Facebook Fires Up College Freshmen... and Their Parents

By: Lauren Zakalik Email
By: Lauren Zakalik Email

When incoming college freshman Brandon Bernath found out who his roommate would be this fall at Western Michigan University, he didn't run to the telephone like generations of college students before him.

"When I first saw his name, I did what everyone says to do-- I looked him up on facebook."

And so did all of Bernath's friends when they got their roommate letters in the mail. Luckily, Bernath liked what he saw.

"We talked on facebook, we both like the same music, he likes backyard football, I like backyard football," he says, and the list of common interests goes on.

The problem is many freshmen-- and parents-- don't like what they see, and they're calling universities for room changes before they even meet the roommate in person.

One of Bernath's friend did just that at MSU.

"He basically decided he didn't like him, so he asked for a new roommate."

The same had been happening at Central Michigan University, but a new interactive roommate online selection program should change that.

"People would get online, not just students but parents, too, and they'd look at the pictures," says CMU Associate Director of Residence Life Joan Schmidt. "The parents would see things they didn't approve of, or they'd see things they would approve of and only then would they agree to the roommate. We would send assignment letters like we're about to do now and we'd be inundated with calls."

Bernath's father, Terry, says that mindframe is not up his alley.

"I don't think you should judge a person from online. You can always switch once you get there, why judge before hand?" he says.

His son agrees, saying he'd always planned to stick with his roommate-- for the experience; an experience, he says, no online first impression can compromise.

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