UT should take steps to student reduce stress in roommate choice process

Eva Strelitz-Block

More and more colleges are taking freshman rooming decisions out of the hands of their students as a way to encourage them to break away from their precollege bubbles. Some schools, like Tufts University and Duke University, no longer permit student choice and randomly assign roommates based on their responses to a questionnaire. 

UT, on the other hand, still leaves this process entirely up to students’ decision making, causing undue stress on students. 

In order to reduce roommate choice anxiety, UT should implement a more robust questionnaire that facilitates meaningful, credible matches. UT should also require students to confirm their choice regarding a roommate before their assigned room selection time. 

Currently, UT students can designate another student as their roommate based on preexisting personal relationships or connections they’ve sourced themselves via online platforms like Facebook. Students can also select the room they prefer in a dorm and match “randomly” with the other student who has also selected that room. Students may also select a roommate ahead of time based on the list generated by UT’s matching process. 

For Longhorns, the current “matching” process is straightforward: students respond to eight basic questions regarding their preferences for lifestyle factors like bedtime and cleanliness. Then, a rudimentary list of possible matches is generated based on the degree of similarity among students’ responses. 

However, this process does not inspire much confidence in students.

“Platforms like Facebook can be harder to meet people on, especially if you’re not sure that people are legitimately who they say they are,” said Anna Duong, history and Plan II sophomore. “There is no safety check. If UT were to help with the matching, it would be less stressful for students and parents.”

Clearly, UT’s current approach is inadequate. In the absence of fully randomizing residential roommate matching, there is more that UT can and should do to reduce the stress of this process. 

At the same time, maintaining student agency in roommate selection is important for both students and administrators. 

“Part of our residential curriculum is for students to develop self-management skills, and one of those is the roommate self-management process being within their realm of control,” said Ryan Colvin, assistant director of occupancy management at UT. 

However, having to navigate the stress of choosing a roommate in conjunction with the already competitive room selection process is neither developmentally meaningful nor student-centered, especially for first-year students who are already anticipating the significant transition to college.  

According to Colvin, before UT adopted its current roommate selection policies and procedures about five years ago, students were simply placed in rooms based on 100% concordance to the roommate match questions. 

Colvin also stated that many students voiced complaints regarding the rigidity of that approach. Today, though, the latitude students have in selecting roommates renders the current system all but meaningless.

We need a new strategy –– one that combines students’ desire for more substantive details about potential roommates with a process flow that distributes students’ residential living choice points more evenly.

For many students, living on campus is a critical part of their first-year college experience. UT has previously demonstrated its willingness to be responsive to students’ concerns with its approach to roommate matching. 

Enhancing the roommate questionnaire and changing the timeline of roommate selection are two concrete ways that UT can support students’ smooth transition to the University. 

Strelitz-Block is a Plan II and anthropology sophomore from Austin, Texas.