Roommate-assignment policies vary from college to college. Most colleges have a housing form that all freshmen-to-be who plan to live on campus must complete. Often this form will allow you to include the name of an intended roommate. In such cases, if you put your best friend’s name on this form and then your friend puts yours, you will be able to room together. (Note, however, that colleges commonly claim that they will “try” to honor your preference but can’t guarantee it. Yet, in most instances where specific roommate requests are permitted, you will get the roommate you chose.)
There are also many colleges that do not allow students to pick a roommate. The college administrators believe that part of the college adventure is meeting new people and learning to co-exist with someone you don’t already know.
So once you have decided where you will be applying, you can contact the Residential Life office (called by this name or a similar one … maybe simply “Housing”) to ask what the roommate-assignment policy is. Even when students are not allowed to request a roommate, it might be possible for friends to live in the same dorm or even on the same floor.
There used to be a time when “The Dean” adamantly insisted that all college freshmen should room with strangers in order to best challenge themselves and expand their horizons. Yet, in recent years, I’ve had some second thoughts. While at least in theory, I continue to maintain that learning to live with a someone from a different background or geographic location can be an important life skill, I also realize that college freshmen may now bring issues with them to campus that seem more complex and even disturbing than what was the norm in my own college days, many eons ago. College life in general seems more complicated and demanding too (e.g., even freshmen compete for internships these days, while in my era we didn’t even use the word!). Thus, with so many adjustments to make in the initial months, seeing a familiar face on the upper bunk can provide a peaceful oasis amidst the melee of freshman year.
However, as you make your plans for next fall, I urge you to consider colleges that might be good fits for you even if they aren’t well suited to your friend. You and your friend may not be admitted (or receive adequate financial aid) at the same schools, and it might be wise to part ways. Yet even if you can’t room with your best friend, rest assured that most colleges have systems in place that help match students with those who share similar living habits or interests. Granted, it’s far from a perfect process. Just because your roomie loves the same movies or music that you do certainly won’t mean that he or she will become your new BFF. But as you approach the big transition ahead, try to keep your mind—and perhaps some closet space—open to someone new.