Improve Student Roommate Matching with Effective Lifestyle Questions

What attributes, lifestyle questions, and preferences result in the most successful student roommates?
Best friends don’t necessarily make the best roommates. Never fear, we have outlined the primary factors and sample student profile questions that can improve the likelihood of roommate matching success, and impact student resident happiness.

Boosting Successful Roommate Matches

Spring has arrived and as another school year is about to wrap up, many high school seniors are looking ahead to their first year in college. Students are busy filling out their housing applications and self-selecting an on campus roommate for their freshman year. Thanks to lifestyle, room preference, and academic interest questions in housing software such as StarRez, students can answer a set of questions during the online student housing application process and search for roommates based on their answers. Students can search by best overall match or focus on the items that are most important to them, such as lifestyle, hobbies, guests, noise level, hometown and more. With this flexible process, colleges and universities are seeing a higher percentage of successful matches and fewer roommate conflicts.

Baylor University saw a 62% higher match ratio after they added lifestyle questions to their process. Ryan Cohenour, Associate Director of Housing Administration for Baylor University, stated, “We’ve had great success as far as the number of students who go through the student roommate matching process. We get numerous stories about students who found a great roommate through this process and these are students from different towns or states who never would’ve been connected to each other without it.”

“Baylor University saw a 62% higher match ratio after they added lifestyle questions to their process.”

Ryan Cohenour, Associate Director of Housing, Baylor University

What Roommate Factors Should You Consider?

Rona Skinner, Executive Director of Business Strategies and Technology Management for Student Auxiliary Services at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), indicated they have three categories of questions that they ask their students to fill out on their student housing application profile:

  • Personal Habits/Lifestyle Preferences
  • Living Environment
  • Academic Area of Interest

So What Are the Best Questions to Ask?

Within the personal habits/lifestyle preferences category, there are questions such as smoking, sleeping and study habits. Rona feels that the area of room preferences is probably the most important to explore. For example, they ask questions about how students feel about guests and the energy level in the room – whether it’s quiet or open to louder activities such as gaming, music and TV.

“Expectations of guests, if not discussed, can cause uncomfortable situations and we find it’s important to have clarified this early in the roommate relationship. Social and energy level of the room also allows students to find roommates that have similar expectations about what their living space will be like in college,”

Rona Skinner, Executive Director of Business Strategies and Technology Management Student Auxillary Services, RIT

Rona. Being a technical institute, RIT also has a question about academic areas of interest because this is important to incoming freshmen.

  • What room temperature do you prefer?
  • Do you study with background noise?
  • How often do you plan to have guests?
  • When do you go to sleep & wake up?
  • How clean do you prefer your room?

Baylor asks similar questions and they’ve found that the top three most important questions are about cleanliness, bed time and studying with noise. Ryan shared a finding from a recent focus study with students: “I think the most surprising question to me that students wanted on the questionnaire was room temperature. I didn’t even think about how important that was, but in the focus group, students stated that was one of the most important issues about having a successful roommate,” stated Ryan.

“I think the most surprising question to me that students wanted on the questionnaire was room temperature.”

Ryan Cohenour, Associate Director of Housing, Baylor University

Questions on Trending Topics

Colleges and universities are also adjusting processes to account for emotional support animals (ESAs) now living in residential living spaces. As a result, RIT has added a question about if the student would be willing to live with an animal. “This one is becoming increasingly more important for us because as the number of ESAs rise, we need to make sure we can help students find roommates who want to live with an animal in the room,” said Rona.

Another trending topic is gender inclusive housing. Rona stated, “Gender inclusive has been a great addition to our profile questions. It has been very successful on campus and our gender inclusive floor has increased in size over the last few years. We’ve been able to create a safe, open environment for all students to live regardless of gender identity.

Unique Questions

Schools may include questions that are unique to their environment. Baylor has Living-Learning Community spaces, which are communities based on academic areas such as Business & Innovation. “StarRez has enabled us to put a profile on a student based upon their LLC selection, so students can only see matches who are part of their chosen LLC,” said Ryan.

RIT has a question about communication preferences. “This is unique to RIT as we are home to the National Technical Institute of the Deaf and we often have deaf or hard of hearing students who live in our housing who use American Sign Language (ASL) or a combination of ASL and voice,” stated Rona.

What Contributes to a Successful Roommate Match?

Both schools have seen behavior that has contributed to unsuccessful matches. Ryan says that Baylor has had an ongoing issue with parents filling out the lifestyle questions instead of the students. While they’re trying to help their student, there’s a greater chance of failure if the student doesn’t fill it out. Also, both students and parents tend to put their ideal self and not the realistic version of themselves. Ryan noted, “Another area of success/failure is what is considered to be a successful roommate match. We have a lot of students who have the idea that their roommate match will also be their BFF. But it’s not about matching BFFs – it’s about compatibility.

Rona noted that personal habits and preferences can change once a student gets on campus. For example, a student may plan to go to bed at midnight and get up at 7 a.m. to work out, but after being on campus, may end up going to bed at 2 a.m. and getting up later. It’s the same thing with study and other personal habits. Everyone gets into a groove when they get settled into college life and that groove can be different from what it was before college.

Overall, students and schools have been highly satisfied with the on campus roommate selection process. “There was some skepticism when we first rolled out the StarRez program in 2012, but then students found that the questions we asked on the profile really helped them find a compatible roommate,” said Rona. Read more about RIT’s success in this article.

For More Information

StarRez can provide examples of some commonly used questions and student roommate matching factors. You can customize your questions within StarRez and even change them year to year while maintaining the historical data. To learn more about Roommate Matching, Success Factors, and how StarRez can help, get in touch with Deborah Ham or Contact Us.

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Deborah Ham
A member of the StarRez team since 2013, Deb has an extensive housing and residence life background.

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