URoomSurf.com designed to help students find potential college roommates

Jessica Kantor | Staff Writer

Two students at the University of Miami (FL) have created a website where incoming college freshmen from high schools across the country can find a “random roommate” on their own: URoomSurf.com. Students create profiles similar to ones created on dating websites to communicate with other members about rooming together based on survey results taken by the site.

Dan Thibodeau, a 2008 University of Miami graduate and co-founder of URoomSurf.com, said that the website provides a simpler format than Facebook for getting to know possible roommates.

“In the school Facebook groups, we noticed students were trying to find roommates by posting long surveys on the discussion board,” Thibodeau said. “By May, there were over 500 posts about roommates in the Miami Facebook group. We then wondered if other schools besides Miami were trying to find roommates like that as well, and at virtually every school across the country there were similar posts.”

Senior Cody Romani said he discovered the website through a Facebook group.

“I found the website on Facebook,” Romani said. “I joined the Ohio University group and the link was there.”

Senior Jenna Bookman also found URoomSurf.com through the Facebook group for her chosen college, the Ohio State University. She said that she has been in contact with several members on the site.

“I have talked to quite a few people,” Bookman said. “I am still talking to people and getting to know them; it is so weird getting to know people that way. [I don’t have any] roommates yet, but I have made a couple of friends.”

When an account is created, the student completes a survey about themselves and what they prefer in a roommate. The site then calculates a percentage match to other members attending the same school based on answers to the survey.

Thibodeau said that the website’s matching system creates a more accurate match for potential roommates than the typical college survey.

“Most college surveys, if they have them, only ask a couple very basic questions and usually don’t deal with personality,” Thibodeau said. “We developed our survey based on the most important issues that make or break roommate experiences — hygiene, spirituality, study/party time split, how likely you are to have overnight guests and so on.”

Thibodeau said the questions on the site can be preferenced by students to create a more individualized match.

“You choose an answer, [then] select how you would like your roommate to have responded (it’s a ‘Check all that apply’ for this one) and then choose how important that question is to you,” Thibodeau said. “Everyone is different — we didn’t want to decide across the board which questions are weighted more heavily than others, so we let students decide how to weight questions.”

After a survey is taken by the user, the answers are compared with other members’ responses that are attending the same school.

“Once the survey is complete, answers are calculated against everyone else at your school, and everyone in your network (same sex) are displayed with the percentage they match what you’re looking for,” Thibodeau said. “You can then view profiles with more detailed information, like activities and interests, and anything else they want to say about themselves.”

Romani said the percentage method can be confusing and sometimes inaccurate.

“There are two people that messaged me based on [the] percentage matched,” Romani said. “I have written back to one of them. Some of my matches have been successful. It is a little confusing how the site figures out [the matches], because it says you are matched with the roommates a certain percentage, [while the roommates] match you a [different] percentage. Some of [the matches] seemed right, but one guy was completely off and I knew we would not get along.”

Bookman said that the site has been somewhat successful for her, but she found some of the questions posed by the survey to be unimportant to her search for a roommate.

“I thought the questions on the site were kind of odd,” Bookman said. “There was one about how often you prefer your roommate to shower. I guess I was kind of matched successfully; [none of the profiles] have been really ‘out there.’”

Romani said it is important to him that he knows his roommate before the first day of school.

“I want to choose my roommate before school so there is no awkwardness,” Romani said. “I don’t want to show up the first day and say, ‘Hey, I’m Cody, and we are living together for the next year.’ It would be nice to get to know them during [the] summer so that [we] kind of have a friendship and can show up the first day and start living the college life and hav[ing] fun.”

Bookman said that choosing her roommate before school is important to her because she wants to make sure she can communicate with and connect to whoever it is.

“I want to make sure it is someone who I at least know,” Bookman said. “It would be nice to talk to [my roommate] and be sure we have something in common, and we can talk before [school starts] to match room stuff.”

Thibodeau said he agreed that it is important to choose who to live with during the first year of college.

“Not knowing who you’ll be sharing a room with for a year is a major concern for incoming students,” Thibodeau said. “Even simple things like buying dorm accessories are easier when you know you and your roommate like the same things. You can decide who will bring what, who would rather have the bottom bunk and what type of music you’re both cool with blasting at 11 p.m. on a Tuesday. At the end of the day, you should be able to choose who you want to share your dorm room with for a year.”

Romani said his interest in the site came from his awareness of the fact that it was created by college students.

“I created an account just to see who I would be matched with,” Romani said. “I wanted to see what questions they would ask since it is a student-run website. Clearly, an important part of college is going out and having fun; the school survey is not going to ask if students go out and party, while a different website will. That is a factor [that affects] getting along with someone.”

Bookman said she created her account simply to find more people with which she can connect in order to in order to find a roommate that matches her personality.

“I thought it was a good way to put my name out there that I was still looking for a roommate,” Bookman said. “I haven’t really messaged that many people on it; I am kind of waiting for them to message me because I don’t know how to choose.”

Bookman said that the website has been helpful in giving her names of people that she could potentially connect with.

“I have waited for a couple of people to message me,” Bookman said. “It’s just been a good way to know who to look for. I am mainly using Facebook, but [URoomSurf] is a good place to find names, at least.”

Romani said he is just looking for someone with which he can enjoy spending time.

“I am looking for someone who is accepting of other views and is not judgmental,” Romani said. “If [I] want to go out and have fun, [a roommate shouldn’t] have a problem with it and [should] want to also.”

Qualities of URoomSurf.com:
– Over 700 different colleges represented
– Nearly 40,000 registered users
– Founded by University of Miami alumni (Justin Gaither, 24, and Dan Thibodeau, 23) in 2009
– Registering for an account is free. This allows you to look at users’ profiles within your selected college network.
– Roommate matching and messaging tools are offered as part of two accounts: URoomSurfBasic ($4.95) and URoomSurfPlus ($9.95 or an additional $4.95 as an upgrade from URoomSurfBasic).
– Messaging services offered are instant messaging, chatrooms, email-style inboxes and video-chat (coming soon)
– Opportunity to post profile picture, self-description, planned college activities, intended major, preferred housing plans and general interests