The Roommate Effect
Your college roommate isn’t just someone you share a fridge with – roomies can have a big impact on your academic achievement, health and social attitudes. And it’s no wonder, considering students spend more time with their roommates each week than with their friends. (1) Let’s take a look at how the person sharing your dorm room can impact your college experience, along with tips to find the best match and a list of a few famous flatmates.
Benefits of Good Roommates
Lucking into a good roommate doesn’t just mean you’ve gained a friend – it could mean you stand to gain a higher GPA, improved personal fitness and a fuller appreciation of diversity.
For every full point a student’s GPA increases, their freshman roommate’s GPA increases by 0.11 point on average. (2)
The effect of friends’ high school fitness on a student’s current fitness is nearly 40% as strong as the effect of the student’s high school fitness. (3)
Increase in likelihood a person will be happy for each happy friend he or she has (4)
White students with black roommates are more likely to support affirmative action and engage with members of other races than other white students. (1)
Pitfalls of Bad Roommates
It’s not always a match made in heaven for students who share a dorm room. Get stuck in a poor pairing, and you could be unhappier, end up with a lower GPA or pick up a not-so-great drinking habit.
Decrease in probability a person will be happy for each unhappy friend he or she has (4)
Average drop in female students’ GPAs when paired with a roommate who drank frequently in the year prior to college (1)
Average drop in male students’ GPAs when paired with a roommate who drank frequently in the year prior to college (1)
Increase in likelihood of a student binge drinking when paired with a roommate who binge drinks (5)
The average student whose roommate plays video games spends 1/2 hour less time studying and has a 0.2 point lower GPA compared to a student with a non-gaming roommate. (4)
How to Find a Good Roommate
While many schools still randomly pair up incoming freshmen, it’s becoming increasingly common for institutions to let students exercise a little more control on with whom they live: 70% of universities now let students pick their own roommates, thanks to a little help from the Internet. (6)
As a Facebook app, RoomSync plugs in to the social network to let students fill out a questionnaire and then pick a roommate from algorithmically-based suggestions based on criteria like neatness, sleeping habits and activity level. (6)
Reduction in roommate transfer requests after implementing RoomSync (7)
Roomsurf is an independent social networking resource that lets students create a profile, answer a few questions and review roommate matches. Students who decide they’d be good matches then send their request to their school. (8)
Number of students who have used Roomsurf since 2010 (8)
Don’t Be That Roommate
Finding your ideal roommate isn’t the end of the story. You’ve both got to put a little effort into making sure the living situation remains viable, so make sure you don’t fall into any of these personality types.
Type: The Extracurricular Studies Roommate
Description: This type of roommate has frequent “overnight visitors.”
Tip: Come to an agreement – beforehand – about how often you and your roommate can have friends over. Draw up a schedule if you need to do so.
Type: The Majoring in Beer Roommate
Description: This roommate seems to be taking classes like Drinking Too Much 101 and Introduction to Partying Like a Rock Star.
Tip: Be mindful of when and where you imbibe. Getting your beer on at 3 a.m. on a Thursday night may work with your schedule, but it may not work with your roomie’s. Save the partying for the weekend or don’t do it in your dorm at all.
Type: The Midnight Oil Burner
Description: This roommate keeps late hours, studying or otherwise.
Tip: Agree on a mutually beneficial lights-out time and use a focused-beam desk lamp after that so you don’t disturb your roommate. If you need background music while hitting the books, use headphones instead of blasting your stereo at 2 a.m.
Type: The Mooch
Description: This roommate thinks what’s hers is hers and what’s yours is hers.
Tip: There’s a fine line between borrowing a roommate’s notes for Physics 101 and borrowing her toothbrush, clothing, money, boyfriend … Always ask first. If she says “no,” respect her decision.
Type: The Slob
Description: This roommate leaves his dirty underwear on the floor and his Cheetos dust everywhere else.
Tip: Not everyone is a neat freak, but if you share a room with someone, make it a nice place to be. Clean up after yourself. Some clutter may be fine, but that half-eaten two-week-old beef lo mein belongs nowhere but the trash.
So much star power in 100 square feet: Some pop culture personalities were paired up in college as roommates. Let’s look at a few celebrities who shared their space.
Who: Ving Rhames (actor) and Stanley Tucci (actor) (9)
Where: SUNY Purchase
Tucci was the one to suggest that his roommate and fellow drama student shorten his first name from Irving to the more memorable and snappier “Ving.” Rhames went on to star in “Pulp Fiction” while Tucci, most recently, appeared in “The Hunger Games.”
Who: Owen Wilson (actor) and Wes Anderson (director) (9)
Where: University of Texas at Austin
The pair bonded while taking a screenwriting class their sophomore year and decided to room together. Since then, Wilson has starred in nearly every movie Anderson has directed, and they even co-wrote “Rushmore.”
Who: Holly Hunter (actress) and Frances McDormand (actress) (10)
Where: Yale University School of Drama
The women were randomly assigned to each other as college roommates. Following graduation, Hunter passed up an audition with filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, suggesting McDormand go instead. McDormand ended up getting the part in the movie “Blood Simple.”
Who: Tommy Lee Jones (actor) and Al Gore (politician) (9)
Where: Harvard University
After rooming together in Dunster House as upperclassmen, the men became fast friends and stay in touch to this day. Gore even mentioned Jones in his nominating speech at the 2000 Democratic National Convention.
Who: Connie Britton (actress) and Kirsten Gillibrand (politician) (9)
Where: Dartmouth College
As an Asian studies major, Britton shared a room with Gillibrand while studying abroad in Beijing. Britton ended up becoming an actress (“Friday Night Lights,” “Nashville”) while Gillibrand became the junior U.S. senator from New York.