HACKENSACK, N.J. â€” As freshman year approached, Montclair State University students Jenny Rich and Sam Donia wanted a certain type of roommate. Their criteria: not too high-strung, not too girlish and close enough in size that they could share clothes.
Even a few years ago, they would have had to leave such considerations to chance, relying on questionnaires colleges send out every summer to match students with similar sleeping, smoking and cleaning habits.
But like hundreds of students entering universities across the country, Jenny and Sam, both 18, bypassed their schoolâ€™s matching service and took advantage of a new option: They found each other on the Internet.
â€œI didnâ€™t want to go through the stress of having a roommate I didnâ€™t like,â€ said Sam, of Washington Township, N.J.
The choice seems obvious to many members of this yearâ€™s freshman class, who were in fifth grade when Facebook launched in February 2004. Instead of relying on their schools to place them with total strangers, students can use social networking tools to make their own match weeks or months before they set foot on campus.
Some students find each other through Facebook groups. Others sign up for matching services (Jenny and Sam used one called Roomsurf.com) and some universities, including William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., have contracts with services that students can use.
William Paterson freshman Jason Krobatsch, who is gay, said he opted to use the service because he wanted to be certain any roommate would be comfortable with his sexuality.
â€œI was really nervous about finding someone who was OK with that,â€ he said. â€œThatâ€™s not something that was on the survey.â€
It also provided other advantages: Jason passed over two potential matches after determining one was not interested and the other was too much of a partier before landing on Carlos Arante, with whom he seemed to click. Within a few conversations, they had determined that Jason would bring the television and a lamp, and Carlos would bring the refrigerator and the microwave.