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Roommate Matching Magic. Do you know the secret?

Everyone has a college roommate matching story. Stories about the first roommate you were matched with seem to go one of two ways: either you and your roommate became lifelong friends, or your pairing could be used as source material for a movie called “Nightmare on University Drive.”

In student housing, expectations and hopes are high. However, zipping past the chance to make quality roommate matches seriously decrease the chance to make successful roommate pairings.

Quality roommate matching programs are critical. When matched compatibly, students tend to excel in academics and overall quality of life throughout college.

Roommate Matching Surveys

Typical university roommate matching approaches included, at most, 6-10 questions on a paper survey. University staff would manually pair those surveys with similar responses. In some cases, the survey data ended up in a spreadsheet shuffle. Some good matches resulted, but both approaches are rife with the opportunity for human error. Like a lottery, these roommate matching approaches garnered only a few winners each year.

To be effective, roommate matching questionnaires should include personality-based questions. Quality pairing can focus on some basic information that’s indicative of overall personality traits. For instance: a fastidious, tidy student may find his or her roommate’s failure to make the bed an aggravation. In a case like this, a scale of 1 to 5 improves the quality of data collected. If asked “Are you neat and tidy?” without having metrics, a university receives only two answers.

Most people fall likely somewhere on the 1-5 spectrum rather than on a definitive number that can be matched using traditional approaches to roommate pairing. Including examples, such as “Choose ‘1’ if you consider yourself extremely tidy and believe every object has its place, and ‘5’ if a bit of messiness is acceptable, or if you clean up and make your bed only on special occasions.”

Who will be Matchmaker?

Now that your roommate matching form has evolved into a packet of detailed questions with multiple possible answers to each question, how do you begin to use it?

Give your applicants the tool and the choice. The person best suited to make a successful match is the applicant. Roommate-matching services exist; it’s the sole business of some companies. These companies range from those who rely on social media data to those who install back-end software that analyzes applicants’ data via your university’s online application. Some companies allow applicants the freedom to browse and choose — almost like a dating app — and some which fully integrate with your property management software.

The most efficient solutions are easily navigable when used by an experienced and knowledgeable management team. With so many vendors and tech companies offering roommate matching-specific software, today’s roommate matching optimization is made simple and even more cost effective. Most importantly, quality roommate matching improves students’ chances for a more successful college experience. This, in turn, can help your institution create ambassadors through residency.

Make Me a Match

Typically, ideal roommate matches result when a student picks his or her own roommate(s). However, this isn’t always an option. We believe optimization software, coupled with our collective experience, provides the best-case scenario for matching roommates.

Our job is to help identify matches based on information provided by the student. Students must be honest and accurate when completing roommate matching surveys. Parents should provide guidance only during this process. Parents can lend perspective in their child’s survey responses. For instance, did their son or daughter choose “1” for cleanliness because he or she is truly tidy, or is he or she answering “1” based on what they think they should answer? Is the student’s cleanliness truly accurate based on their own personal standards, or does their concept of cleanliness jive with normal standards? The process can be cumbersome, but critical to effectively highlight those responses that give us the most insight into roommate matching.

Matchmaking Time!

Let’s assume we have a group of 100 male students. We would begin our process by sorting students into a matched group by using the following criteria.

  1. Room preferences. We found 50 of the 100 expressed interest in a two-bedroom apartment.
  2. Cleanliness. Of those 50 students identified in Room Preferences, 15 don’t mind a little mess, and would only clean when needed.
  3. Student Classification. Of the 15 students identified in Cleanliness, five are first-time students. (Why is this important? In most cases, upperclassmen do not match well with first-time students, based on academic and social preferences.)
  4. Sleep Schedule. Of the five students identified in Student Classification, two prefer to rise early and dislike pulling all-nighters.

Based on the information provided, we have what appears to be a perfect roommate match. College is a learning experience, and college roommates are an enormously important part of this experience. Encourage students to step outside their comfort zones — after all, you and your first roommate could become lifelong friends!