Universities take advantage of compatibility surveys for dorms


When Amanda Sapp remembered her freshman year living in UNF housing, she cringed at the thought. Sapp, who is now a UNF graduate, was randomly placed in the Osprey Landing with two roommates she hadn’t met before that first semester.

Their personalities couldn’t have been more different.

“My roommates partied all the time, and they were always coming home drunk really late at night,” Sapp said. “I was never out as late as they were, and they always woke me up by turning on all the lights and the television when they got home. Let’s just say I didn’t get a lot of sleep that semester. It was a horrible situation.”

Because of the differences with her roommates, Sapp couldn’t wait to get out of her dorm room and eventually decided it was better to move off campus altogether. To make sure problems like Sapp’s don’t occur, some universities screen students before pairing them with roommates in college dormitories.

“We’ll ask students questions about their study habits, academic goals and what organizations they plan to get involved with,” said Andy Baker, the assistant dean of admissions at Stetson University. “It helps students to place them with someone they feel more comfortable with. We have found that most students are happy with the matches we pair them with.”

Baker added that they especially try to pair students with similar majors, but just in case they aren’t happy with the matches, the Stetson housing office gives students two weeks to change rooms.

Not many take them up on the offer, he said.

Compatibility surveys are used to help students find roommates with similar personality traits at colleges all across the country, but until there are definite statistics that prove these surveys actually work, UNF housing isn’t going to use them.

“There are no stats that prove room matching works,” said K.J. McConnell, the assistant director of the department of residence life at UNF. “Usually parents stand over the students’ shoulders while they fill out the surveys, so they are not always going to be honest. There would still be conflicts even if we had a survey.”

However, there are statistics that prove roommate pairing can work, according to a study from Arizona State University.

In an effort to increase the retention of residents on a primarily commuter campus, Arizona State started using a compatibility survey to attract students to a dormitory especially for engineering majors.

After the first semester, the university surveyed the dorm residents and found that 82.4 percent were so satisfied with their matched roommates that they were going to continue living with them for the rest of the school year.

Jacksonville University hasn’t conducted research like Arizona State, but according to its assistant director of residential life, Devon Scheible, the university is still sticking by their system of roommate matching.

“We haven’t done a whole lot of research on that, but I would venture to guess it helps,” Scheible said. “If we can pair people with roommates who have similar sleeping habits and sharing preferences, that could make all the difference.”

JU uses a computer software program to match their first-year students. The incoming residents fill out their personal preferences about cleanliness, noise levels, sharing and sleeping habits.

In addition, students are also asked how often they’ll travel home, how they would like to handle conflict, what they would like their relationship with their roommate to be and whether they plan to use their dorm rooms for studying or hanging out with friends.

Then the computer will sort each student with his or her most compatible roommate, Scheible said.

UNF only asks whether students smoke and if they would mind living with someone who does smoke.

McConnell said a student’s smoking preferences is the best indicator of a compatible roommate.

However, some students are interested in more factors than just that. Chris Galati, a high school senior from Tampa, who is still trying to choose which college to attend after graduation, said compatibility surveys might make him feel better about his final college choice.

“These surveys would make the transfer between high school and college a whole lot easier,” Galati said. “If I knew that my roommate has the same approach and lifestyle as me, I would feel more relaxed in the transition because I’d know that I have a decent roommate. I just think that these surveys will relieve stress from the incoming freshmen.”

But even if compatibility surveys don’t match students to their ideal roommate or new best friend, their main purpose is to help avoid roommate conflicts. There is nothing worse than living with one or two people who sleep at different times or have mismatching standards of cleanliness in a room smaller than a studio apartment, and compatibility surveys have the potential to prevent roommate conflicts from happening, Galati said.

“If students with different lifestyles move in together, there would be constant problems,” he said. “These surveys also would create better study environments for those who want to study and better party environments for those who want to party because students would be rooming with people with the same or pretty close personalities. In general, I think this would resolve some conflicts.”

The UNF department of residence life isn’t opposed to adding compatibility questions to its housing application but not until they find statistics that prove they work.

“The most conflicts happen when people live with their friends because students don’t expect their friends to have bad habits,” McConnell said. “But if stats showed [surveys] worked, then we would not be opposed to utilizing them.”