Random Assignment? More Like Perfect Alignment

One writer finds freshman roommate success stories.

by Parker O'Hara | 10/19/22 2:10am

freshman-to-sophomore-roommates-summerhargrave
by Summer Hargrave / The Dartmouth

Coming to Dartmouth is scary for a variety of reasons. There are the challenging classes, frigid winters and unfamiliar people, but there’s also the uncertainty of living with a complete stranger in incredibly close proximity. Transitioning from the luxury of having your own room, or sharing one with a sibling, to the unfamiliarity of sharing a small living space with a stranger or two is daunting. Dartmouth’s random assignment process for roommates certainly doesn’t ease any of these concerns. 

Unlike at many other schools, incoming freshmen at Dartmouth are not allowed to request another student as their preferred roommate. Instead, roommates are matched based on a brief form students fill out with questions primarily based on living style — like how clean they keep their space, when they go to bed and if they see the room as a social space. The questions are basic and straightforward, certainly more geared toward matching compatible roommates rather than facilitating friendships.

Nevertheless, these roommate pairings sometimes blossom into lasting friendships. Somehow — through the array of elementary questions about sleep schedule and cleanliness — the roommate matching system exceeds its primary responsibility: It not only pairs compatible roommates, but also spurs meaningful friendships. For some students, random freshman year roommates can turn into lasting roommate pairings. 

Julia Battle ’23 and Marisa Natarajan ’23 were paired together during their freshman year in Judge Hall. Their freshman year dorm, Judge 310, was a three room double, meaning they each had their own bedroom but shared a common space. This arrangement included more personal space than is typical of a freshman dorm, which was convenient considering the pair’s differences.

“In retrospect, we are very different. We have such different living styles,” Battle said. “It’s so funny, our sleep schedules are totally opposite. I may have fibbed a little bit and given myself a better sleep schedule on my form back in the day.”

Despite their incompatibility in living style, Battle explained how she and Natarajan quickly discovered their similarities in more valuable aspects, like hobbies, families and even height. 

“Marisa and I have a lot freakily in common,” Battle said. “We’re both singers and we ended up joining the same a capella group by accident. We joined the Glee Club together without really planning on it. We have a lot of the same interests. We’re also both five feet tall.”

Since living in Judge 310 as freshmen, the pair have roomed together every term with the exception of sophomore summer. Battle and Natarajan lived in their respective Greek Houses over that summer, which Natarajan said was “tragic.” Even when living situations were irregular, like during the fall of 2020 when only freshmen were permitted to live on campus, they lived in South Carolina together. This past summer, Battle lived in Natarajan’s basement in Oregon.

Though the pair are both close friends and roommates, Battle said that she appreciated how easy and casual it feels when they are together.

“I really enjoy that we can rest and hang out together,” she said. “I feel like the quiet moments are nice because it’s nice to have someone that you feel so comfortable with. I think that comes with sharing a space with someone for so long that you feel like you don’t have to ‘try’ when you’re there.”

Natarajan shared the same gratitude for the easygoing moments shared with her roommate. 

“I really appreciate having Julia as my roommate when it’s Sunday morning and we don’t feel like doing anything,” Natarajan said. “I wake up and I text Julia to ask if she’s awake, and then I go into her room and we talk about whatever. Then we make rice and eat it for breakfast and watch TV.”

Jorie MacDonald ’25 and Aila Owens ’25 were paired together freshman year in Mid Fayerweather Hall. They decided to live together again this year and plan to continue throughout their time at Dartmouth. 

Unlike Battle and Natarajan, Owens admitted that her and MacDonald’s compatibility “doesn’t make sense on paper.” MacDonald agreed.

“We’re just super polar opposite. We have completely opposite music tastes, political beliefs, fashion senses and ideal color palettes. Different priorities, interests, schedules,” MacDonald said. 

Even in terms of living style, MacDonald explained that there is not much overlap.

“Aila is a lot cleaner and neater than I am and actually cleans. I tidy sometimes, but my space is definitely a reflection of my mental state,” MacDonald said. “We go to bed at different times and live different lives, but somehow it works.”

MacDonald and Owens agreed that the key to their success lies in open and honest communication. Particularly considering many aspects of their schedules and lifestyles are different, they explained the importance of being candid about their needs.

“​​I’ve found that Aila is very easy to communicate with, and it was naturally very easy to say to each other, ‘Hey, I need the room, can you please get out for a bit?’” MacDonald said. 

Despite the seemingly insurmountable list of dissimilarities, their lasting friendship and decision to live together again shows that their roommate story is one of success. 

“​​Somehow it works and it’s cohesive and it’s home,” MacDonald said. “It’s like a sister vibe where sometimes we don’t really like each other but we always deeply love each other.”

Though not all random roommate pairings end in success stories, there is something to be said about the ones that do. A random match has the chance to lead to something permanent. Maybe you and your roommate aren’t entirely similar, or maybe you don’t even share a similar routine, but it just seems to work.

While Battle and Nataranjan ended up being two peas in a pod, MacDonald and Owens’s unlikely friendship proves that sometimes opposites attract, too. Although freshman roommate horror stories seem like a dime a dozen, it’s comforting to know that occasionally, random selection strikes gold.