Off To College –With Whom Do You Room?

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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.

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8 responses »

  1. I was just thinking about this issue yesterday as my son has finally decided which college he wants to attend. He chose a very small school and I don’t think there are any such Facebook pages for connecting freshmen, but I might have him look into it to see. Here’s another perspective: my son has an insulin pump that sometimes alarms in the middle of the night. I would hate for him to have a really light-sleeping roommate. I would also love it if his roommate was aware of his diabetes and felt willing to report to school health if his behavior became bizarre or something, indicating extreme low blood sugar – not that he would ever want somebody momma-ing him and taking care of him, but it would be reassuring to know that someone was just willing to report in an emergency and had a good heads-up before committing to it. What do you think?

    • Becca, thank you for your comment. I would feel exactly as you do if my daughter had a health concern. I mentioned that most schools have those handy questionnaires that help match up students who have similar schedules, etc. I wonder if there might be a section in which you could mention your concern. There may even be a section on the school’s website where these types of questions can be addressed. I’m sure there are many caring individuals heading to the same school. How do you find them? I’d like to know the answer too. Keep me posted!

  2. Wow, social media makes almost everything possible. This is strange but gives a person an idea of what a room mate looks like on advance. However it eliminates the anticipation a bit. Usually freshman year you’re assigned but can select room mates after. I graduated in 2009 and feel so out of the loop.

  3. I don’t like the idea, at all, of picking a roommate by pictures and some typed words (FaceBook) because nowadays you can write anything you want including things that are not true or are not the whole truth. And to have kids pick other kids by a picture is just plain sad. How long have kids been placed with a roommate that it has worked? I can’t count that high. Some kids today would no sooner pick a kid without some type of stereotyping because that’s what this world has come too. Yes, have the option of changing a roommate because things aren’t working out (after an amount of time that says you did give it your all). But picking out a roommate be means of something like FaceBook will never happen in this house. Just my 2 cents……..Kelly L

  4. I like that entering college freshmen have an opportunity to pick their roommates. I wish I had been able to do that. I hated my roommate freshman year. I tolerated her, but after freshman year we never saw each other again.

    Fortunately my neighbor in the dorm and I became fast friends, and I consider her my best friend today. We are VERY much alike, and if I had seen her profile on a Facebook meetup page I would have wanted to be her roommate. We became roommates the following year and stayed roommates until she withdrew and moved back home to finish college.

    There’s a thing to be said about meeting people who are different from you and learning to get along with them, but living with them is different. I think the kids should be allowed to try and find the best possible match. Living with someone who is like you will help you get through those first few difficult weeks when you don’t know anyone. Plus, in the real world when you’re searching for roommates after college, you will have to go through a similar experience. You don’t have an admin selecting people for you.

    • I understand your feeling, Michelle. I was very different from my freshman roommate, although we got along fine. If roommates cannot tolerate each other, they should be allowed to make a switch, by all means! I just think that some adapting and compromising is healthy in irder for kids to mature.. I cringe thinking Emma could end up with a very difficult person!

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