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The Pros & Cons of Choosing Your Roommate Before College

Posted May 2 2013 - 12:00am
Tagged With: roommates

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You filled out tons of college apps, anxiously awaited decisions and deliberated your options for weeks. Now that you've finally chosen a school, you're done with all the decisions, right? Not quite. You may know where you’re moving this fall, but you still have to figure out who you're moving in with. Should you sign up to live with your best friend since daycare, or leave it up to a lottery? Choosing a roommate before stepping foot on campus may or may not be your best bet, so Her Campus has compiled the pros and cons to help with your decision.

Pro #1: You'll have the comfort of a familiar face in a brand new environment.
No matter how close to or far from home you'll be, living on a college campus is going to be an entirely novel experience—everything from the people you see to the food you eat will be new. And no matter how cool you think you are, everyone has Linus moments, and having a security blanket (like a roommate you already know) at college can be nice. Bridget Cohen, a freshman at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, chose a roommate she already knew through a mutual friend, then connected with her online: "My roommate and I chose each other via Facebook prior to college," says Bridget. "We started talking and had a lot of things in common … [Now] we get along really well as both roommates and close friends."

Con #1: It could be difficult to let go of your high school life.
You spent all summer giving your Facebook albums deep and mysterious titles like "The End" and listening to Green Day's "Time of Your Life" on loop—you've given your high school years enough reverence, so don't let them eat into the exciting college experience ahead. Rooming with someone you knew in high school can make starting this new life chapter more difficult; with a friend around all the time, you'll have less incentive to go adventuring with new people. "I chose a random roommate because I wanted to extend my circle of friends," says Alexandra Court, a freshman at the College of William and Mary. "I still see friends from high school around campus, but I don't feel like I'm reliving high school all over again because my roommate has [helped me] meet new people." Hofstra University senior Gennifer Delman shares the sentiment, saying, “Living with someone you already know can be comforting, but there is something exciting about starting fresh, especially when you’re new to the college environment.”

If you do choose to room with someone you already know, both of you should make a conscious effort to expand your circle beyond your high school friends: attend orientation programs, exchange numbers with new acquaintances, create your class schedule based on your own interests rather than adjusting to your roommate's, try out new study spots, and don't be afraid to go to the gym alone. You'll still have each other, but the occasional night flying solo benefits everyone. It may seem like you’re starting from square one, but after spending some time apart, the two of you can exchange introductions and double each other's social circles.

Pro #2: You know you share common ground.
You know why the roommates of the Jersey Shore were thrown into a house together? They all love GTL! Not only are commonalities a brilliant foundation for high-quality entertainment, but they are also a key contributor to a positive living experience. Rooming with someone you already get along with ensures that you’ll be living with someone who shares some of your interests. "I found my roommate on Facebook in early April," says Elizabeth Schmitt at Mount Holyoke College. "Within a week, we decided to room together based on our similar values and interests."

Make sure to check out any services that your school offers; because residential life offices can often help you identify other students with similar interests. "I joined my school's Freshman Interest Groups (FIG) program, a [housing option] for freshmen that co-enrolls a group of ten to fifteen of us in three or four of the same classes and puts us all on the same floor of a residence hall," says Sydney Nolan, a freshman at the University of Missouri, Columbia. "It helped pair me with a roommate who majors in the same things I do, and has really similar interests and a personality that works well with mine."

Con #2: Having a lot in common doesn't always mean you'll be great roommates.
As cute as it is, the fact that you're both on Team Jacob and you occasionally finish each other's sentences doesn't necessarily mean that you and your friend will be fantastic rooming buddies. "Living with a friend is completely different than just hanging out with them on the weekends," adds Gennifer. "Hygiene, number of visitors (hook-ups included), and other factors don't come to mind until you’re forced to live with them." McGill sophomore Kristen Pye, for example, thought she and her roommate had a lot in common but instead had a rude awakening: "I ended up linking up with this other girl I met in a forum of incoming McGill first-years on Facebook. Through messaging, it seemed as though we had a lot in common, but in the end, I think we both just really wanted to have a lot in common." Kristen ended up switching roommates.

On the flip side, rooming with someone "random" doesn't necessarily mean that your compatibility with her is a coin toss. Colleges often take into account the companionability of roommate pairs by issuing a survey that asks questions about your personality and lifestyle—everything from your sleeping habits to your taste in music. And even if you end up with a roommate with whom you seem to have nothing in common, remember that exposure to new people can provide a different perspective, introduce you to her own interests, and ultimately broaden your world view.

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