In college, you have a lot of choices. You get to pick your classes, your major and the brand new extra-long floral sheets from Ikea that will adorn your twin bed for an entire year. But do you get to pick your roommate? And if so, should you?
With many colleges allowing incoming freshmen the opportunity to choose their future roomie, more and more pre-collegiettes™ are jumping at the chance. But picking a roommate isn’t like going to the pet store and picking out the cutest puppy, as oftentimes, what you thought would be the perfect match turns out to be a perfect nightmare. Not sure if you should seek out your roomie before you move in? Read on as we’ll weigh the pros and cons so you can make the best decision for you.
The pros to picking a roommate
She is someone that you know
Maybe she was in your orientation group and you bonded over your shared love of Nutella and The Bachelorette or maybe your mom’s co-worker’s friend has a daughter that is going to same school as you and insisted that you connect. Either way, it’s nice to know at least one person before you dive into a school with thousands. You can help each other find your classes before they start and brave the campus together during the first few days away from home.
You’ll gain a new network of friends
At college, you’re constantly meeting new people and making new friends (read: Facebook friends) wherever you go, whether it’s in your bio lab or at a Friday night highlighter party. By picking your roommate ahead of time, you’re practically guaranteed to instantly meet a new group of people through the friends she has made. Not only can you help each other out to make more friends, but you’ll always have a dinner buddy.
You’ll feel more comfortable
The idea of sleeping in a room with someone that you’ve never met can be a frightening thought. However, if you’ve met or have at least chatted on Facebook ahead of time, you may be able to have a little more peace of mind. “Picking your roommate can make you more comfortable coming into your first days of college,” says UConn student and R.A. Cassie Schmidt. “You know who the person is at least a little and the living situation might not be as awkward.”
Plus, you’ll have already established what times you both like to be asleep by, if you’re night owls or morning birds and where you like to study. Check, check and check.
If you have specific needs
“Picking your own roommate also lets you choose based on what values you think are important in a person besides the things that listed on the roommate survey that the university sends out,” says Cassie. If one of your “requirements” is that lights out is 11 p.m. during the week, having that conversation about those needs before can save you from trouble later.
Colleen Wilson, a Fairfield University senior, is a varsity swimmer and knew she wanted to room with an athlete during her freshmen year. “This would make it easier when we were going to have to wake up for early morning practices,” she explained.
The cons to picking a roommate
You may not get along as well as you thought
“Picking your own roommate can go disastrously wrong,” says Cassie. Be warned: just because someone likes the same TV shows as you does not mean that you’re meant to be soul mates. Turns out, there are many students who discover that their roomie who seemed really cool at orientation, wasn’t exactly so cool when they ate all the Hot Pockets and didn’t know how to do a load of laundry. While you may think you’re making a smart choice by picking in advance, it may backfire later. “You may not have thought of every aspect of having to live with someone and therefore picked someone that isn't cohesive with your lifestyle,” says Cassie.
Colleen agrees. “Sometimes students are so eager to pick a roommate that they can pick too fast and end up deciding on a roommate that they don't get along with,” she says.
They might hold you back
We all know about stage five-clingers in relationships, but you don’t want a stage five-clinger roommate. This roommate is the kind that holds you back and doesn’t want you hanging out with other people. No good can come of this. On the flip side, you might feel obligated to constantly be with them, which can ultimately take away from your independence.
You’re closing yourself off from being surprised
Who knows? You could end up with a roommate (with the coolest accent) who is studying abroad from London or a roommate who could turn out to be your best friend. The thing is, you’ll never know if you play it safe. By not taking a chance, you could be missing out on meeting someone you normally wouldn’t hang out with otherwise.
“I've seen random roommates work out really well, and really poorly,” says Cassie. “I've seen chosen roommates get along perfect, but sometimes students aren't so lucky. Overall, I think that getting a ‘rando’ is the best way to go. Being placed with someone you don't know and haven't met can help you grow as an individual and is one of the biggest steps in growing up when you get to college. I think it’s also important to point out that your roommate doesn't have to be (and ideally, WON'T be) your best friend. Being friends with your roommate is nice, but if you spend every minute of every day (even when you're sleeping!) with the same person, you'll go crazy—no matter if you picked them yourself or got placed by the school.”
Ultimately, “When students choose their own roommates, they often overlook important factors,” explains Cassie. “It may never occur to them to ask if their potential roommate wants to share food or only eat what they have personally purchase. Or if their new roommate goes to sleep at 10 p.m. every night while they wish to stay up past midnight. Asking the hard questions before you move in together and setting rules in place before issues arise is an integral part of a positive roommate experience.”
Speaking from a positive experience, “I was extremely happy with my chosen roommate,” says Colleen. “It worked out for the best and we ended up living together both freshman and sophomore year. We are still good friends and I would recommend that students look into possible roommates before going to school. Sometimes random roommates work out, but you definitely have more control when you have the chance to choose someone.”
How to pick your roommate
Complete a survey provided by your school
This is typically the most traditional way to choose a roommate. Most colleges will either mail incoming freshmen a roommate questionnaire or will have them complete them online. The number of questions and how in-depth they are will vary based upon your school, but most schools attempt to match you up with someone you will be compatible with based upon a series of basic questions. On the questionnaire, you can indicate your preference ranging from what time you like to go to bed, if you’re a smoker or non-smoker, if you like to study alone or in groups and how you like to approach conflicts.
Meet someone new at Orientation
“Orientation can be a great way to find a roommate,” says Cassie. “You're able to make face-to-face contact and really get to know someone.” If you're wary about meeting your roomie for the first time in person the day you move in, this option might be ideal for you. If your potential roomie didn't mention that she's prone to snapping her gum loudly or that she always blares heavy metal music on her roommate application, you'll pick up on those habits when you meet at Orientation – before you decide to room together.
Find your roomie on Facebook
For Colleen, Facebook was the perfect opportunity to choose a roommate and get to know her ahead of time. “Over the summer, all of the female swimmers that wanted roommates started an email thread where we filled out a questionnaire and started to get to know one another that way,” she says. “We all became friends on Facebook and looked at one another’s pictures and interests and learned about each other through that. I ended up picking a girl swimmer that lived about an hour and a half from my home. We decided to meet in the summer at a restaurant and get to know each other a little before school began in September.”
So pre-collegiettes™, are you planning on choosing your roommate before you start college or do you prefer to take your chances with someone you don’t already know? Which do you think is the best decision? Tell us in the Comments section below!
Cassie Schmidt, University of Connecticut R.A.
Colleen Wilson, Fairfield University student