Should I Pick a Random Dorm Roommate?

The Thought Process

It’s a new day… You’re heading to college, high school and your hometown fading into the background. Women, classes, dorms, partying, and hijinks ensuing. You have a lot on your plate, from the lack of parents for the first time in your life to the course load you’ve decided to take.

This is it. This is the beginning of a new life. A new world opening up for you. This is going to be the greatest six years of your life – We’ll round it up to seven or eight. And then you get there…

The Reality

Did I commit a heinous crime? Is this my punishment? Your dorm room looks like a stand-in setting for the television series Prison Break. You can literally hold your hands out and touch both walls.

Is that a closet? I can probably fit about three shirts and one pair of pants in… That’s all I’m getting in.

There’s an explosion in the hallway – “Ah!” The Mayans were right – No, it’s your new neighbors cranking up the sound system and playing indoor, hallway football. A few others play online video gaming without their headsets, the bullets reverberating off your wall right about the exact spot you will be placing your head down on your pillow to rest.

There won’t be any rest. So things are a little different. Okay, a lot different.

But at least your roommate looks nice. Come to find out, he likes to wake up at five in the morning and type on his keyboard so loud you think the world really is ending. He is anti-social, he likes solitude, he’s not a big talker, and at certain points in the day (after anything containing lactose) he’s a little bit smelly.

As you sit amidst the imaginary bullets bouncing off you walls, the real threat of a 6’-4” linebacker blasting through your door for a touchdown celebration, and the uncertainty revolving around your roommate, you come to think… Should I have handled this whole dorm thing slash roommate situation better? Is there anything else I could’ve done?

What you Should’ve/Could’ve/Would’ve Done

While some colleges – very few actually – will let you choose your own roommate, most will offer up a system by which you will be paired with a like-minded individual.

So the question becomes “Do I want to try and find a friend from home – someone I know – to room with at college or am I going to bite the bullet and let the University decide on a random person for me to shack up with?” What are the pros and cons of each of these routes you could take?

Colleges will use different criteria in which to match two people to a room. Questions on smoking, cleanliness, and what time you go to sleep are but a few of the questions asked. If you were trying to be cool when you were filling out the questionnaire, you might be roomed with a Charlie Sheen look-a-like. If you were being smart and giving the answers you thought people wanted to hear, you might find yourself with an Al Gore type sleeping next to you. It is a random matching, but one that tries to find common likes and dislikes between new roommates, depending on your truthful answers to the questions.

Friend or Stranger..?

At the most basic level of a “con” for the random dorm mate… You don’t know them as well as you would a friend or someone you’ve known since elementary school. There isn’t trust there and this opens up other opportunities – that while small – are things to think about both in dorm life and beyond.

An increasing aspect of crime on campus relates to a spike in identity theft. An Impulse Research Study for Chubb Group Insurance found that 49 percent of college students receive frequent applications for credit and debit cards, and that 30 percent of those students discard those applications – Without tearing them up, thus leaving their personal information for thieves to easily access. To make a bad situation even worse, those same students – 30 percent of them – admitted to not checking their credit or debit accounts much, if at all.

Now I’m not saying your roommate is going to clean out your account or steal your identity – Although if he comes in looking like you, trying to mimic your movements, and asking about how you sign your name, take an immediate interest in his actions.

The identity theft is not meant to be a scare tactic. But it is meant to illustrate a point of living with a person whom you have just met. You don’t really know them. I guess the same can be said about Fred, your buddy from Kindergarten – That we really don’t know a person – But you know Fred a whole lot better than James, who you just met, and who may or may not be a serial killer. Hint: He is. The point is that with everything else going on in the nascent stages of your college career – Classes, girls/boys, parties, money issues, dorm life, etc. – maybe it’s better if the one constant in your life is a person that you can trust, that will be there for you if the going gets rough.

Maybe a Stranger is Not So Bad After All..?

But, it seems, the cons of a stranger as your roommate can actually end up being pros in certain instances. Will I have anything in common with him or her? Will we get along? Are we going to hang out outside of the dorm? All these questions are swirling around your head as you enter into college dorm life.

University of Michigan researchers found that things aren’t all bad with random roommates. 300 college freshmen were studied in an attempt to ascertain whether not knowing your new roommate was actually such a bad thing. In the first week, 32 percent of the students admitted to feeling lonely almost all the time. By week ten, with their new roommate by their side, only 17 percent said they were still lonely. The roomies got to know one another, came to an understanding of this new life they were sharing, and for the most part came to like the other.

It was a first chance at growth… Taking something scary – a new environment and roommate – and turning it into a positive. And isn’t that what college is all about when you get down to it..? Learning and growing as a person as you navigate the intricacies of life – The new roommate and living arrangements are just a first step in the whole process.

Friend Cons (And There are actually Quite a Few)

Cons with a person you know may include you find you two aren’t in fact compatible, you have a blow out, and your friendship that begun in Kindergarten is over faster than “Terriers” or “Lights Out” or any TV program starring Christian Slater. It may sound good to have that friend as your roommate – you know him or her – you can trust them… There is a comfort level. But, in many instances – for a whole variety of reasons – it may actually be better to jump into a situation with a stranger head first. You’ll learn more about yourself, you’ll realize you can handle (difficult) situations, and you may actually come to gain a new friend from the whole experience. College is about growing as a person, learning your limits, and (slowly, painfully) becoming an adult. You never know quite what will happen, but that’s part of the fun (terror) of it all.

Ending Thoughts

As with anything you do in life, there will be pluses and minuses no matter what the situation. In the end, it may be up to you and what you can control that helps to dictate whether the relationship – in both random instances and friend relations – will succeed. It’s college. Have fun. Be safe. Try new things. And most importantly, have a damn good time… Because after college, real life sets in – And as you know, not too many people are fans of that. So have fun while you can and live a little… ‘Cause in the end, that’s what college is all about.

Stephanie is a social media advocate at CreditDonkey. She contributes to CreditDonkey’s student credit card blog. She remembers her undergraduate days fondly – her roommate was her wing woman, every Thursday night until graduation.

11 Thoughts on “Should I Pick a Random Dorm Roommate?”

  1. I had bad experiences with both random and chosen roommates. It always depends on the situation though.

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