A Match Made in ResLife

Everyone knows that relationships are difficult. Everything about relationships seems to be a complicated interplay between the personalities of two people who are in no cases exactly compatible. For this well-known reason, the random roommate pairing process at any college is sure to be a stressful, sometimes life changing event that, to a certain extent, will determine how enjoyable the college experience is.

Apart from the obvious randomness of which dorm you end up in, no one knows for sure how roommate groupings are made except for the administration in charge. The most fantastical speculation would be that the forms are thrown in a pile with individual sheets pulled in groups of 2, 3 or 4 to make up the constituents of an Andrews suite. Short of using actual magic, the process as a whole is still completely mystifying. Is a points system involved? Does our messiness have anything to do with whom we end up sharing a bunk with? What about the unexplored, yet very important characters insomniacs, pot smokers, late-night partiers, thieves, etc. that could pose potential problems? In considering the mystery of it all, one can only hope that the good folks in Res’ Life actually take the form’s range of elements into consideration in making the best-informed decision possible.

I remember receiving the housing application form about three days after wall posts on the Facebook “Colgate Class of 2011” first appeared. Excited as I’ve ever been, I ripped the envelope open, candidly and earnestly answered the pertaining questions and mailed the form back, wondering with the rest of the entering first year class what the prescribed questions had to do with minimizing potential friction. While there were many possible scenarios swirling around in my head as the letter whisked away, Colgate’s first year housing application is definitely not the most ambiguous I’ve heard about some of my friends have told me horrific stories of one question forms (if you can judge the reliability of a form on the number of question it asks). In these remote cases, form and function have no correlation, and the only guarantee is that the probability your chemistry will produce a fruitful relationship is low.

What amazes me is that there is a wide range of housing form formats out there. Some colleges have little to no criteria off of which to base their pairings, while others have their entering students fill out forms with more pages than most children’s books. Personally, I think I would have felt better about the process if the questions were more specific, and perhaps in a greater quantity. Detailed questions imply greater specificity while a greater number of questions leads one to have faith that a wider breadth of topics is addressed, especially those that may pose huge problems in the future. Also, when you fill out a housing form with a lot of criteria, you can go about your life with at least a smidgen of assurance that the person you room with will have a fair number of answers that overlap yours.

On the flip side, long housing forms can give you the feeling that you are taking a final exam whose answers will make or break the in-house relationship between you and your roommate. They can make you feel like all of the pressure in matching up with a roommate is on you and your ability to articulate and be deep-in-your-heart honest. With each additional page of the survey comes an extra hour spent by Residential Life administration in reviewing the information provided them. I can’t even imagine how exponentially hard the project becomes as more questions are tacked on. Worst of all, what it comes down to is the unavoidable fact that there is no survey long enough to guarantee roommate happiness. Situations can never be perfect, so a certain futility is associated with the process in general.

Regardless of how long a school’s housing form is, the job of reading through answers and picking roommates is highly subjective and the repercussions you face are limitless, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we were grouped in a completely random fashion. There truly is no guarantee that any group of strangers will get along, no matter how similar their paper identities might suggest. In addition, honesty becomes a big issue because most people aren’t comfortable with creating an image for themselves before they get to school.

Even if you end up with a horrible roommate or two, who is to say that your college experience has to be dreadful? Remember the saying “Life is what you make it”? I think it duly applies to anyone’s dorming experience. Whatever or whoever you are living with, college is about flexibility and learning to deal with an enormous amount of obligations. We may not know how it happens, but we were put in seemingly random relationships on purpose and sometimes embracing the irony of it all expands our awareness and ability to tolerate.

In actuality, I have nothing to complain about. The relationship I have with my roommates is (knock on wood) working out well and it turned out that whatever formula Res’ Life used to calculate our compatibilities came out with a good match. Some of my friends have not been so fortunate. I’ve heard of a few situations so strained that counseling was the only way to make rooms somewhat livable. All in all, there is no one to blame, but, at the same time, no light is shed on the first year rooming situation that goes on behind doors tightly shut. As sophomore year looms on the horizon, this is shaping up to be a matchmaker secret that will never be revealed.