Typically, college freshmen wait – often nervously – until the start of the school year to meet the person they would share a dorm room with for the next nine months.
But Sacramento State freshmen Ashley Sanchez and Destinee Malde-Sanchez got to know each other for six months before moving into their residence hall Friday, thanks to an online roommate matching service offered by their school’s department of housing and residential life.
The students were among about 1,700 meeting dorm mates and hauling TVs, refrigerators and suitcases into dormitory halls with helpful – and sometimes tearful – parents at the school’s annual Move-in Day.
Even more helpful were the 300 upperclassmen who volunteered to welcome new students with large smiles and loud hellos, direct them from parking lot to check-in to dorm room, and help families carry belongings.
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Patty Loosly was moving her son George into the dorms and was grateful for the help.
“We basically only had to make two trips to the car,” she said.
Her son chose his own roommate. But many others use the online system, which is, “sort of like Match.com,” said Samuel Jones, California State University, Sacramento, senior associate director of housing. The system has been used since roughly 2009. “If students like each other’s profiles, they can talk to each other,” he said.
The university has all students who apply to live in the dorms fill out a questionnaire about topics ranging from sleep and study habits to musical tastes. Answers are used to create online profiles that students can browse to find potential roommates.
Jones estimates that 60 percent to 65 percent of students moving into dorms this fall selected their own roommates, though not all use the school’s online system.
Some students chose someone they knew from a previous school to share a room with. And about 300 to 400 students did not select a roommate at all and waited for staff to do the work, Jones said. These students were auto-assigned to a dorm mate using four criteria: smoker or nonsmoker, ability to live with a smoker, sleep habits and study habits.
Transfer student Jose Rodriguez is among those who chose not to select his own roommate.
“It doesn’t matter who it is,” said Rodriguez, a sophomore who transferred from the College of the Desert in his hometown, Mecca.
Freshman Elizabeth Barba was not as easy-going about her housing situation, according to her sister Maria. The new student found a roommate on the online profile system, but when the two were accidentally separated in the school’s room assignment process, her parents wrote letters to the housing department, which reunited the pair.
“Now she’s happy that she can live with the person she chose,” said Maria, as her sister unpacked her bags.
Potential roommates communicate through social media after using the online system and – if they’re feeling old-fashioned – through phone calls or face-to-face meetings. If things click they can request to room together, as long as they are the same gender, Jones said.
Sanchez said she connected with Malde-Sanchez six months ago on Twitter after seeing and liking her profile.
“We started to text and get to know each other, to see if we wanted to be roommates,” said Sanchez, who is from Manteca.
The pair met for the first time in person two weeks ago when visiting each other’s hometowns.
On Friday, they unpacked clothes and hung up posters in their new shared room while teasing as if they had known each other for years.
“She’s like my best friend,” Sanchez said.
Freshman Michael Tong, from Fairfield, decided to room with a childhood friend, a move he believes will make the transition to college easier. Tong’s father, Leland, is excited to have his son out of the house and happy that he is with a friend.
“It makes me feel like I have at least one person, instead of just coming here fresh and new,” Michael Tong said.
Technology may have changed the way that CSUS students can choose their roommates and keep in touch with mom and dad, but it hasn’t changed how emotionally parents respond to leaving their children at college for the first time.
As Sanchez unpacked, her mother, aunt and grandmother sat in a parent lounge and wrote letters that will be delivered to their “baby” after her first week in the dorms. All three teared up as they talked about leaving Sanchez at school.
“I’m definitely going to miss her. She’s my only baby, my only girl,” mom Laura said.