Admissions

Should Your High School Friend Be Your College Roommate?

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You’ve chosen where you will go to college, you’ve paid your deposit and you’ve registered for orientation. It’s such an exciting time, and if one of your high school friends is also going to the same college, the anticipation can be even more thrilling. But one question that lingers for a lot of graduating seniors is whether to transition that high school friendship into a college roommate plan.

Rooming with your high school friends can have pluses and minuses, and you should consider a few important factors before making the decision to write your friend’s name down in the “preferred roommate” field of your housing application.


Not All Colleges Allow It

Starting with this year’s freshman class (Class of 2022), Duke University no longer allows students to select their own roommates, citing research that said more diverse interactions occur when roommates are randomly assigned. Many other higher education institutions have similar policies that do not allow students to choose their own roommates, including Princeton and Harvard. A Q&A on the Harvard admissions page explains it this way: “The other students in your Harvard class will absolutely blow your mind in the best way possible, and the housing system is meant to throw you together with some pretty cool people you might not have come across on your own.”

Because such disparity exists between college policies, your first step is to investigate whether selecting your own roommate is an option at your college.

Even if the college you will attend does allow you to pick a roommate, it is a decision to think about carefully. There are distinct benefits to having a roommate that you don’t know. While it may feel uncomfortable at first, getting to know someone new is a valuable life skill, and it will also expand your social network. You will be able to meet even more new people on campus when you meet everyone your new roommate knows as well. This is can be a valuable step in building a social community for yourself on your college campus and can enrich your college experience.

“Consider the opportunity to have a fresh start in college and room with someone you did not know in high school — part of the college experience is taking risks and challenging yourself,” explains Carolyn Kilgus of Cast-A-Net College Admissions Consulting in Carmel, N.Y. “Keep in mind that you don't have to be great friends with your roommate; you simply need to get along with each other and have similar habits. You may find it is easier to preserve your friendship with a high school pal by not living with them!”

Rooming With Someone Else Won’t Kill Your Existing Friendships

Keep in mind that you are still likely to see your high school friend often, even if you don’t room with them — you will still be friends and then an added bonus is that you will meet even more new people through them, which will again expand your social network on campus, says Rebecca Eckstein, president of Admission Network in Atlanta, Georgia.

Of course, if you have a condition that makes it difficult to room with a person you don’t know or there are other factors at play, you may have very good reasons to want to room with a high school friend. Either way, this is a decision that you should consider deeply rather than just making the decision lightly.

Bottom line: Remember that college should be a growing experience. Navigating your new life, meeting new people and adapting to becoming a college student are the first steps in your next chapter. Embrace your new college roommate as the beginning of an opportunity to grow into the person you want to become.