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Important Insider Knowledge You Need on Roommate Matching

Curious about college roommate selection? There are a few ways students get paired up, from using a roommate assignment survey to finding someone online.

Technology has long played a role in fostering online to real-time relationships, and the college roommate search is no exception. While a school’s time-honored algorithm and questionnaire is still held in some regard, more universities have given their students the option to request roommates based on connections via social media. So, how do you know what’s best for you? For many students, it comes down to comfort. Finding roommates on social media can account for a more true-to-life profile, but they can also limit you to geographic range and mutual connections. If you’re wondering who you’ll end up with as a roommate, here are what your options look like.

The university system questionnaire

Despite the digital age, some colleges still maintain a university-based roommate assignment process. Although each method is unique to the college, students are generally paired either randomly or through matches on questionnaires. At Dartmouth College—one of the few universities to use a completely randomized design—roommate assignments are unrelated to personal characteristics. On the other hand, Northwestern University carefully matches students based on similar lifestyle preferences when signing their housing contracts. Of course, there are as many variations of these examples as there are colleges, so take the time to do some independent research. You might even enjoy it!

What should you expect from a roommate survey?

Regardless of the university, lifestyle questionnaires are usually similar across the board. Ranging from 10 multiple-choice questions to several short-answer questions, these surveys attempt to gauge the degree of substance use, social time, sleeping habits, cleanliness, and even room temperature preferences. So, answer a few questions, drop a few pertinent details, and let my school do all the hard work? Easy! Opting to find a roommate through your university’s system is great because it takes the guesswork out of the process. A lot of students like that they are guaranteed to meet someone new on the first day who might have new perspectives to share. That’s the beauty of the university process; you aren’t evaluating a candidate based on their Facebook profile picture or your network of mutual friends.

Related: 5 Quick Tips to Make Things Work With Your College Roommate

Does specialty housing factor into roommate selection?

Some college questionnaires also match students with themed houses, like eco-friendly dorms for the environmentally conscious, dorms for first-generation college students, or substance-free lodging. A lot of students overlook specialty housing, but it can be a great way to meet people with similar goals or backgrounds. Students of the same sex are also usually paired together, although there are about 150 colleges that offer gender-neutral housing or even co-ed rooms.

If some of the questions you encounter seem a little intimate, don’t be alarmed! Everything is kept confidential with the roommate selection committee. Answer them as truthfully as you can, and resist the urge to sugarcoat your responses. The more honest you are about being messy, the less likely it is that you’ll be saddled with an angry clean freak. At the same time, a questionnaire can only tell you so much. So, you still run the risk of getting a roommate that omitted their stinky-cheese infatuation from their university profile, but that’s why you have an RA and a residential help desk to mediate. And if you really aren’t happy with your roommate, you can always request a change later. 

Choosing your own roommate

Maybe you don’t want to leave your roommate selection up to fate, but finding someone to live with for a whole year can feel overwhelming. That’s when students turn to various social media platforms to find roommates that aren’t so random. Many colleges have even invited incoming freshmen to join official Facebook groups where students post short blurbs about their hobbies and lifestyle preferences to virtually meet other students they may want to live with. Other websites like RoomSurf and RoomSync match students based on a questionnaire just like colleges and match with people who answered similarly. From there, students can contact each other and choose from a smaller pool of peers who share their interests and values.

Is doing the work yourself worth it?

Choosing your own roommate and getting to know them is more organic than being assigned someone. Beyond the basic questions every roommate wants to know, social media sites can answer the ones you didn’t think to ask. For the same reason employers look at social media accounts to vet applicants, students can decide whether someone is a suitable roommate based on how they present themselves. Some students feel social media allows them to know their roommate before they’ve even met. Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that it can’t account for everything, but RAs and residential counselors are there to help. It's also good to note that finding roommates on social media can limit you to people of similar geographic areas or mutual connections. Unless you‘re actively looking for only an international student or someone from across the country, you may not know who is out there unless you expand your efforts.

Related: How to Be Smart When Picking Your College Roommate

By the time fall rolls around, roommate searches and housing situations are obsolete in the broader scope of excitement that college brings. No matter which roommate assignment method you choose, nothing is permanent, and there’s a 24/7 support system of university counselors, friends, and RAs to help if your dorm room becomes a warzone. Take the time to do your research, enjoy the process, and get excited to meet peers who are as bright and driven as you are. 

Not sure having a roommate is even for you? Read our article Pros and Cons of Living With Roommates vs. Living Alone to make the right choice.

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