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Articles / Applying to College / Do colleges pay attention to roommate preferences?

Feb. 11, 2002

Do colleges pay attention to roommate preferences?

Question: Do colleges really pay attention to the roommate preference questions on my college application?

A lot of smaller colleges and universities really do try to match some of your preferences for roommate characteristics. Even some larger schools will try to accommodate your wishes. Don't expect miracles, though.


The biggest issue for a lot of incoming freshmen is smoking. A number of schools throughout the nation are moving to a smoke-free status. That means smoking is prohibited inside any campus building, most importantly living quarters. If you have a particularly strong preference for a non- smoking roommate or a smoke-free environment, be sure to indicate that on your application. In fact, it might be important enough to become a selection criterion for your candidate schools.

Remember, one of the great aspects of a college education is learning more about different kinds of people. You could play it conservatively and seek to be matched up with a safe carbon copy of yourself. On the other hand, rooming with someone who complements your personal qualities could be quite enlightening, as long as the differences are within reason.

Think about whom your friends are now. These are the kinds of personalities to which you will naturally gravitate when you go to college. Be careful, however, that you don't limit your college experience by hanging out exclusively with a limited number of personality types. The freshman roommate experience can be a positive experience. That's why you need to take preference questionnaires seriously.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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