Uncategorized March 27, 2018

Helping Your Child To Pick The Best Roommate

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Applications are complete and a decision is made. Your child has chosen the school they will attend and as the anxiety for this decision ebbs, a new one emerges; picking a roommate. Has your child ever shared a room with anyone, even a sibling? Most likely not. Most students heading off to college have never had to share their bedroom space with anyone. Many colleges are recognizing this and are building new dorms that allow for single resident. Not all offer this option though, so the roommate search begins. Of course, your student can choose to have a random roommate assigned to her by the university. In my research, I’ve found there to be a negligible difference between the success of a random match versus one that was chosen, but that option is up to each individual.

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So, if you student is choosing a roommate, what should he look for? Many universities offer Facebook sites where students can e-meet each other and find a suitable match. There are also roommate matching websites much like dating websites where students fill out questionnaires and are matched with potential roommates. Check your university’s housing website to see if they have a preferred service. Two that I’ve heard of are Rommsurf and My College Roomie. I can’t personally speak to the successes of these matches but they do offer testimonials on each of their sites.

Ask a group of college parents and you will be offered roommate horror stories as well as happily ever after ones. A bad match can have a greatly negative impact on your child’s happiness at school. After all, they are sharing space with possibly someone they’ve never met before and prior to this experience and have likely had no experience sharing a space with anyone, let alone such a small space. Based on feedback from experienced parents, I have come up with these five suggestions:

Don’t room with a friend from home

Rooming with a friend, while sounding like a good idea, can have its disadvantages. Though it’s true that a roommate from home will offer some immediate comfort in this new environment it can also hinder the development of new friendships. That level of comfort could lessen the need to seek out and form new relationships. This pairing can also be intimidating to others who might perceive that there is no room for a new friend. If you walk into a party where you don’t know anyone, are you going to walk up to the group already deep in conversation among themselves or someone who is also looking around for someone to talk to? Best friends don’t necessarily make the best roommates and it would it be a huge shame for a friendship to end because of incompatibility in a living situation.  As discussed in another post, Preventing Homesickness: The Air-Tight Plan For a Positive Transition To College, having your great friend from home room with someone else creates opportunities for new friends for your child. Hopefully your child will love their new roommate (new friend #1), and hopefully, their good friend from home will love their new roommate (who now becomes your child’s new friend #2). Hopefully new friends numbers 1 and 2 will also have friends that they will bring into the group, and so on. Win! If you’re as old as me, you may recall a Faberge shampoo commercial which I think about with the previous sentence. Warning, nostalgia below!

Consider the possible implications of choosing a roommate who lives close to campus
This one may be puzzling you but let me explain what parents have told me. If your student is planning on staying at school over the weekends it might be nice if they had a roommate who did as well. Someone who doesn’t live close by to the university will likely not be driving home every weekend. This can be especially beneficial if your student’s university is small, meaning a smaller student body, or if your student is going to a school where a large number of the attendees are commuters. You can find this information online with a simple Google search. Campuses with high populations of commuters will be much quieter on the weekends already, so it will be comforting to know you have a roommate who will be there to do things with. How about a student from out-of-state? They will likely know few if any other students on campus and will be eager to form new relationships.
Find out if a potential roommate has a long-term significant other and if they will be attending the same university
This may seem an odd question to ask but parents have explained the issues that can arise from this tidbit of information. If a student is going away to the same university as there long-term significant other, there’s a good chance that’s who they will spend the majority of their time with. There’s also the chance that the significant other will be a regular presence in your student’s dorm room. I would imagine feeling a third-wheel in your own room would be awkward and could cause conflict between roommates. Also, beware the long-term significant other who is at a university a short distance away. This may not just cause a regular presence but possibly regular sleepovers…Talk about feeling like a third-wheel, how would your student like to constantly worry about walking in on private moments. Of course, many of these relationships will form once kids start school, but you have no control over the future.
Have a student make a list of what they think are good qualities of a roommate before they start the search
Knowing what they feel would make an ideal roommate to them will help keep them focused when they begin the search process. Meeting someone on a university’s Facebook rooming site can easily set a student off-track to what is best for them in a roommate. While someone they meet online could and might become their new best friend(s) it doesn’t mean this person will make a compatible roommate. Encourage your student to revisit their list before making a decision. If this person doesn’t check most of the boxes of what they felt would make a good roommate before they joined the Facebook page they should probably take pause on choosing that person to room with. Many universities have suite offerings. Maybe this person would make a great suitemate, just not a good roommate.
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What recommendations do you have for students picking  a roommate? What have your student’s experiences been? Please comment below.

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