Using social media to find the right roommate

After receiving the acceptance to the college of their choice, students often find themselves posting to their Facebook account to share the news with their friends. Shortly after this, one joins a Facebook set up group for them and their future classmates, not just to share congratulations, but often to find a roommate.

Since Facebook’s launch in 2004, the site has become a popular medium for students searching for a college roommate. Students who would like to choose their roommate ahead of time to find someone compatible have found this tool useful.

Lauren Rowson, James Madison freshman and Robinson Alumna, said she is pleased with her decision to use the social networking site to find her roommate.

“I’m absolutely happy with my choice to find my roommate on Facebook,” Rowson said “I feel like I’ve known my roommate, Nicole, for way longer than I have. She’s one of my best friends here.

Many Facebook pages set up for incoming classes, such as the “James Madison Class of 2015” group that Rowson used, include extensive surveys available to students who choose to use the venue to find their roommate. These surveys often include questions far more personal than those included on the college’s websites, which students who choose the random-selection option take.

“I chose finding [my roommate] over Facebook so could learn some things about her before rooming and see if we were compatible before moving in,” Rowson said, “That saved me a lot of worry about some of the basic things like sleeping habits, lifestyle choices about cleaning or partying.”

According to the James Madison University Office of Residence Life, there has been an increase in the number of students requesting a roommate ahead of time. This year, just slightly under half of their approximately 4,100 freshmen students requested a specific roommate.

“I often look at the Facebook groups that are created for our incoming classes, and there are lots of messages for people looking for a roommate,” said Katie Musar, Assistant Director of Housing at James Madison University.

Musar also said there was an increase of about 250 requests from 2010 to 2011, which itself was 290 requests more than from the 2009-2010 school year.

Other students who have taken the traditional route and left it up to their university to match them with their college roommate said they have been happy with their decision.

“I chose random because it was easier and less of a hassle. Both processes involve chance; someone’s Facebook page can misconstrue who they are to an incredible degree,” said Meghan Smith, University of Virginia freshman and Alumna said, “My roommate didn’t even have a Facebook. If I had chosen a roommate through Facebook, I wouldn’t have gotten to know Erin, who has turned out to be a really good friend.”

Smith also said she believes she has had a better experience with her roommate as opposed to some of her friends, who chose to find their roommate online.

“I joke with some of my friends here who chose their roommates through Facebook, because I didn’t choose and ended up with a better situation than them,” Smith said, “I’ve heard more horror stories from those who chose their roommates.”

For students like Smith who chose to have their roommate selected at random, there is a short compatibility survey they must fill out.

“My compatibility survey was really short,” Smith said, “It asked if I smoked, was a morning or night person and what I viewed the room as: a social place or a study place. Everyone who I have talked to who did random are at the very least satisfied with who they are rooming with, so I’d say the survey works.”

Musar said James Madison uses a similar survey to match their students. “Some schools use many more roommate matching questions, but we’ve found that [our survey] works for us,”

Musar said, “Our housing software matches up students based on their answers to the roommate matching questions and the spaces that are left to assign students to.”

While many students have been happy with the match-up made by their university, others have not.

“I filled out a compatibility form through the school but unfortunately the questions on the sheet failed to match me up with someone of the same personality and sense of hygiene as me; we had nothing in common and never spoke,” said Bobby Bray, Farleigh Dickinson University freshman and alumnus.

Bray said he eventually requested a roommate switch due to the lack of compatibility between him and his first roommate. However, did see some benefits in having a random roommate.

“One benefit of not choosing my roommate is that he did not expect to be my best friend so I didn’t feel like I had to take him everywhere,” Bray said.

Students now have many different mediums available to them via social networking sites to select their roommate and can make their final decision based off their personal interests. 

Musar said Facebook has definitely had an impact on the entire roommate process, but she believes the best option is to have a roommate selected at random.

Musar said, “That way, if you have a friend but don’t live with them, it gives you a way to get to know people somewhere else on campus.”