The Pros & Cons of Getting a Randomly-Assigned College Roommate

By Amanda Cohen

Whether you’re a rising freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, and so on, you probably will encounter the following decision: choosing who to room with. There are so many different ways to go about deciding who you’re going to live with. You can shamelessly post a “get to know me” wall post in your university’s Facebook group, you can try to meet people during orientation (if you’re a freshman or transfer student), or you can choose to get randomly assigned a roommate.


I know it seems scary to leave your living situation in the hands of your university because it is scary, but it can also be pretty amazing to let your school handle it.  However, I am going to try and see both sides of the situation by giving you the pros and cons of getting assigned a random college roommate. If you’re a rising freshman or a transfer student, make sure you pay close attention because this is most applicable to you since older college students already met people that they will want to room with. Read on if you want to make the decision as to whether or not you will get assigned a college roommate an easier and less stressful decision during an already tumultuous time.


Student Roommates: The Pros & Cons of Getting a Randomly-Assigned College Roommate


Pro: You Eliminate the Stress of Having to Decide Between Roommates


Yes, making the decision of whether or not to have a random roommate is a hard decision, but it’s not as hard as having to choose between multiple roommate options that you meet online or during orientation. There are already so many decisions and emotions you have to work through when preparing to go to school, so why not eliminate choosing a roommate (or roommates) from the equation. If you are an already indecisive person (nothing to be ashamed of, I’m quite indecisive about many things), then leaving the fate of your roommate situation in your university’s hands instead of yours is the definition of ideal. I know plenty of people who have had success when being assigned a random roommate and they didn’t have to craft any funny posts on their social media!


Con: You Have Little to No Information About your New Roommate


Yes, this can happen with a roommate that you meet via. social media and/or orientation, but it’s much more likely to happen if your university matches you with a random roommate. Depending on the school you’re attending, you could get your roommate assignment on the early side or in August right before you move in. If you get your assignment on the later side, there is a good chance that you won’t get to know your roommate before you move in. Meeting a new roommate is awkward, especially during an already stressful time, so it’s not ideal that you will know little to nothing about your roommate’s life and personality until move-in day or right before. This can sometimes be a more stressful reality than having to choose your roommate yourself, but it really depends on your personality.


Pro: You Will Probably Get a Better Residence Hall Assignment


I can’t speak for every school, but at the University of Michigan, if you chose not to request a roommate, you were much more likely to stay off the dreaded North Campus (might as well be Antarctica). It may seem like no big deal, but requesting roommates is a hassle for the school because they have to plan everything to accommodate all of their incoming students, which can be in a number in the thousands! If you don’t request a roommate (and if much more people did not request a roommate), the school will be able to easily place you in a great residence hall without having to jump through any hoops or making ridiculous adjustments. Think about it this way: when you fill out your rooming application, you can request a roommate and usually pick your top three locations. The people in charge of making rooming decisions are much more likely to only accommodate one request and not two. So, if you request a better dorm room but not a roommate, you are more likely to get the dorm room. On the flip side, a person who requests a roommate and the better dorm room is more likely to just get their roommate of choice, not both their roommate and residence hall of choice.


Con: Your Roommate May Not Be in Your Same Academic Year


Even though this is fairly rare, it can still happen. Those who organize roommates and dorm room placements aren’t necessarily worried about if everyone is in the same year; their main focus is to ensure that everyone has a place to live. Yes, they want everyone to be happy, but with the number of people they have to place, it’s impossible to make everyone happy. If your randomly-assigned roommate is not in your same academic year, it can be hard to bond with him/her. If he/she is older, he/she may already have a group of friends and he/she definitely already knows the ropes and most of what you need to know about the university. If you’re younger/an incoming freshman, you won’t be able to commiserate with him/her nor bond with him/her, and this can make you feel quite isolated. In addition, you may have a harder time making friends your age because you and your roommate won’t have similar social schedules nor events, classes, nor activities in your calendars.


Roommate Finder: The Pros & Cons of Getting a Randomly-Assigned College Roommate


Pro: Just Because you Pick Someone, Doesn’t Mean You Will Get Along


Getting assigned a random roommate means that you will go in with lower expectations as to what your friendship/relationship status will be with him/her. If you choose who your roommate is, you will automatically make so many plans with this person about parties, scoping out your class locations together, decorating, and more. This may sound all well and good, but when you make these plans, you build up this expectation that you and your roommate who, even though you picked, you really don’t know that well, are going to be best friends. More often than not, you and your college roommate your freshman year will not be best friends, and making all these plans with him/her will only make you disappointed when it doesn’t pan out the way it does in all of the movies we see. If you don’t pick someone and you allow the university to make the decision for you, you go in with lower expectations, and your relationship with your new roommate will happen much more naturally. Remember, it’s not always the best situation living with someone who you consider to be your best friend, lowering expectations and living with someone who respects your space and vice versa is sometimes better.


Con: You Can’t Coordinate How to Decorate Your Dorm Room Together


If you meet someone via. Facebook, orientation, etc., you will have more time to discuss potential room layouts, decorations, how you’ll split up certain duties during move-in day, and more. The sooner you know who your roommate is and where you both will live, the sooner you can start ordering items that will fit in the designated space that you have in your shared shoebox (lol). I’m not saying that you have to match, but sometimes it’s fun to plan and coordinate with one another to give your room some sort of cohesiveness and so there aren’t too many clashing colors and/or patterns in your small space. You can discuss how you want to layout the room as well. For example, if you both want to loft your bed, if none of you want to loft your bed, or if one of you want to loft your bed and so on. The sooner these decisions are made, the less stressed out you’ll be, I have no doubt.


This list may not cover everything, but as someone who has gone through four years of undergrad and a semester of post-graduate school, I can tell you that it will definitely help you decide in regards to whether or not you choose to get assigned a random roommate or not. The bottom line is that regardless if you choose your roommate, get assigned a random roommate, live alone, live with more than one roommate, and so on, there is no guarantee of a “perfect” living situation. College is hard and living in a small space with one or more people can make it even harder. Since you already have an extensive pros and cons list, let me give you a small list on how to adjust to having a roommate and to living in a dorm room or small apartment or janky house:

●      Set some ground rules so that when problems arise, you can always refer back to them

●      Share your schedules with one another so you can respect one another’s sleep schedule, class schedule, activity schedule, and more

●      Say out loud early on if something comes up and one of you is feeling bothered or frustrated, you talk to one another in a non-confrontational way

●      Be as neat as possible; you don’t have to become a neat-freak, but even the tiniest amount of sloppiness can make a small dorm room feel a whole lot smaller

●      Be courteous if you have friends over; try not to be too loud and maybe even ask your roommate if he/she is fine with you having people over or if he/she needs your living space to be quiet at a certain time

●      Be transparent about how you like to keep your living space, how social you are, your sleep schedule, how loud you are, where you like to study, and so on

●      If you have different intentions as to what it means to be a roommate (i.e. if one of you wants to be best friends and the other doesn’t), talk about it and figure out how you can make the situation work for both of you

●      Avoid bottling everything up because, if you do, you are more likely to get yourself into a big fight; instead, talk about problems as they arise so you can be amicable, kind, and non-aggressive

●      Be mindful of one another’s space and don’t borrow or take anything from your roommate without asking

●      Divide cleaning responsibilities in terms of who will clean what and how you will split the price of cleaning supplies so that everything is equally distributed

●      If you have multiple roommates, try and discuss with one another how to ensure no one feels left out or in the dark (this is especially important if there are three of you because one person is much more likely to be left out in this scenario)

If you have any more questions about how roommates are randomly assigned, your best bet in getting them answered quickly and correctly is by contacting your university directly. All schools are different, so a simple Google search probably won’t give you an accurate answer. In addition, talk to other people who are accepted to the school to see what their thoughts on and what their plans on; maybe these conversations will turn into roommate conversations, maybe they won’t, but at least you are trying to make connections early on so that, when you arrive on campus, you have a small support system somewhat in place and someone to go to the dining hall with.


If you’re feeling stressed, remember that it’s only June and you have times to sort your feelings out, start conversations, call your school, read more articles, and do your research. Whatever you decide, just make sure it’s a well-informed decision and not something that you decide on a whim because that’s more likely to stress you out. However, I will promise you this: whether you decide to choose your roommate or get randomly assigned a roommate, you can’t go wrong. I’m not saying it will be perfect, but remember that roommates can be changed if something isn’t right and nothing is permanent. You will figure it out!


Roommate Tips: The Pros & Cons of Getting a Randomly-Assigned College Roommate

Good luck, happy summer, and good luck with your roommate decision!

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