Choosing roommate or letting Dickinson assign one? Learning Community?

Please share from personal experience advice/advantages/disadvantages on choosing a roommate freshman year as opposed to having Dickinson assign one. Also, please share any thoughts on choosing to live in the residential learning community.

I’m a parent of an incoming freshman, so I don’t have any personal experience with this. However, let’s suppose you meet someone you really like during an Accepted Student event in March or April and you both agree you’d like to room together. One potential issue I see is that for this to work, Dickinson’s policy is that the two of you must choose the same first year seminar or learning community. You can’t be placed with a roommate who doesn’t choose the same seminar/learning community. So when thinking about this with my D, I suspect the chances are pretty slim that tomorrow at the Open House she’ll meet another girl with whom she hits it off (it could be a teammate, since she is a recruited athlete) AND who also just happens to have the same intellectual interests. And further, what are the chances they will also have the same lifestyle habits like neatness/messiness, bedtimes, etc… You have to consider if an initial affinity with someone you chatted with online or whatever is worth potentially sacrificing the seminar you like best or lifestyle preferences that suit you. Of course, we can’t know if the school will do a better job assigning you than you would. But I can tell you if D meets some kids tomorrow she really likes but they want to do a seminar related to math or physics, it’s just not going to work lol.

My kid lived in a learning community, and said it was the best choice she could have made. She thought the more serious students gravitated to them, and a high percentage of the kids who graduated with Phi Beta Kappa happened to be in her learning community.

She roomed blind (let Dickinson assign), and that didn’t go so well. But it didn’t derail her good experience at Dickinson.

Thanks for the responses! I hope my daughter will explore the learning community option further, it seems like an excellent and unique opportunity for a more inquisitive and academic minded student.

My daughter, currently a Sophomore, corresponded with several girls in the Dickinson Facebook page for accepted students for a few months. She found one girl who had similar sleeping patterns, who was not into partying like her and who she felt would be a good match. They even met for lunch during a school break because she was visiting relatives who live near us and really hit it off. They selected each other as roommates and had a wonderful year together. They did not have the same First Year seminar.

Idiomas, I’m confused. If you pick your own roommate, does Dickinson make an exception to the rule about room placement based on the chosen seminar?

@TheGFG If you select one of the First Year Seminars that are part of the Learning Communities then your chosen roommate must also be part of that Learning Community. My daughter and her roommate both chose seminars that were not part of the Learning Communities. Students actually have to rank their top 5 choices. She got her first choice. There is a wide variety of topics so there really is something for everyone. During my daughter’s year (2015) they had a much higher yield than normal and ended up with I believe 730 freshmen (the norm is in the low 600s).They ended up adding extra seminars in May/June in order to maintain the small class sizes.

Another thing to note is that whoever teaches their First Year Seminar becomes their advisor until they declare a major.

Here you can read more about the process. This was for last year’s class:

Thanks!. I had seen that, but misunderstood. I thought since all students are housed based on their chosen seminar (even if they don’t chose the learning community ones), that roommates had to be in the same seminar. “You will also find the students of your First-Year Seminar, and even thematically related seminars, living in your residence hall and nearby buildings.”

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It can be a bit confusing with all the different choices available. I can’t recall if D had kids from her seminar living in her dorm.

Another thing that they pick is their FIG (First Year Interest Group). My D chose a Social Justice one and she got really close to her FIG leader (a Senior at the time) and some of the other students. They had activities planned throughout the year and they frequently ate together, went out for ice cream, etc… This FIG got her even more interested in the topic and now she volunteers a couple of days a week through programs that are offered through Dickinson’s Center for Service, Spirituality and Social Justice (teaching ESL, promoting healthy eating habits at an after school program, etc…).

@idiomas just curious, what is her major? I am interested in social justice as well and if I am unable to major in it, that sounds like the perfect interest group for me.

@jwyly12 She is double majoring in French
and Italian Studies and is pursuing a Food Studies Certificate. There is no Social Justice major or minor, but there are classes offered through the Sociology, American Studies, Africana Studies, Latin American Studies, Political Science and Women and Gender Studies departments (among others) that fit within the social justice theme.

Plus there are tons of volunteering and leadership opportunities through the Center for Service, Spirituality and Social Justice. They also do a great job bringing in tons of speakers. I have found that Dickinson attracts students that are socially aware. My D wishes there were more hours in the day to fit in all the activities that she wants to participate in.

There is usually a Social Justice FIG offered every year, as well as First Year Seminars.

Another great option is participating in the service trips offered during all the breaks. My D participated in January on a 10 day trip to Guatemala where they helped build an environmentally-friendly school in a mountain village. During the longer Winter break the trips are international (they have gone to Belize and Cameroon in recent years) and during the Fall and Spring breaks they travel domestically. You have to go through a selective process that includes essays, recommendations and a group interview, but it is so worth it and life-changing.

@idiomas thank you for the reply! lots of helpful info!

Despite having the option to select a roommate, the majority of the first year class uses the preferences survey for their roommate pairing. The option to select a roommate was introduced after my first year, but I can say I benefited from living with someone who I did not know well (we’re still very good friends and both in our senior year at Dson). I’ve seen many first years who select a roommate who is on the same athletic team as them, somebody they went to high school with, or even a twin sibling. Selecting a roommate that you know you will get along with does reduce some anxiety in the transition to college, however it can quickly become isolating. Residence Life does a great job at pairing students from the survey, and I am grateful that I was pushed outside of my comfort zone early on.

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