This is a message mostly geared towards our new P’21 incoming parents and families – but perhaps our seasoned families can relate too. Yesterday, incoming first year students were emailed their residence hall assignments and roommate assignments, and this tends to be a moment of high anxiety/worry for students and families alike.
I am one of the most anxious people you are going to meet, and I promise I would tell you if you should worry about something.
I am here to tell you you should not worry about housing assignments.
For many students (or their parents/families), when you see the housing assignment, one of the first things you do is Google/Facebook/Twitter stalk the roommate to see what you can find out about him or her. You may discover that this person seems to be a lot like your Deac (and that seems comforting) – or that they are quite different (which might be disconcerting). Take a few deep breaths and remember a couple of important things:
1. Students were assigned based on presumptive compatibility from the housing application. Help your Deac trust the matching process. A lot of what makes for a happy roommate pairing is similar ideas on how they want to use the room – not whether they share the same taste in music, agree on politics, share the same race/religion/sexual orientation/national origin, whether they think they want to be Greek, etc. Part of the process of college is to expand the mind and gain new experiences – in that respect, a roommate who is very different can be a wonderful way for your student to expand his/her horizons.
2. Nearly everyone has something on social media that is not representative of who they truly are. (Your Deac’s roommate might equally be looking at what is out on the internet about your student and having similar unfounded worries). Don’t put too much stake in social media posts or pictures – and instead encourage your student to spend some time trying to get to know his/her new roommate. Keys here are having good communication, making an effort to connect, and keeping an open mind.
3. It is a myth that roommates have to be best friends; peaceable coexistence is the goal (friendship on top of that is a bonus).
Parents and families, my best and most well-intentioned advice is that in matters of roommates, your best role is to be Switzerland and don’t weigh in 🙂. Things have a way of working out! And in the off chance that there is a major, unresolvable issue, there is a roommate change process that will begin soon after the semester starts (your Deac cannot request a change now because the roommates have not even had a chance to live together!)
Another area of concern is that students (or parents/families) feel chagrined that they did not get assigned to Angelou or South, the two newest residence halls. This is a simple matter of economics – new students need to be spread out among seven residence halls, so any individual student had a 29% chance of landing in one of the two newest halls. Rest assured that the other residence halls are FINE. I have lived in three of the five older halls (back in my day, women lived on south campus and men on the Quad) and they are all OK. In fact, there have been upgrades and renovations (upgraded bathrooms, sinks, common areas, new furniture/paint/carpet), so these are all good halls. As with everything else, there are some pros and cons to each. And there are even cons to the newer halls 🙂
Finally, I’d urge some patience and understanding of the fact that Residence Life and Housing normally experiences an unbelievable call/email volume after assignments are released. It may take them a while to get back to you just based on volume, so please don’t take it personally. For now, just know that students’ assignments will not be changed (either to a new hall or a new roommate). Your students will find out how to request a change later – and they should understand that changes get made only if space is available, so for now the best bet is to get to know the roommate and plan to have a great semester!