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Articles / Campus Life / Male + Female Roommates?

Sept. 23, 2014

Male + Female Roommates?

I always enjoy working with Stanford University applicants. One of Stanford’s essay prompts says, “Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate – and us – know you better.” Aside from the fact that this prompt is a bit tricky (many respondents write their “note” like a term paper, way too stilted and formal), it raises an interesting gambit.

I have always wanted to advise a male writer to include the phrase, “I assume that you’re a guy,” and for females, “I assume that you’re a female.” The issue of mixed-sex roommates is, naturally, controversial. For example, observe some comments from the College Confidential discussion forum about this topic:

– If you are the kind of guy that manages friendships with girls very well, and they manage friendships with guys, it could be fun. At times I agree there may be too much estrogen but if you’re a laid back kind of guy you can probably handle it, and maybe you’ll take the edge off the situation.

I would make sure she didn’t tell you it was okay assuming the other girls wouldn’t mind though, because if I thought I was rooming with two girls and someone invited a guy in as well I don’t think I’d be comfortable with that.  

– I’m a guy I live with 2 girls and a guy (who is rarely there) in an apartment. It’s no big deal.  


– Honestly, I’d check with your parents before committing to something like that, especially if they’re paying for any aspect of your college education. I’m sure there are plenty who would cut funds to force their kid to move.  

– Well, as long as you know that you’re friends and friends only, and if you’re always in your right state of mind, it should be fine, right?  

There are also some strong editorial opinions out there about this issue. Here are some excerpts from the Valdosta State University newspaper:

Imagine waking up and panicking because a class that you can’t afford to miss starts in 15 minutes.

While heading to the bathroom, you are suddenly confronted by a locked door occupied by your roommate who is singing at the top of her lungs as she applies her makeup.

This is not the way our mothers and fathers attended college in yesteryear.

Recently, students at the University of Florida have started a Change.org petition with encouragement from their department of Housing and Residence Education to pursue mixed-coed occupation of dorm rooms in their apartment style housing units …

… George Washington University in Washington D.C became a part of the phenomenon in 2010.

Students lobbied for the issue after a small group of students moved into an on-campus residence and successfully integrated. This prompted them to get it integrated campus-wide.

Emory University has already embraced the trend.

On the Residence Life and Housing page of Emory University website, Dobbs, Harris and Longstreet-Means Halls all offer floors strictly for mixed coed arrangements.

These floors offer no division between male and female students living on the same floor …

… In college, your dorm becomes your home away from home and the people you live with become an extension of family. Therefore if you see your female roommate in a quarrel with another person, the male roommate will be more inclined to help or keep her out of danger and vice versa.

Also, if there is strife in the household, a male and female roommate would be more inclined to solve it rationally then two ego-driven males or two upset female roommates …

… Though experiences may vary, college is a place to grow and experience life outside of your everyday “box” and we feel that mixed-gender dorms should be affirmed not only at the University of Florida’s campus, but also at all colleges and universities with on campus dorms nationwide.

If you’re a parent reading this, how would you feel about having your son or daughter living in the same smallish dorm room with a member of the opposite sex? Here’s part of what Margaret Hartmann says:

… The L.A. Times reports that about 50 colleges in the U.S., including UC Riverside, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Cornell, Dartmouth, Sarah Lawrence, Haverford, Wesleyan and the University of Michigan, have started letting men and women room together. The movement started in response to gay, bisexual and transgender students saying they’d be more comfortable living with someone of the opposite sex …

… The justification that most schools give for not allowing men and women be roommates is that it causes too much trouble for the Housing Office when the torrid romances — which are clearly guaranteed in these situations — come to their inevitable end …

… It’s unlikely colleges will revise their housing policies anytime soon because there aren’t many male and female students clamoring for the right to live together on campus. The National Student Genderblind Campaign encourages colleges to allow gender-mixed rooms, but co-founder Jeffrey Chang estimates only 1% to 3% of students on campuses where the option exists choose to live with someone of the opposite sex …

… While a 21-year-old woman can pay her own tuition and rack up $80,000 worth of debt, she can’t choose to live with a male friend because they could sleep together and someone else’s mom may think it’s tawdry.

What do you think about co-ed dorm rooms? Let me know.


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles on College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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