Time to play the roommate game

By Tara Snowden

Roommates: They can make or break a student’s college experience.

Some students get lucky and find a best friend, while others cannot wait until the weekend to be away from their roommates.

When a student applies for housing after being accepted to NIU, the forms filled out are limited to lifestyle choices.

“We ask new students what floor community they wish to live on,” said Michael Stang, director of residential operations. “We generally try to get them in the type of lifestyle they requested.”

For students from other state schools such as Illinois State University, however, the selection process allows for more choices and more freedom.

“Students are able to search online for what hall and lifestyle they would like. They are then shown the floors and rooms in that residence hall that are available,” said Mindy Mangialardi, associate director of the residential life at ISU.

ISU adopted this policy about five years ago for returning students and expanded the program to include freshman about three years ago. Mangialardi said she believes students feel the process gives them more control over life at ISU and helps them feel comfortable with the surroundings.

“It’s really nice for new students,” Mangialardi said. “[Students] feel better when they have control over their room assignments.”

Not just Northern …

Other state schools also adopted this policy of electronically-selecting roommates.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale also makes a ‘Roommate Quiz’ available. Students can sit down with their roommates to set boundaries right away. This allows students to not only get to know their roommate and their preferences, but also allows them to solve any potential problems before the school year begins.

Stang said he thinks placing emphasis on the floor lifestyle is more important to student success than living with a roommate who shares the same interests.

“It tends to work better this way in that while roommates are a critical part of the living environment, living on a floor with people with similar academic or social interests makes the floor experience better as a whole,” Stang said. “The people on your floor become somewhat of your family while you are here.”

NIU not looking for new policy

Surveys, however, may not always accurately represent the current views of the student.

“Sometimes when students fill out those surveys, they are partially through their senior year of high school and much of their responses are based on their current habits and the family environment,” Stang said. “My sense is that when students go to college, those things change because they are in a completely new environment.”

Mangialardi admits having this online system has its downsides despite it being convenient for students and housing staff.

“When we matched students by hand, there were times when we knew more about halls than the new students did, so if students couldn’t get into a specific hall that they wished, we sometimes knew of a hall that was exactly the same or almost the same and we could place them in that hall,” Mangialardi said. “Whereas when students pick the halls themselves, they don’t always know that information.”

NIU administrators are not looking to adopt a new policy for placing roommates together because they have not found a procedure that works as well as the current one. Stang said although there are few students who do not get along with their roommates, most students find they are pleased with the floor they are on and find it easy to get along with their roommates as well.

“Most people come to college with the realization that they are going to live with someone they aren’t familiar with,” Stang said. “They have to find a way to get around the differences which makes the living environment a great experience for students.”