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More Schools Let College Freshmen Choose Their Own Roommates On Facebook

August 12, 2010

Young woman moving into college dorm Living with a stranger freshman year has been a time-honored college practice. Facebook, however, is trying to change that. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education five universities have partnered with RoomBug, a Facebook application that allows incoming freshmen to request a roommate based on questionnaires about living preferences and personality traits.

The application has just been rolled out to Emory University, the University of Florida, Temple University, Wichita State University and William Paterson University of New Jersey. Students answer a series of questions and can request a specific person to be their roommate if they are compatible.

The Wall Street Journal reported that RoomBug is not the only service that helps incoming freshmen find acceptable roommates. URoomSurf and RoommateClick are also popular sites. Although most colleges already use a computer program that automatically pairs students up with the optimal match, students seem to prefer finding their own matches. "Students nowadays want to know as much and have as much control as possible," said Lenord McGownd, assistant director of residence life at Missouri State University.

Because many colleges allow students who already know each other to submit a request to live together, URoomSurf has become very popular. More than 83,000 students at 775 U.S. schools have perused its online community. The service asks questions about cleanliness, study habits and political views. When roommates find each other, they can submit a request to their school like anyone else with a preexisting friendship.

Students seem to appreciate the matching services. Erica Steele, a soon-to-be freshman at Bowling Green State University who found her roommate on URoomSurf, said, "I didn't want to get to school and not know anyone. And it's great because we can color-coordinate the dorm." School officials, however, are not as thrilled. Assigned living situations force students to negotiate everything from little things such as who gets the top bunk to more complex ideas such as politics and religion, stated The Wall Street Journal. Because many schools see assigned roommates as a chance for students to learn to get along with different types of people, admissions officers worry that roommate screening and matching services "[close] off the possibilities of growth and transformation", said The New York Times.

In an Op-Ed column, The New York Times' Maureen Dowd pointed out that learning to live with roommates, despite differences, similarities and reservations, "is an experience that toughens you up and broadens you out for the rest of life". When recalling her own roommate experiences, Dowd argued that "co-habiting with snarly and moody roomies prepared [her] for the working world, where people can be outlandishly cantankerous over small stuff".

According to The Wall Street Journal, some colleges do welcome the new approach. "We decided that rather than continue to fight against the social media that is much a part of our students' lives, we need to get engaged in that social media," said TJ Logan, associate director of housing at University of Florida, where more than a quarter of the incoming freshmen have already signed up for RoomBug. Logan argued that even though students choose their own roommates, they still have to learn how to get along with different people on their floor.

Some students who are still interested in exploring the unknown still depend on Facebook for a little guidance. Sam Brown, soon-to-be freshmen at University of Colorado at Boulder, looked up his roommate assignment immediately after receiving notice in the mail and thinks he and his new roommate will get along just fine. "[Facebook] was a tremendous help...I could have requested to live with a close friend, but I wanted to branch out. That's what college is all about," he said.


Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin

Sources:

"Colleges Use Facebook to Let Freshmen Find Their Own Roommates," chronicle.com, August 11, 2010, Sophia Li

"Don't Send In The Clones," NYTimes.com, August 10, 2010, Maureen Dowd

"No More New Kid on Campus," online.wsj.com, August 5, 2010, Isaac Arnsdorf

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