The Positives of Picking: A Survey Can’t Tell the Whole Story

Eva Wen, Maroon-News Staff

Colgate stopped allowing roommate selection for first-year students in 2018. Thus, there is a split on campus today between juniors and seniors who had the chance to choose their first-year roommates and current  sophomores and first-years who did not. 

As a result, current students may ask, “Why would Colgate forcefully assign me a roommate instead of granting me the freedom to choose who I want to live with?” Colgate Residential Life (ResLife) claims on its official website that students will be matched with their first-year roommates based on their housing preference forms. The housing preference forms inquire about the students’ living habits, including their sleep schedule, work and social life balance and organization. ResLife trusts these results to successfully match students with similar preferences and living habits together as first-year roommates.

However, this raises an important question: how accurate can the incoming students’ answers to housing preferences be when they have never lived in a dorm before? How much can their answers actually reflect what their living habits will be in their first year? 

Many incoming students have only crude ideas of college life and often have no clear picture of how their schedules will unfold until several weeks or months in when they’ve become adjusted to a new routine. Many students decide on healthy sleep schedules before coming to Colgate—going to bed before 12a.m. and waking up before 8a.m. However, those same students often end up getting much less sleep than 8 hours, either staying up late or waking up early for work. Classes around 8:30a.m. are the slowest to fill during course registration because few students have the confidence to wake up around that time. 

There are also students who arrive at Colgate with a history of prioritizing school work over socialization but discover the dominant nature of Colgate’s social scene and start making compromises in their work/life balance. Not knowing what to expect of Colgate’s life just yet, incoming students’ answers on their housing preference forms have the propensity to be miles away from the reality of the life they end up leading at Colgate, making the process somewhat obsolete. 

In addition, students may have different definitions of “social life,” “quietness,” etc. Different people, especially people coming from diverse backgrounds, might have different understandings of what it means to be “quiet.” Student A might think not hosting frequent parties in the dorm counts as quiet while student B gets bothered by the slight sound of typing.

With different living habits, priorities and schedules, roommate conflicts are not uncommon and it is likely that differences will emerge regardless of whether or not the roommates were assigned. However, if differences arise among students who have chosen to be roommates, they are more likely to put more effort into working out their issues. When students have the freedom to choose who they live with, a foundation of commitment to their roommate relationship is established early on. Through such efforts, students also gain valuable experiences of tolerating differences, making compromises for the greater good.

 At the end of the day, students should be able to live comfortably on campus. Given the intensity of the coursework, is it really fair if a student had to live with someone whose living habits are disruptive to their life? The transition to college is hard enough; a little freedom in the process can go a long way.