Unpacking roommate relationships: First-year students explore their roommate options for next year

Melina Khan, Copy Editor

For incoming first-year students, living with a roommate is among the most nerve-racking yet exciting aspects of the college transition. But when the outcome of freshman year roommate relationships are not positive, students are thrown back to square one.

Last week, members of Quinnipiac University’s class of 2024 made their room selections and roommate requests for the 2021-22 school year. 

Krithi Goud, a first-year biology major, had to find a new roommate for the upcoming year since her current roommate plans to commute next year. However, she said she recognizes the situation can be more complicated for others when they don’t get along with their roommate.

Connor Lawless

“Some people do not know what it’s like living with the other person until it’s in action,” Goud said. “There may be some disputes between the two which causes the student to look for someone else.”

A study suggests roommate relationships are generally successful. Research firm Skyfactor found in a 2015-16 survey that out of the 20,000 students from 15 institutions with varying roommate assignment protocols, over half of the respondents said their freshman year roommate relationship was successful and only 10% of them requested a roommate change during the year.

During COVID-19, the stakes of roommate relationships were raised as students spend most of their time with their family unit.

“The pandemic has complicated living with roommates as my only friend group was the people I was living with, and I was not able to branch out to get to know others on campus,” Goud said.

Goud found her new roommate after posting in the Quinnipiac class of 2024 Facebook group. Quinnipiac administrators created the group during the admissions process for students to connect with one another.  

Sarah Dusse, a first-year nursing major, said she has also used social media to meet new people who could be potential roommates.

“I tried using Facebook and then would add people on Snapchat or Instagram,” Dusse said. “It was great getting to know people, but it was still hard to become close and see if you’d be a good fit.”

Mark DeVilbiss, director of residential life at Quinnipiac, said he encourages students to use My College Roomie, a roommate compatibility software, rather than using social media.

“I think social media often portrays life at its best and isn’t necessarily the full picture of who the person is,” DeVilbiss said. “Social media can be a great production, but I think before making a decision about whether I would like to room with someone or not, it’s best to have a conversation and just talk about if there are certain issues that are essential.”

DeVilbiss said Quinnipiac’s Residential Life office does not keep track of how many students switch roommates throughout the year.

“I know that for the vast majority of students, their roommate relationships do work out, and there are sometimes cases where roommates discover that they’re not as compatible,” DeVilbiss said.

When roommate relationships are unsuccessful, students can contact Residential Life to request to move. DeVilbiss said there are a variety of reasons why students may move mid-year and that they are not always negative.

“Sometimes people want to change buildings because there’s another group of friends that live in that building, sometimes there would be a conflict with a current roommate over some aspect of living together, sometimes the person needs to be with others who are in their major,” DeVilbiss said. “So they’re moving toward something versus moving away from their current roommate relationship.” 

Alex Parkhouse, assistant professor of sociology, said there are different variables that can impact roommate relationships depending on the individuals.

“It’s almost like a relationship in the sense that, when you look at relationships in general … satisfaction in a relationship is a really important quality of that relationship,” Parkhouse said. “Same, too, goes with the relationship of roommates. The quality of the relationship matters, so what might work for some in terms of pairings in the roommate scenario doesn’t necessarily work for others.”

Parkhouse said it’s not surprising that students tend to rely on social media to find roommates.

“I don’t think it’s so much about the image that the person is ‘shopping’ for, rather I think it’s the domain,” Parkhouse said. “I think the use of the internet to locate a roommate is just like everything else we use the internet to find a doctor/physician, we use the internet to find a particular university that you want to attend. I think that looking on social media or other domains online (is) the way of which I would say that cohort of students conducts their everyday life business.”

All sophomore housing options for Quinnipiac students are suite-style, with anywhere from four to six roommates in one suite depending on the residence hall. 

“I like the idea of living with five other girls,” said Caitlin Conahan, a first-year psychology major. “If I don’t get along with one of them, hopefully I’ll get along with one of the other four.” 

DeVilbiss said sophomore year housing selection differs from first-year’s options because students choose their housing location.

“For all returning students, we allow students to choose anyone that they wish to room with, and so typically students will use their own personal networks to invite people to be a roommate with them, and people either go with full or partial groups to live in the various places on campus,” DeVilbiss said.

Though students can pick their own roommate or opt for a random assignment, DeVilbiss said most students choose their freshman year roommate. However, many institutions including New York University, Colgate University, Tufts University and Duke University do not allow students the option to choose their roommate.