Will You Be My College Roommate? The Age of the ‘Dormposal’

“Mom, I got asked to be someone’s roommate!” My soon-to-be-college-freshman daughter’s voice beamed. It was as if I’d been catapulted ten years into the future and she’d just received a marriage proposal. I reined in my excitement, nodding rather than speaking, while reminding myself that this was just college.

“She loves blue, like me,” my daughter continued. 

“That’s perfect,” I teased her. “Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue, dorm decor, yay!”

My eighteen-year-old rolled her eyes at me. “Stop.”

Finding a roommate was a priority for my daughter as soon as she received her college acceptance. (Shutterstock Dejan Dundjerski)

Just minutes after early decisions had dropped, my daughter had scrolled through her phone, showing me how future classmates began courting one another via direct messaging (DMs). She and the other students had listed their university names in their Instagram bio along with the graduation year. Now, once they “liked” the school’s Instagram page, other classmates could find them and check them out to consider as potential roommates.

With my daughter as my guide, I plunged into this whole new world where, if someone’s Instagram page was well curated, the student didn’t seem like a try hard, and their interests aligned with someone else’s, they might be cool enough, lucky enough, or whatever enough to score a roommate. The ritual made my heart race.

Finding a roommate is an added layer of stress

I’m guessing this anxiety-inducing practice would shock most parents like me who attended college in the dinosaur age, aka the 1990s. For this mom, who remembered back to experiencing enough pressure just leaving home, making the dean’s list, and procuring a sorority bid, I was appalled by the additional layer of tension roommate finding introduced into the mix. Talk about stress. 

Yet, when I really thought about it, this whole online reality is pretty normal for our kids’ generation. It is sort of like online dating. Is there an app for finding a college roommate? I researched and found out that of course there is. Sigh.

I was randomly paired with my roommate

Back in the pre-internet 90s, I was paired with a random person, a girl from a state north of mine. Her home address arrived in a letter from our university over the summer, just a few months before freshman year started. I wrote her a note on my favorite monogrammed stationary and received a reply with her phone number two weeks later. We exchanged letters and photos and chatted a few times before move-in day, which was the first time we met IRL. 

My black comforter with hot pink and teal stars clashed with her solid mauve one. I hung the famous black and white sailor and woman kissing poster on my wall, and she hung tapestries. As a short brunette from Staten Island, who sneaked to New York City bars with a really bad fake ID, I was in awe of the tall blonde from a Christmas tree farm in rural Connecticut who claimed she went cow-tipping for fun.

We couldn’t have been more opposite, and I can guarantee we wouldn’t have chosen to live together if the match wasn’t random. But, despite our differences, we became friends. When she transferred to another college in the second semester to be closer to her boyfriend, I scored a single.

But without her companionship, I was sad and forced, to once again step out of my comfort zone and meet people markedly different from myself to learn about independence. I think meeting people from all walks of life is an important feature of college. I hope that aspect doesn’t get watered down when our kids curate friends and roommates via social media before school begins.

My daughter was “engaged” to her roommate via Snapchat

My daughter and her future roommate were engaged to be roommates via Snapchat a few weeks after committing to school. They met up for lunch in a town halfway between where we both live, and my child came home from their in-person meeting, enamored.

I’m so happy things clicked so quickly and easily for them, even if I’m a little sad for the whole generation of kids who won’t know the combination of fear and excitement one feels when getting dropped off on a college campus, without knowing a soul, and being forced to open their minds and hearts to a kaleidoscope of new people in order to figure out how to survive their new world of independence. 

There’s safety in getting to know all of your classmates, learning their stories, and mentally swiping left or right all before high school graduation. In some cases, depending on the person, I bet that safety is a little bit like bowling with the guard rails up, so you never get a gutter ball. 

For now, since the frenzy of shopping around for prospective roommates continues, I’ll wish my fellow dinosaur-parents the strength to keep up with this new world our kids are navigating and, if it is what your child is hoping for, may they too receive a dormposal!

“I’m so happy we found each other, Mom. I’ll figure out the other college stuff,” my daughter said just yesterday. I’m grateful she has a close friend, a familiar face, and someone she considers a compatible living mate.

If I know her, she will spread her wings and be open-minded because she’s that kind of kid. So for now, my hope is that after we “walk her down the hallway” to her new room in August and she adjusts to college life, she’ll throw me a bouquet (because I’m such a great mom) and not just her dirty laundry when she comes home to visit.

More Great Reading:

Top Twelve Dorm Shopping Mistakes (2024)

About Holly Rizzuto Palker

Holly Rizzuto Palker is an award-winning writer who covers a range of topics, though her passion lies in parenting and family relationships. She’s been published in Parents, The New York Daily News, The Independent, Newsday, Rachael Ray In Season, Huffington Post, Kveller, Your Teen Magazine, and more. She’s writing a novel and a book. She speaks at conferences and events about writing, parenting and interfaith issues.

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