The six questions that could make or break a school year. Are you loud? A night person? Use media often? These questions are just a few of the factors that separates you, your roommates, and any other student on campus from housing together. According to Molly Petersen, Assistant Director of Student Housing, an annual average of 2/3 of incoming students go into the PLNU housing application without choosing their own roommate(s). How does Point Loma Nazarene University curate a student’s on-campus living situation? How compatible are these decided roommates? In fact, the decision rarely focuses on how “compatible” a student is with their roommates in comparison to other deciding choices of their application.
A PLNU student housing application includes questions regarding a student’s dorm/apartment preference and six questions that allow the student to briefly express their personality, interests, and even peeves regarding their comfortable routine. “Depending on how early a student applies for their housing application determines where and who they will be placed with,” shares Petersen. According to these small snippets of information, the PLNU Housing Department files the student’s ID numbers into an automated software to match accordingly. StarRez, the automated student housing software used by PLNU, matches students according to their housing preference and the “five point likert scale” labeled on these six questions.
Petersen explained that a student may be paired with another if they are a maximum of “two notches away on the likert scale from one another”, but would rarely be paired if any different on a particular question. For example, if one student requested that they prefer their room clean, they may be paired with another student who is in the middle of the scale— not ultra tidy but not too messy. This flexibility allows the software to efficiently house the following students in batches. From there, Petersen supervises the activity and determines if all of the corresponding pairs fit properly into each room and approves of the decisions made.
How compatible can roommates become when the decision was sourced from a
computer? PLNU Senior and Psychology major, Kara Adams, experienced the random roommate assignment as an incoming freshman and feels that incorporating more specific, personality type questions should become available within the application. “If these options were available, I may have found a better fit. It worked out because we did have similar lifestyle choices (bed time, etc.), but at the same time, we were completely opposite,” Adams expresses. On the other hand, the PLNU Housing Department revealed that these high expectations from incoming students were much harder to meet years ago when the Residential Directors had to pair all of the students by hand. The department shared that many of these students were much more negatively vocal in regards to their living situation when PLNU attempted to pair students as compatible as possible. With the help of the housing software and the changed flexibility of roommate decisions over the years, the department expressed that there has been more positive feedback in regards to roommate pairing than their previous process. With the ins and outs regarding student housing, “It’s not the end all. You’re a lot more intricate than just six questions.”