August 4, 2012
Roommates break the ice on social media
First-year college students have been following a recent trend: getting acquainted online
Will Lessard learned his college roommate’s name and email address recently, starting a chain of events that is common for first-year students in the era of online social media.
Lessard, who graduated from Cortland High School in June and will be a first-year student at Arizona State University, began exchanging email messages with the young man who had been assigned to him by the university.
This week, they “friended” each other on Facebook and began talking more about what they are like, in terms of musical tastes and living habits.
As colleges prepare for students to return in less than a month, first-year students have been following a recent trend: getting acquainted through social media.
Unlike first-year students of previous generations, who met their assigned roommates when they arrived on campus to unpack their cars, current students learn all they can in the weeks before moving to campus.
They see each other’s faces and friends on Facebook, speak by phone or text message, and discover how compatible they will be.
They plan who will bring a refrigerator, book case or other furnishings for the room.
Sometimes they learn that they might not get along, and can either take a chance by keeping their assignment or request a change.
“Things seem good,” Lessard said of his roommate, who is from Scottsdale, Ariz. “He’s an English major but he might switch majors. That’s kind of where I’m at, since I’m majoring in communications but might switch to business.”
Lessard’s roommate likes rock climbing “and that’s good because I’d like to learn how to do that.”
Incoming first-year students usually fill out questionnaires about how they live, with musical tastes, staying up all night or not, having lots of friends stop by. That helps a college’s residential life staff match them.
Colleges often allow first-year students to request roommates, usually people they know from their high school.
They can also request to live in certain types of situations, such as “quiet” halls.
Some campuses have developed an online function where incoming students create a profile and contact other first-year students based on their profiles. Ithaca College has IC Peers, part of myIthaca, where students who have been accepted can meet online.
Lessard’s high school classmate and friend Vinnie Bellardini chose his roommate through a similar “app” at St. Bonaventure University.
He asked a fellow first-year student from the Buffalo area to room with him.
“We like the same music, like Dave Mathews, John Mayer, certain rappers,” Bellardini said. “We started talking in mid-June. He likes sports too, like college basketball and football. He’s a Buffalo Bills fan, I’m a New York Giants fan, so we’ll have to work that out.”
Bellardini said they both plan to take part in campus organizations and intramurals.
“He’s 6-foot-4, so he’ll be my big man in intramural basketball,” he said.
Jason Housel, who graduated in June from Groton High School, received his roommate’s name this week from Albany College of Pharmacy.
He said he plans to begin speaking with him via email and maybe Facebook.
Bethany Latten, who graduated from Cortland High School in June and is headed for Penn State, said she was not asked to fill out a questionnaire for roommate pairing but was paired with a student who will be a biological sciences major, like her.
“She friended me on Facebook and we’ve spoken, looked at each other’s pictures,” Latten said. “She said my prom dress was awesome, which is a weird feeling, hearing an opinion from someone I haven’t met.”
Latten said her roommate is from the Philadelphia area.
Their double room already has the furnishings they need, but they will choose a carpet once they see it.
Latten’s mother Denise, a Homer High School guidance counselor, said the whole process is a far cry from her freshman year at Mansfield University, in the fall of 1983.
“You filled out a sheet and waited to see,” she said. “It was an eye opener, once you got there.”
Denise Latten said one disturbing trend is parents going to Facebook to look at their child’s roommate, then deciding the roommate will not be suitable.
She said some parents are far too involved in their children’s lives and are raising a generation of helpless people, who rely on their parents to do everything for them.
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