From party animals to early birds, everyone has heard horror stories of freshman year college roommates. One of the biggest decisions in a young adult’s life is college, and taking the risk of a random roommate seems like the wrong choice to many.
With the recent rise in popularity of social media pages dedicated to choosing the perfect college roommate, opting out of a random roommate is an increasingly likely endeavor for many students.
However, as the popularity of these pages grows, so does their negative impact on a student’s college experience and the overall diversity of colleges across the country.
Choosing a roommate may seem like a harmless decision, but in reality, selecting a roommate off of one of these pages plays into built-in racial and socioeconomic biases. Steve Nowicki, dean of undergraduate education at Duke University, said that students that choose roommates off social media pages are often simply finding students that look like them and have similar financial situations to their own.
The University of Virginia has seen a 15% increase in the number of incoming freshmen who choose to select their roommate, as a record high 65% of freshmen chose their roommate before attending in the fall of 2017.
This staggering increase is no doubt a result of social media pages like UVA’s @uva.classof2026 Instagram page, where more than 640 incoming students have posted in search of a roommate.
By selecting a roommate based on perceived similarities, students no longer experience the vast perspectives and lived experiences that college is known to provide students. According to The Conversation, students who interact with individuals from diverse backgrounds have stronger critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as more empathy toward others.
Many colleges, like Duke University, have since stopped allowing incoming students to choose their roommate for these very reasons. Tom Ellett, senior associate vice president for student affairs at New York University, said that NYU’s roommate policy prohibits students in the same dorm room from sharing the same zip code because learning from someone’s differences is a key part in the college experience.
Choosing a roommate off of social media sites also negatively affects minority students. Students of color have a smaller pool of potential roommate candidates, as students tend to segregate into dorms based on race when given the option to choose their roommates, the Washington Post reported. This means that minority students who choose to post on the sites are likely to only receive responses of interest from other minority students, effectively limiting their college experience through no choice of their own.
While choosing a roommate from social media sites may seem like the safest way to ensure a student’s positive college experience, the greatest experience a college can offer a student does not occur within lectures but instead comes from the melting pot of people, cultures and experiences.