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To Pick Your Roommate Or Not To Pick Your Roommate At College

That is the college-bound question (with apologies to Hamlet).
The author's daughter would prefer getting assigned a college roommate to sharing a dorm room with someone she knows.
The author's daughter would prefer getting assigned a college roommate to sharing a dorm room with someone she knows.

Around our house, she is simply known as The Roommate. She will be the young woman whose name is spit out of a computer to share a college dorm room with our daughter. She will be the one whose snores will keep our daughter up at night, whose dirty underwear will pile up next to our daughter’s pile of dirty underwear, whose habits and values and lifestyle my daughter will be dealing with as she enters college for the first time.

She is The Roommate. Her identity is unknown. At least to our daughter. And that is by my daughter’s choice.

Colleges and universities long ago figured out that one of the most terrifying parts of going away to college is the possibility that you get stuck with a bad roommate. And so, most schools offer students a choice: You can get to know the pool of other incoming students over the summer online, pick someone who seems compatible and room with them, or you can take your chances and let the school match you up with someone after you fill out a short questionnaire about your sleep patterns and affinity for neatness.

All summer, I have been hocking my daughter to go online to meet her fellow incoming freshmen and find someone she gets along with. She steadfastly has refused. She is perfectly content unlocking her dorm room on move-in day and introducing herself for the first time to whoever has claimed the top bunk. 

I don’t get it. 

My logic: Why give away control over something so important as who you will live with? At no other time in your life would you expect someone else to decide who sleeps next to you. You wouldn’t give away control of what classes you wanted to take, so why expect someone who doesn’t know you to decide who you should live with?

Roommates matter. They are generally your first friend in college. They are the people you hang out with until you find others who you want to hang out with more. Not everyone is as thoughtful as you. A bad roommate can wreck your freshman experience and since this isn’t a risk you have to take, why not exercise your right to pick a roommate yourself?

My daughter isn’t buying. 

Her logic: College is about growing and learning how to handle life situations. In life, she will encounter difficult bosses, inconsiderate neighbors, people who have values that differ vastly from hers. And she will need the skills ― and knowledge ― that she gained in college to help her navigate life’s difficult people.

Me: So you are hoping you get a roommate who keeps her reading light burning until 3 a.m. and doesn’t ask if you mind that her boyfriend spends the night?

Daughter: Why do you think I won’t ask her to turn off the light or him to leave?

Yeah, she got me there, as I still remember my own college roommate who, when asked which half of the dorm refrigerator she preferred, responded: “The front half.”

I’m trying, Honey, really, I’m trying.

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