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Take our quiz before picking a roommate

Lee Bierer
Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte.

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  • Lee Bierer's column will take the summer off and return in mid-August.


Now that graduation is over, one of the hottest topics among this summer's incoming college freshmen is roommate choice.

Should they go “potluck” and let the college randomly assign a roommate, or “play it safe” and choose to room with someone they already know?

The cynic who sees the glass half empty will ask, “Are you better off with the devil you know or the devil you don't know?” The Pollyannas of the world will have a hard time deciding between what they anticipate as an enriching experience with someone new, perhaps from another state or another country, and the comfort level of living with a close friend.

Truth is there are horror stories on both sides. Sometimes rooming with a best friend can be a little too close for comfort. Sharing new friends, activities and a confined space can turn best friends into worst enemies. Students who choose this route need to be aware of the pitfalls as well as the advantages.

Students should do a brief self-assessment, but they need to be honest. Here are some questions to ask:

How do you rank your need for neatness on a scale of 1-10? That's 10 being a Type A neat freak who arranges clothes by color, season and frequency of use, and a 1 being a person who can't find keys, flip-flops or computer, and whose towel from yesterday is still on the floor.

How would you score yourself (1-10) on unusual and/or annoying habits such as smoking, talking too much, going to bed before 10 p.m., playing really loud music, being anti-social, having lax hygiene, etc.? Lower scores signify fewer eccentricities.

These questions provide a sense of how “high-maintenance” you might be as a roommate.

Now you need to understand how you will respond to new situations.

Are you commonly described by friends and family as mellow, nonconfrontational and easygoing?

Do you have a “sloped back” and let most things slide?

Do you feel that you are open-minded?

Do you think you would be an easy person to live with?

If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, you may want to consider allowing the college to randomly match you and preserve your friendship.

Even in the best of circumstances, sharing a 12-by-12 room presents challenges. For some, especially students who have never shared a room, day-to-day negotiations with a roommate can be the toughest part of freshman adjustment.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte: lee@collegeadmissions strategies.com; www.collegeadmissions strategies.com

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