Room “mates” How Calvin matches you with your roommate, and how to make the most of your experience

Room “mates”
Roommates share how they learned to live well together—and even become friends

With the excitement of starting college comes the anxiety of moving into the residence halls—and for many students, moving in with a roommate for the first time.

While some students choose to live with an existing friend, approximately two-thirds of first-year students leave the matching to Calvin and move in with someone who was selected for them by Calvin’s specialized roommate matching process.

Step 1: The technical match

Calvin uses a special software program that generates ideal pairs based on your responses on the housing application. After analyzing lifestyle aspects such as musical tastes, sleep preferences and cleanliness, the software matches you to another person with complementary preferences and habits.

Step 2: The human touch

The computer-generated match is just the first step in the matching process. After the program has created a potential roommate match, the Calvin residence life staff reviews every pair by hand. During this stage, residence life is able to address all sorts of specific details. For example, if you indicated a nut allergy in the comments section of your housing application, you will be placed on a nut-free floor. If you are interested in the outdoors or athletics, residence life will work hard to place you with someone who shares this passion, rather than someone who prefers indoor activities. While the goal of this roommate matching system is to create a pair that lives well together, many of the matches are so successful that deep friendships form, and people end up living together throughout college.

In the end, it all depends on you

While residence life has an amazing record of producing successful roommate pairs, they rely on the honesty and accuracy of the information you provide on your housing application. When you are filling out your housing form, give as much specific information as possible to ensure that the process is as beneficial to you as it can be. Once you’ve arrived at Calvin it’s up to you to make the most of your new living situation. Talk about your preferences regarding sleep, study habits and having friends over—then record your decisions in a roommate contract. Whether you’re new or lifelong friends, being a good roommate takes work, communication and compromise.

Daniel and Michael: Matched by video games and musical tastes

What they were worried about:
“The only thing I worried about, and probably what most other kids worried about, was that I might not get along with my roommate.” —Daniel

At Calvin:
“We have shared interests in video games and shows and stuff, but the main thing that’s made it easy for us to live together is being willing to show interest in what the other guy is into.” —Michael

“We actually just talk a lot. I think we’ve become more able to just talk about anything that friends would talk about. We like a lot of the same bands, movies and TV shows, so it was really easy to relate to each other right off the bat.” —Daniel

When you disagree:
“We don’t disagree on much (other than whether we should go to Commons or Knollcrest for dinner). We know when to give a little and to take a little back.” —Daniel

Advice to new students:
“Calvin does a good job of matching people, so there’s not much to worry about. It was almost eerie in our case. We’ve been asked a lot if we knew each other before coming to Calvin. The answer is no, but by now it’s hard to imagine a time when we didn’t know each other.” —Michael

Kelly and Macy: Honest answers = the ideal match

Before Calvin:
“Since we live pretty close to each other, we met at a Panera midway between our homes and talked about our families, friends, interests and how we wanted to decorate our room! It was a great way to break the ice and find some common ground.” —Macy

Filling out the housing application:
“It’s a good idea to have someone who knows you well (like a parent or best friend) look over your responses to the survey, because they will call you out if you sugarcoated anything. The form takes only a brief amount of time, but it’s so important! Take your time and be honest. Every detail threads your form one strand closer to your ideal match.”—Kelly

Advice to new students:
“Enter your rooming situation with a positive attitude, and be sure to look for the best in your roommate! There are a lot of adjustments and quirks you all have to adjust to, and that’s natural, because you’re learning how to live with someone you aren’t too familiar with.” —Kelly

“Cohabitation doesn’t necessarily mean sharing everything, but opening up does tend to make the roommate situation easier. You tend to see your roommate a lot (read: at least every night), so it’s a lot more fun to bond over the similarities than to dwell on the ways you’re different. Find your roommate’s strengths and really appreciate them!” —Macy

Caitlin (strategic communications, Brighton, Ont.) and Sarah (digital communications, Castleton, Ont.)
Caitlin (strategic communications, Brighton, Ont.) and Sarah (digital communications, Castleton, Ont.)

Sarah and Caitlin: BFFs since kindergarten

What they were worried about:
“Before college, a lot of people would make foreboding remarks about us jeopardizing our friendship by living together, but I still felt like I was making the right decision for me. Because I already know and love Sarah, it is a lot easier to understand her habits and forgive minor things. We talked a lot about it, and always came to the same conclusion: that as long as we were both willing to make it work, it would work.” —Caitlin

At Calvin:
“We’re both really active and artsy, so we have a lot of the same hobbies. We’ve started rock climbing, and we both love the challenge in it. Going into college with a roommate I already knew didn’t mean I couldn’t make new friends. In fact, it has been a blessing having a surefire friend, especially in the beginning when everyone is scrambling for a friend group.” —Caitlin

When they disagree:
“Our key to maintaining a relationship is being flexible and humble, ready and willing to admit fault, but also able to hold the other person to a standard of honesty and trust.” —Caitlin

Advice to new students:
“Be patient with a new roommate. Not everything is going to be perfect within the first month or so, so you need to give time for yourself and your roommate to adjust and get used to living with someone else.” —Sarah

VERGE: spring 2014

First-Year Experience