When Sabrina Milroy came home from a night out, she was looking forward to relaxing in her double in Vaughn Center before sleeping the night off. But she said that when she opened her door she was interrogated about her night by her roommate. She was then awakened at 8 a.m. by the sound of grinding coffee.
Milroy, now a sophomore, said, “Those little things led to bigger issues and I ended up moving out because of the problems.”
According to the office Residence Life, “Approximately 200 students participated in open room change during the third week of classes.” Because this is an open room change period, it is no questions asked. The statement continued, “Approximately 50 students have moved after open room change by meeting with their Area Coordinators. Most of these moves are to be with new friends in other buildings. These numbers are lower than in previous years.”
Most schools will randomly assign roommates to incoming freshmen if requests for pairing aren’t received by a certain date. Universities provide resources to these students so that they can interact with their incoming class and potentially find a roommate. In past years, students spoke or met their roommates for the first time on move-in day. With the rise of new technology, incoming freshman create new avenues to interact before coming to school.
“I met [my roommate] through the Facebook group and we started talking a lot. We decided we wanted to room together our freshman year and so we made that happen, and from about April of 2011 until we actually moved to Tampa, we Skyped a lot and we were able to develop a friendship,” said Milroy.
While incoming freshmen often worry about tackling long papers or not partying too hard, roommates can cause the biggest headaches. According to Reslife Student Conduct Coordinators Ciarra Joyner and Nora Jarmon, avoiding conflict with a roommate is integral to students’ happiness in their first months on campus.
Freshman often have a series of surveys that they are required to complete by the university before they are assigned a roommate. “Students should discuss lifestyle preferences and study/social habits with potential roommates. Major lifestyle preferences including: smoking preference, neatness, bedtime, and study with or without background noise should be considered,” according to the Reslife statement. Surveys are also generated by independent roommate finder websites to help students further whittle down their choices. School administrated surveys are often general and limited so students are encouraged to have more in depth conversations before the roommate process is finalized.
“Once you’ve found or been assigned a roommate through your school’s matching service, it’s fine to look them up on Facebook, but don’t judge them based on what you find online or let that be the extent of your pre-college contact … Give them a call simply to introduce yourself or to divvy up who is bringing the TV and who the mini-fridge,” according to USNews.com.
Even Milroy said that not limiting the interaction to just text or social media helped.
“[Video Chat] helped; otherwise I would’ve picked a random roommate. I liked the idea of kind of knowing the person I was going to be living with for a year and we were really close, we would talk almost on a daily basis. I also did stay with her for a little before the beginning of the semester because we knew each other that well,” she said.
Many new students feel that there is an expectation to need to interact with their roommates.
“Most freshmen feel a pressure to become best friends with their roommates,” writes Debra Waller-Frederick, Director of Residence Life at Mount Saint Mary College. “This isn’t necessary nor is it realistic. They merely have to live together. If the end result next May is that they are best friends, well, that’s great.”
UT’s own Reslife Coordinators echoed the notion in a joint statement, “Students often forget that roommates need to be others with whom the student can live compatibly; not necessarily best friends.”
Milroy wishes she hadn’t roomed with a friwend at all, “Just because two people are good friends doesn’t mean they should live together. We had gotten really close but living together tore our friendship apart and now we don’t speak or even cross paths.”
Students often are quick to dismiss compatibility with a randomly selected roommate.
Cristina Valcarcel-Lopez, a Resident Assistant at Stadium Center, says that regardless of whether a roommate is random or not, students who go in with an open mind benefit more.
“If you go into a situation negatively, most likely, the end result will be negative. That tends to happen with people that are randomly put into a room where they don’t know someone. Without knowing that person, they will pass immediate judgments. People are more than the pictures they post on social network sites,” Lopez said.
“You should expect to learn, grow, and change during your time at school. And the same should happen to your roommate, if all goes well. As the semester progresses, realize things will change for both of you. Be comfortable addressing things that unexpectedly come up, setting new rules, and being flexible to your changing environment,” McGalliard continued.
Even with all the surveys and questions, disagreements will occur. According to the Office of Student Conduct, “About 12-14 roommate conflicts have been reported to RAs this fall and only 4 have required mediation.” Joyner says, “If a student is having problems with their roommate they can contact their RA, the Residence Life Mediation Coordinator, their Head Resident or their Area Coordinator.”
Regardless of whether students pick or are assigned a roommate, they have the chance to make the living situation beneficial for all parties involved. Students, who are honest with themselves while asking the less obvious questions, will save themselves from having another reason to stress out in college.
Pranav Lokin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.