Should College Students Select Their Own Roomates?

When I was in college, I had two experiences with computer-generated roommate selection. The first was my freshman year, and her name was Fran. Fran was neat and clean, and used Bath and BodyWorks raspberry lotion every day, and made me feel bad about the fact that I would never smell as good as her. She had perfect skin and a perfect body and had no tolerance for the fact that I drank a lot, hooked up with douche-y guys and generally had no idea what I was doing with my life.

After that, I transferred schools and was assigned to someone named Gretchen. I expected a German model, but instead she was severely overweight, sexually ambiguous, and lined her windowsill with X Files dolls.

Surprisingly, I did not stay in touch with either Gretchen or Fran, but both experiences became pretty good stories and gave me an idea of what it was like to live with someone with whom I did not share the same values.

Well, over at the Daily Trojan, there’s an article about whether or not students should be able to select their own roommates. Writer Maya Itah makes the case against it for the same reasons I mentioned: if kids can pick who they live with, they will not get the chance to learn one of the main lessons college has to offer — how to think outside yourself:

Say a traditionally studious girl rooms with an extrovert who goes out five nights a week. Girl No. 1 might write her roommate off as an idiot — until finding out that she maintains a 3.8 GPA. The realization would challenge her view of what a good student is, and might prevent her from jumping to similar conclusions in the future.

Couldn’t agree more. Itah makes the case that dealing with rommates mimics dealing with bosses, co-workers and the general public later in life. And if you can’t do that — if you never learn how to deal with someone’s passive aggressive bullshit or their tendency to mouth breathe, you are going to have a hard roe to hoe.

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    • Katie

      Random roommate was the best thing I ever did. We’re not BFFLs or anything, but we still keep in touch, and I learned so much from her! I don’t understand why people decide to room with their best friends from high school, it so often ends in tears.

    • Mrimm

      Saying they CAN’T chose their own roommates seems a little over the top. I agree that random roommates is a good idea, but sometimes there are reasons a student might want to chose their own roomie. For example, I have a lot of severe food allergies, some of them fatal. One of the reasons I’m not going the random-roomie route is because I need to be sure that my roommates understand the importance of an allergy safe household. If you’re not used to that sort of thing, it’s easy to make mistakes.

    • Eileen

      I had three random roommates and didn’t choose the people I would be living with until senior year when we rented a house off-campus. I liked all three roommates and really appreciated the fact that they WEREN’T my best friends – it can be much harder to tell a close friend when you’re having problems with your living situation, plus if you live together AND spend all your time together, it’s easy to get sick of each other.

    • fry

      We were allowed to choose our roommates in college. My first roomie and I chose each other, and things worked out. But then she transferred to another college. I received one from random assignment because I didn’t really care, and she ended up being even better than my first. We’re still friends and are watching our Alma Mater football game tonight from different sides of the country. Good times, whether we choose or are assigned our roommates.

    • Caitlyn

      I’m from New Zealand and it’s very unusual here to share a room in a hostel- we all have small singles and shared facilities, and usually only spend one year in what you might call a dorm before flatting (sharing houses near campus with several students). I would feel very uncomfortable with sharing a room with even a friend for more than a short time, and it would be extremely confronting to share with a stranger. I feel that flatting with people I don’t know has been enough of an exercise in compromise for me!

      Just a different cultural perspective :)