Dan Grover: How GW can help students avoid pairing with bad roommates

It’s that time of year again. The roulette wheel at Martha’s Marathon is getting greased up, the University set residence hall prices, and roommates are either making up, breaking up or moving on. Everywhere you turn, it’s obvious – it’s time to pick housing for next year.

And as exciting and refreshing as it can be to look for a new place to live, there are invariably those who don’t want to live with their current roommates, want a change of pace, or just need someone new to live with. Not to mention, there are incoming freshmen who don’t know anyone at GW besides a few people they met in a Facebook group.

For these roommate-less people, filling out the housing survey can be a crapshoot: As it stands, the bare-bones housing survey covers the basics, asking questions about when students go to sleep, whether they smoke, and whether they are tidy. These are a good baseline, but they are inflexible.

There’s a simple way to prevent a year’s worth of room swaps or passive-aggressive awkwardness even before move-in day: All we need is a more holistic, comprehensive housing survey.

The University rolled out the new iHousing portal Thursday. GW Housing designed the new website to function in more browsers and be easier to navigate. It only makes sense to bulk up the housing survey at the same time.

Here’s one thing the housing department should look into: offering a sliding scale for answers. I remember when I first filled out the survey as a freshman, I felt confined to answer a series of yes or no questions. A scale would help students expand on the gray areas of their personalities and living habits, allowing potential roommates to get a better sense of what the other is like.

For example, take the question of tidiness. What might be a “yes, I am neat,” to one person may not be the same thing to another. A scale of say, one to five, can help give a better sense of the person you’re about to live with.

But the survey should also include more questions to make it easier for students to gain insight about someone with whom they’re going to spend nine months sharing a room. Adding questions on music taste and personal habits – or even leaving space for to put a Myers-Briggs psychological personality test score – could help dramatically. The more compatible a student is with his or her roommate, the better that housing experience will be.

Other universities have comprehensive housing surveys that do great things in the long run. Stanford University is famous for its lengthy list of questions that hit an entire slew of personality qualities. There, the result is that many people live with their freshman year roommate for all four years.

More than anything, a student’s housing experience is crucial to their opinion of the University. Roommate situations are daily and constant. If these relationships are strained, that will greatly influence how a student thinks of their time at GW.

One of the University’s main goals is to increase student retention – but it will only successful if students aren’t happy with their roommates. A more detailed housing survey could help alleviate this problem.

And while it’s true that students who are unhappy can simply room swap, a number are probably more willing to be passive aggressive about the trash and dishes than make waves by making the time-consuming effort to move across campus.

But if the University works with students to build a better housing survey, we could solve these before they even happen.

The writer, a sophomore majoring in English, is a Hatchet columnist.

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