The start of the school year can be a little scary for college-bound freshman. Many are away from home and on their own for the first time, and most have to learn to live with a total stranger -- but schools have strategies for successful pairings.
"I was scared to meet [my roommate," admitted Zoe Barr, a freshman at St. Catherine University. "Unsure if she was how she says she was."
Finding a good fit with a first-year roommate can be the difference between getting college life off to a great start and a frustrating freshman year. Colleges and Universities know that roommate pairings are vital, and they take their housing assignments seriously.
So how do schools successfully pair students who often come from vastly different backgrounds? The answer depend o n the campus, but at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, each of the 400 incoming young women has the opportunity to choose their own roommate.
"What we really wanted to do was: Give students a little more control in that experience," explained Heidi Anderson-Isaacson. "Students kind of go through … an online dating program."
The university developed its own web-based program that allows incoming first-year students to enter in information about themselves -- like whether or not they keep a clean room or like to study late. At first, the names are kept private but the system will eventually spit out some potentially-compatible matches. Next, the college-bound students can choose who to connect with.
There's a much different policy in place at St. Olaf.
"We don't let kids pick their own roommates," explained Greg Kneser.
Instead, the incoming class of 860 was asked to answer housing questionnaires so administrators can use a set of guidelines to make the matches. Some of those guidelines include:
"We found out the hockey kid will find the hockey kid. The bassoon player will find the tuba player, but they won't always find each other," explained Kneser. "You put them together, and it opens up a whole new world for another kid."
For a big school like the University of Minnesota, about 15 to 20 percent of incoming students request a specific roommate, like a classmate from high school or a friend. The rest are paired by a software program that analyzes answers from housing questionnaires.
Experts recommend being honest about filling out those forms even if there are things you don't' want to admit because it may help you find a better match.