I learned some tips about reaching out to make friends. By the end of our first year together, we both chose to go our separate ways. We had developed friendships with others in our dorm and across campus.
Some roommates hit it off with each other immediately. And there are some who, despite being very different, go on to become lifelong friends. They may never have chosen each other from any description or Facebook interaction but a friendship blossomed.
Like all freshmen, my daughter will need to reach out and make new friends when she starts the next chapter in her life. I think she is ready. Will she choose a roommate from her college’s Facebook page? Yesterday it bothered her that she hadn’t found one yet. Today, she says no, she will be fine having a roommate assigned to her. I’m fine with that, too.