Fewer colleges allowing incoming freshmen to pick their roommates

Many incoming college students would prefer to choose their own roommates. But colleges and universities are starting to crack down on the practice, hoping to help students step outside of their comfort zones, The Atlantic reports. Schools like New York University have stopped guaranteeing that students can have their preferred roommate, and others, like Duke University, randomly assign roommates.

When students control their roommate selection, they are more likely to choose people they already know, or students who come from similar backgrounds. The rise of social media has only fueled students’ attempts to select their own roommates, as incoming freshmen attempt to learn all they can about potential roommates through Facebook groups and similar forums. However, some residence life administrators aren’t convinced that this practice actually helps students. “There is a limitation to [what you can learn by] looking at Facebook, looking at profiles, looking at posts,” Carlos Gonzalez, director of operations and services at Northwestern University, told The Atlantic.

Exposing students to diverse experiences

Colleges hope that by taking the choice out of students’ hands and randomly sorting incoming freshmen into dorms, students will be more inclined to engage with people—and ideas—that are different from what they experienced growing up. “The purpose of living on campus is to be exposed to more diversity in all arenas of life,” Gonzalez said, “whether it’s ethnicity or culture or socioeconomic status or where we’ve grown up.”

Hoping to ensure harmonious pairings, many institutions are still factoring personal habits, academic interests, and even personality traits into random roommate assignments. Largely, the approach appears to be working. According to a study of 20,000 students at 15 institutions conducted by Skyfactor, a research firm, more than half of respondents said they were happy with their freshman-year roommate assignment. Only one out of 10 asked for another roommate during the 2015-2016 academic year.

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