Roommate Nation

Something rarely mentioned about college is the roommate designation process. In my case, a notification arrived in the mail a month before the start of my freshman year. The letter included the person’s name, telephone number, and home address, and I was encouraged to call my new roommate and introduce myself.

What the letter failed to include was any other information about this person, which, looking back, is only asking for trouble. There are certain nuggets of information any sane person would request when interviewing a prospective roommate — a criminal record, for instance, or a detailed assessment of his or her general temperament and emotional triggers. This data is easy to collect — a handful of BuzzFeed quizzes could give you ninety percent of what you need to know about a person — and so I found it strange that the University didn’t provide it. But, like any teenager heading off to college, I had Jim Morrison posters to buy and dart boards to pack, so I didn’t give the matter much thought.

We didn’t last a single semester together. Eight weeks into the term, my roommate made it very clear that his intention was to murder me. Not figuratively, as in, Man, I could kill you for losing my one-hitter, but literally, as in, “Me and this kid sitting to my right hate you, and we intend to beat you to death.” Having spent the previous eight weeks waking him up before his alarm, locking him out of the room, and rearranging his things, I should have seen it coming. Some calls were placed, and a few days later I found myself carting my personal belongings to a new room across campus. This, too, was a doomed arrangement, and within a few weeks I found myself packing up my stuff for the second time that semester.

My third roommate was probably the best person I’ve ever lived with, excepting my wife. He was brilliant, motivated, responsible, and detested pop music. Immediately, we became friends, and I still consider him one of my closest people. As tight as we were, though, things inevitably came up. He didn’t like the shape of my feet, resented them for sticking out of my bed at night. We could never agree on the thermostat, and I didn’t share his passion for rock flute. Still, we stuck it out through the end of freshman year and nearly our entire sophomore year.
In the end, the best living arrangement for me was a single room, which I scored at the end of my sophomore year. Even the best roommate is still a roommate, a permanent fixture whether you like them or not. College was overwhelming, and I found solitude to be the only healthy escape from the fucked-up Neurotypical world away from home.

So, consider encouraging your college-bound student to advocate for her- or himself. If she needs solitude and the college offers single residences, perhaps she should stay in front of the head of Residence Halls until she gets the room that suits her. If he can stomach a roommate but needs a quiet floor, he should absolutely insist on that. No exceptional student should ever settle for a University’s arbitrary room and roommate assignments. Someone on that campus is going to be awarded his or her ideal room, so why shouldn’t that person be your child?

Most important, wherever your kid ends up, be sure they hang a sweet poster of a shirtless Jim Morrison above their bed. It’s a time-proven signal to Neurotypical kids that your child is cool and available to party at any moment.

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