One of the many milestones in a college student’s life is learning to live with a roommate.
Those choosing to attend a college far from home, or who prefer to live on campus instead of commute, will face a decision of living in student housing, and that involves choosing or being assigned a roommate.
Living with a roommate involves compromise and consideration.
Jill Church, director of residence services at Kent State University, said there are three ways student roommates can be paired.
Students can list friends they went to high school with or friends they met at college orientation as potential roommates on their housing application. Students can also use RoomSync, which is a roommate matching application and software available on Facebook.
“RoomSync is a Facebook app that allows students to search for other students who have similar interests,” Church said.
Danielle Meyer, director of housing and residence life at Youngstown State University, said that with the advancements of online networking technology, students are more in control when it comes to selecting a roommate.
“The number of complaints we got about roommates has decreased because students have full control,” Meyer said.
“We have students go on StarRez, an online housing management program that allows students to do everything online, including searching for potential roommates.
”StarRez allows students to create a profile, where they can upload photos, share their interests, provide contact information and send messages to potential roommates and send a request to someone to be your potential roommate. StarRez will indicate the percentage match of the roommates and you can tell how you would like to rank potential roommates then it generates a list of best possible potential roommates.
”Prior to using StarRez, we used a Facebook group that steered students in finding roommates,” Meyer said.
Meyer said that the housing and residence life staff has access to a student’s StarRez profile, but they do not generally go into the student’s profile unless it’s an emergency and the student arrives a week before classes and does not have a roommate.
Meyer said that it’s always important for the student to fill out their application or profile themselves and to be as honest as possible. For example, a student should specify how many hours of sleep or studying they require or any additional accommodations they have. Students need to be upfront about their specific preferences, needs and habits.
“Sometimes parents get involved in filling out the student profile,” Meyer said. “Sometimes mom and dad’s answers are different than the student’s answers. We caution students to make sure they are completing the profile as honestly as possible.”
Meyer said up to 85 percent of the students match themselves with roommates and the other 15 percent do not match themselves.
“Some students opt to have us match them up,” Meyer said. “With most of our students, who their roommate is going to be is their number one concern. The most important thing for a student coming to college is to keep an open mind about their roommate and that not everyone is the same.”
Sam Horne of Girard, an incoming freshman at Oberlin College, is residing on campus, moving into a campus co-op and is a member of the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association. Horne was assigned a roommate based on a survey he completed.
“The co-op houses at Oberlin College are run by the OSCA, and as members, you have to trade in a certain amount of hours doing dining work and house work. In return, we get our housing and meals at a third of the price,” Horne said.
“To be paired with a roommate, we fill out an online survey. It takes a few months to match the roommates. The survey includes questions such as, what time we wake up, your sleep schedule, your major and what type of music that you like.
”This survey works well and a lot of people I talked to are happy with their roommates. The survey is very short and is not a big deal,” he said.
To help new roommates make the transition, Church said that the residence services at Kent holds a Roommate Agreement meeting with the student roommates. The Roommate Agreement fosters communication among roommates, which prevents problems as time progresses.
“On the proactive end, during the first week and a half of classes, we sit down with the student roommates and we have a Roommate Agreement, where we discuss guests, times for sleeping and studying, sharing of items in a room and how we want to work all of that out,” Church said.
Living together isn’t always a pleasant situation. Individually, everyone has different preferences and biorhythms. Church said that there are ways of solving this conflict in a constructive and helpful manner.
“If there is conflict between roommates, we revisit the Roommate Agreement, where we talk about that issue with the roommates,” Church said. “If this is not successful, we help them with the room change. Roommates have bumps in the road, but I have found that they are mostly successful.”
Communication is key in getting along well with roommates.
“It’s important for roommates to be honest and articulate things and to share what they need up front,” Church said.
Meyer said that when roommates have a conflict, it is best to talk to the resident assistant.
“Resident assistants are trained in dealing with conflict and mediation,” Meyer said. “Many times, it’s a simple solution, but if it is a complicated situation, our full-time staff gets involved, and when it’s necessary, we allow students to change rooms.
”If a student is experiencing a problem with a roommate, they should not try to handle it alone. They should let a housing and residence life staff member know, so that we could help the situation. If you are sitting in class stressing about your roommate, then you can’t concentrate on your studies,” Meyer said.
Jake Gebhart, senior at Youngstown State University, was a resident assistant for two semesters at the campus housing.
“As a resident assistant, I had to be on my floor as much as possible,” Gebhart said. “I was a mentor for freshmen students and a role model for these students, and I also handled roommate conflicts.
”It’s about building a community where everyone can get along. When I was leaving to do my internship, as I was moving out, my bosses and the students told me that I was approachable and that I drew a line between being the students’ friend and enforcing the rules.
”In the past, I had three roommates and when it comes to roommates, it’s about communicating with your roommate about things that bother you, so you avoid conflict,” Gebhart said.
“Being considerate is key in getting along with your roommate,” Horne said, adding, “My roommate is a pretty cool guy.”