The impact of roommates on the college experience


Allison Clark

Augustana student Allison Clark stands with her roommates of three years, whom she referred to as “her second family.”

Lauren Anderson, Copy Editor

As seniors finalize their college decisions, the reality of having to prepare for the next chapter of their lives settles in. Placement tests, moving away from home and having to find a roommate all heavily weigh on students’ minds. 

The process of finding a roommate can be incredibly intimidating – some decide to go online and try to meet someone from across the country, others choose someone from high school to room with or students elect to room with a stranger through a random pairing process. 

Freshman at Grinnell College Cyrus Barati took a personality quiz and was then randomly assigned roommates based on his results. Barati chose to go through this semi-random rooming process with the hopes of creating a college experience completely unlike high school but with people whose interests and lifestyles somewhat aligned with his. 

“As someone who grew up in PV where everyone kind of came from the same place and walk of life, you’re only predisposed to knowing or being able to interact with one kind of person who has the same views,” he said. “Being here with roommates with completely different life experiences lets me be able to talk with more people because they have different experiences, so I have expanded my world view further than suburban Iowa.” 

To Barati, having roommates from completely different communities – one from Nebraska and the other from India – is essential to not just his college experience, but to his personal growth as well. 

“[My roommate] has gone through some similar life experiences, but it’s also different. I’ve been able to understand things about myself because I was able to talk with my roomates and compare life experiences – both of us had to navigate being gay in a pretty conservative environment where we didn’t feel super accepted,” he explained. 

Though Barati’s randomly selected roommates are integral to his experience at Grinnell, he does not believe unfortunate rooming situations are the end of the world. “ I don’t think it’s an essential part of your college experience, but it can allow you to have a greater perspective of the world,” he said.

His parting advice to seniors thinking of rooming with someone from high school? “Go out of your high school area because there’s more to the world, and the quicker you can see that, the richer your college experience will become.”

Allison Clark, a senior at Augustana College, took a different approach to rooming than Barati. As someone who wanted the comfort of a friend at her side as she took on college, she decided to live with a high school classmate. 

“It was nice to know somebody and know their parents and be comfortable with them while so many things were changing in college,” she said. “We only lived together for that one year anyways. Freshman year is such a different experience than the rest of college, so we had a lot of fun, and it was good while it lasted.” 

While Clark enjoyed the comfort of familiarity, she felt rooming with an old friend could sometimes be a burden. “We would always do things together, so the friends we made were both of our friends, and that prohibited me from meeting new people or from doing things that I liked, not just that we both liked,” she said. 

After freshman year, Clark’s roommate transferred to Drake University. “I ended up finding friends that we weren’t both friends with after she left,” Clark recalled. “It made me realize what an impact rooming with someone from high school had on the first couple months when you’re trying to find new friends.” 

Clark expressed her gratitude for her time with her freshman roommate, but she may have taken a different approach if her high school self had her current knowledge. “Going random through the system is probably best because they can match you up with someone with similar preferences,” she said. “Over the course of your whole college experience, you find a way to work and live with [a difficult roommate], but having good roommates, or at least a working relationship, is really important.” 

There is no right or wrong way to go about rooming as every person has a slightly altered idea of what they want their college experience to look like. Though Clark and Barati went through very different experiences with their freshman roommates, they can agree on one thing: “Your roommates kind of become your family, so it’s important to find people you care about and want to be around. They’re the people you wake up to and go to bed with.”