By Courtney Tennill
If you’re an incoming freshman, you might have spent a lot of your summer worrying about various things that come with dorm life, like cooking your own food or doing your own laundry. And most of your classmates probably worried about the same things. But if you’re an incoming freshman who had a randomly selected roommate, you have a whole other problem to worry about.
You’re about to share a tiny room for four months with someone you don’t know from Adam.
Granted, the idea is scary-and something you probably won’t experience again after this part of your life. But Eastern’s system of roommate selection works to make the experience much more positive.
Let’s start by looking at the survey that’s completed and handed in with the housing form.
Students get to fill in favorite kinds of music, smoking preference, study habits, cleaning habits and sleep preferences. Students can also give hall or living-learning community preferences.
Then computer software at University Housing uses that information to pair people who match as closely as possible.
Kenna Middleton, the director of University Housing, says that even though the survey is short, the questions asked are key.
“These are all things that our records indicate may be potential red flags in roommate conflict,” she said.
Middleton also said that another key thing for students to do, regardless of who they’re paired with, is communicate with them before coming to school in the fall.
“When assignments are made, students are sent the name, address, etc. of the person they will be living with,” she said. “Students are encouraged to communicate over the summer to discuss what to bring as well as to get to know each other a little better.”
Middleton said that networking sites like MySpace and Facebook have made that communication much simpler.
Students have the potential to get to know each other well before even stepping foot into the dorm-which is an advantage students five years ago probably wish they’d had. And while a survey and an address don’t seem like much to go on, the alternatives could be worse. Some universities use what’s called a lottery system and assign students completely randomly.
It’s quicker and simpler for the school, but students have zero say in where they live-or who they live with.
Other schools, like the University of Georgia, create networking sites within their housing departments.
The Dawg House, which is the name of UGA’s site for incoming students, allows freshmen to create personal profiles for others to sift through. They can also create a profile of an ideal roommate and run a search for people who match that. At that point, they can choose to contact potential roommates.
Middleton said that, while Eastern doesn’t have a system like that in place, they are weighing options for the future.
“We are continually looking for ways to make all of our processes easier and more effective and efficient for students,” she said. “With technology, there is lots of potential, so we are hoping that we can expand on our roommate selection process as we move forward.”
However, it’s important to note that no amount of questions on a survey-or amount of things in common, for that matter-will make two people successful roommates.
“I have seem random assignments work and work really, really well,” she said. “I have also seen disasters.and I have seen the same thing with people that know each other.
It is really tough when we end up working with students who were best friends since they were tiny and within weeks, they become almost bitter enemies.”
Eastern students have mixed feelings about the process.
Alethea Price, a sophomore from Midway, Ky., said she won the roommate lottery her freshman year.
“My roommate was cool as hell,” she said. “We ended up doing everything together-going to the movies, to the mall, to eat. I love her to death.”
And while Price was more than satisfied with her arrangement, she still had suggestions for improving the process.
“I wish they had a day scheduled for everyone to come to Richmond to meet their roommates,” she said. “That way if you met them and decided it wouldn’t work out, you could switch before the semester started.”
Sara Dorgan, a sophomore art major from Lexington, Ohio, has mixed feelings about the process, but does feel it’s better than the alternative.
“It works better than rooming with someone you know,” she said. “But there are still things they could do it make it better.”
The keys to success according to Middleton? Communication, honesty and compromise.
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