Can I Room with My Best High School Friend in College?

Question: My best friend and I have been accepted at three of the same colleges so far. If we both go to the same place, can we be roommates?

“The Dean” is actually going to answer TWO questions here. The first is the one you asked and the second is, “Do you really WANT to be roommates?

The answer to the initial question will depend on the college you attend. At many schools, student roommate choices are routinely honored. At others, roommate preferences are definitely considered but no promises are made. And, finally, some colleges (albeit a dwindling minority) will say, “Absolutely not. We have our own roommate assignment system and will not put friends together.” So, if living with your BFF in your freshman year is a top priority for you, you will have to research the housing policies at all of the colleges that have admitted both of you and perhaps base your final choice on what you learn.

As for the question you didn’t ask …

A decade or more ago, “The Dean” would have adamantly insisted that living with a high school pal is a bad idea. I would have touted the advantages of spreading one’s wings, expanding one’s horizons, and embracing the opportunity to get to know someone brand-new –ideally from an unfamiliar home town and even from a different racial or ethnic background, Now, however, I admit that my enthusiasm for cohabitation with strangers has dimmed just a tad. I’ve heard a lot of stories of freshmen who got saddled with dysfunctional roommates who couldn’t handle college life and who became a full-time problem to the roommates who could. So sometimes I think that picking “the devil you know” for a roomie isn’t as lousy a plan as I used to believe it was. BUT … even so … I’m still largely in favor of taking pot luck, for all of the personal-development reasons cited above. And I urge students who are panicked about living with someone unfamiliar to at least select a semi-stranger: e.g., that funny flutist who had everyone laughing at the state orchestra try-outs; the all-league right-fielder from a rival high school; Cousin Coral’s bunkmate at Camp Swampy. In such cases, you’ll know that you’re starting out your cohabitation experience with common ground, yet there will be still plenty of opportunity to learn more about each other and to grow, yourself, in the process.

Pairing off with your high school bestie, however, can make it hard to try new things and to get to know new people. With all the other changes around you at the start of college life, falling back on familiar behaviors, conversations, expectations, etc. is just too easy but not necessarily healthy.  In addition, if you and your friend attend a college where triple rooms are common, I pity the poor girl who has to lie in bed at night and listen to your whispered gossip about who broke up with who after dating since sixth grade or why Mr. Moriarty, the married hottie gym teacher back at Jefferson High, is so often seen with Ms. Finkelstein from AP Bio.

So “The Dean’s” advice is that you should choose the college that feels right for you, regardless of whether it’s the one that fits your friend as well. And, if it is, don’t ask to room together in your first year. Try to chart your own separate course, instead, yet get together often to compare notes. And then you can re-evaluate your living situation in the spring, when it’s time to choose your sophomore roommate.

(posted 2/27/2017)