Roommate Choice

How do you choose a roommate for your first year in college?  Who should you live with?  Is it better to live with a friend from home, to do an extensive and exhaustive search on facebook to find the right person?  Should I take a chance and go with a person that is randomly assigned by the software used for match roommates?  How can I insure that I have the best roommate possible?   There’s always the full range of questions and for some, stress, related to the choice of a roommate.

The three kinds of roommate you can have are: 1) someone that you already have a relationship with  2) someone that you meet on-line and choose to live with and 3) a randomly assigned roommate…   The research on roommate matching shows or demonstrates that there is no statistically significant difference between the success rate of any of these 3 options.  What does that mean?  It means that no matter who you work with, to be successful, just like any other relationship, it’s going to require that you work at it and that you be willing to get to know, understand and work cooperatively with another person.  If you are too stubborn or too used to getting your own way to compromise, living with a best friend may not be any better than living with a complete stranger – The problem won’t be the other person.  I have students tell me – I’ve had a bad roommate every year.  I would love to tell them that I’m sure that their roommates would all also agree with that statement….  1/2 of all of the marriages in this country fail… and you can’t create a more intense vetting/decision making process than that.  It takes 2 people who are willing to talk with each other, to respect and respond to each other, to be willing to take risks and talk to each other to work through conflicts….   That’s why the University of Virginia feels strongly about the random assignment process.  We want you, for this one year, if no other, to live with people that are different from you and to learn to negotiate for your needs and to take the needs of others into account.  For your long term personal happiness and success, this may be the most important learning experience you might have in College.

My real advice is that you need to do what you feel most comfortable with.  I hope that you are open to the excitement/experience of living with a randomly chosen roommate.  If you do feel/believe that you would be happiest living with a friend, please do that.  You each need to preference each other on your application.  My only caution is that you will change a lot during your first semester and year in college.  Living with someone who knows you as you are now and expects you to continue to be that way can cause a strain in the friendship.  You can also each live with other roommates but still be able to hang out with each other – and each become a part of the other’s new network.  You can always have the benefits of having friends that live nearby without having to be roommates with them.   There is also nothing wrong with living with someone you’ve selected from a social media connection.  It’s also a healthy thing to go into the roommate relationship as something that you have chosen for yourself.  Hopefully, that will make it easier for you to stick it out and work through conflicts (that will arise).

I am trying to hit a balance here between covering this topic and beating it to death.  To repeat my main  message – don’t worry to much, what ever path you choose to take- the results are about the same….  You can’t make a wrong choice if you do what you feel fits best for you personally.  (If you feel that a single room would be best for you, that is also an option.)  In the process of development every group or relationship goes through the same general stages.  Those stages are characterized as “Forming”, “Storming”, “Norming” and “Performing”…   What that means is that there will initially be a honeymoon kind of period where you are both excited about all the new things and life here in general.. You’ll be willing to put up with lots of things and laugh them off.  As time passes, you will get busier with work and the pressure you face will build and suddenly you will cross into the “storming” stage….. now the coming home and turning on the lights after you’re in bed, or the clothes all over the floor —you name it, will suddenly make you angry and resentful….  In order for you and your roommate to ever get to the next stage, you have to confront and work out your difference -and get to the point where you can develop “Norms”, or standards for behavior that you both understand and can live with.   If you can’t do that, you’re done…  One person will take over the room, the other will hang out elsewhere and just come home to sleep…. or one of you will silently seeth with anger, mentally noting each insensitive, careless, thoughtless thing the other does and it will add up until you dream about doing bad things to the other —-  For your age group and most people, it is hard and does take a bit of courage.  If you don’t a least let your roomate know when things are bothering you, then you aren’t giving the roommate the chance to change.  It’s always heartbreaking to see people suffer silently -and make lots of bad assumptions about the other person -when the other person has no reason to know that their behavior is a problem…..  You need to speak up and make sure that you give the other person the same consideration that you would like.  Hard at first, but easier as you get practice -and then completely easy as you find out that your roommate isn’t such a bad person….   Once you get to the final -performing stage then your roomate can really be a source of support and the synergy of your relationship will help both of you persist and become successful here….  It takes work to make it work, no matter who your roommate is……

more tomorrow.


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