What would it be like to live in a place where you could not be yourself, though you pay roughly $10,000 per year to live there? What would it be like to live in a space that feels awkward, aggressive or unwelcoming?
To get an answer, one could ask a number of West Virginia University students living on-campus who are unhappy with their current roommates.
When speaking with other on-campus residents, it’s sad to see just how many people have irreconcilable issues with their roommates. On a single floor of one of WVU’s dorms, more than half of the hall has moved to a different room or off campus entirely. While some students come to WVU with their hometown friends as their roommates, others must trust in the University’s unreliable online matching process.
Though some may say roommate issues can be easily ignored, living with someone you have never met before is a big commitment and should be treated as such, especially when it involves an investment of over $10,000.
Some easy changes could benefit WVU’s roommate matching process. In the online roommate profile form, there are sections where the student can choose to leave text boxes blank. One individual said he saw many "About Me" sections with no content when trying to find a roommate and explained how frustrating it was. It’s very difficult for a person to find a good match if important sections can be left blank. As a result, I believe all parts of the roommate profile should be mandatory, so the most information about a person can be received by students trying to find a great roommate match.
There is also the issue of honesty in the answers people provide. When a future on-campus resident fills out the sections about smoking, what time they plan to go bed or how often they will have guests over, they could simply be lying. There could also be parents watching over their shoulders or judgmental people around that made them feel the need to answer dishonestly. In short, there are simply too many possibilities that should be accounted for in the online matching process.
If the University continues with online roommate matching, a personality test should be required in addition to the roommate profile. By including a personality test, students can seek out individuals most likely to be compatible with themselves and can be reassured that the two people can better adapt to one another. A personality test like 16 Personalities takes less than a half an hour.
As well as the personality test, it might be beneficial for WVU to host a Roommate Matching Day Social, where students can roam around and meet other individuals who also need roommates. The program could be broken down into segments based on students’ colleges and majors. If students could meet like-minded people ahead of time and choose their roommate in person as opposed to online, this might eliminate some of the current roommate issues on campus.
The current questionnaire cannot possibly be the best WVU can do. Online profiles can be very deceitful, as well as any sort of communication via technology. For students who must stay on campus, WVU needs to develop a more intensive system of roommate matching. If not, many students may continue to live miserably with incompatible roommates.