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Can You Pick Roommates in College?

written by: Haley Drucker•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 12/7/2011

Do you get to pick your roommates in college? The short answer is both yes and no, and the long answer is that there are pros and cons to both choosing a familiar roommate and rooming with someone you don't know.

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    Having the right roommate can really make college life a lot smoother and more fun, while having the wrong roommate can be a source of frustration and conflict. So it’s not surprising that first-year college students spend a lot of time thinking about potential roommates and wondering just how much choice they will have in this important aspect of their college career.

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    Selecting a Roommate

    So do you have any choice about who your roommate is? Well, every college is a little different, of course, so find out exactly how the system works at the school you are planning to attend. But in general, if you know who you want to room with you can indicate that when you apply for housing. If you have a friend or sibling or someone you know from high school and you put each other's names down as preferred roommates, and/or you sign up for the same room if your college allows you to pick rooms, you should have no trouble being put together.

    But if you don’t know anyone to room with, you typically can’t choose from the pool of other students without roommates. You just have to apply for housing or sign up for a room and see what happens. Some schools have systems like quizzes that help match compatible roommates, and others don’t. So while sometimes you get a little control over the process, you rarely get to just pick someone.

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    Is It a Good Idea to Pick a Roommate?

    It isn’t necessarily a bad thing that you can’t always pick your roommate, though. There are advantages and disadvantages to having a roommate you know and one you don’t. Rooming with a friend or acquaintance can make college feel less strange and more familiar, can ease the transition because you already have at least one person to talk to and hang out with. And you will not have to learn what they are like—you’re prepared for how living with that person will be and you have an idea of what problems might come up (though there are always surpasses, even when you room with a good friend).

    However, problems can arise when two good friends decide to room together. One of the most common pieces of advice given to freshman is not to room with your best friend. This is both because you are more likely to get into arguments with someone you know well, and because you are probably going to get on each other's nerves. When you live that close to someone else, you need to be able to retain your privacy. When rooming with a good friend you will feel obligated to talk to them all the time and you won’t be able to get away from them for very long, so the chances are good that you will be very tired of each other before one semester is over

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    A Stranger Is a Friend...

    Rooming with a stranger can be a little scary. It’s hard to live so closely with someone you don’t know, and there’s always the chance you won’t get along. You may get a roommate you can’t stand, or your habits and lifestyles may not be very compatible. It is possible to request a room change if that happens, of course, but that process is often difficult and can take a long time.

    On the other hand, you may get lucky and find a new friend in your roommate, someone you can get along with easily. And if you are trying to meet new people in college, having a random roommate can speed that process along. Not only is your roommate someone new, but they will also usually be part of a different circle of friends and acquaintances, giving you access to a whole new social circle.

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    Good Luck!

    In the end, it’s up to you to decide which option you would rather select. There is no right answer, and whether you would do better with a familiar or random roommate is largely dependent on your personality and social style. Either way, living with a roommate is one of the biggest adjustments a first-year college student has to make, so be sure to consider all your options carefully before you decide which way to go. And if you aren’t happy with your choice, you can always find a different roommate the next year.