Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Rising Freshmen Look Online for the Charmed Life

Kyla Machel (COL ’10) said that she was looking for someone who shared a preference for a cold room when she used Georgetown’s Campus Housing Roommate Matching System to find her freshman roommate. With Elise Cardinale (COL ’10), she got a cold room and a warm friendship.

While online matchmaking sites were once reserved for dating purposes, CHARMS began by impressing its first patrons, the members of the Class of 2008, with its often-effective pairing of freshman roommates.

Georgetown introduced CHARMS to incoming freshmen beginning with the Class of 2008. With the popularity of the system among its guinea pigs, Georgetown has continued offering it to freshmen since 2004.

Using CHARMS, students can share information about their interests and living preferences online, exchange messages, and invite other students whom they have met through the system to be their roommates.

Twister Murchison (SFS ’08), said he is the CHARMS poster child, having stayed with his roommate for all four years at Georgetown.

“It worked out great,” he said. He added that he and his roommate are called the “dream team,” although he added, “It’s mostly self-referential, but what can you do.”

Like Murchison, many other seniors said they stayed with their CHARMS roommate for at least two years. According to Jonalyn Greene, executive director of student housing, 38 percent of those that used CHARMS lived with their roommate again sophomore year, compared to 28 percent who did not use CHARMS.

Overall, participation in CHARMS has increased substantially. Of the graduating seniors, only 49 percent used CHARMS to pick their roommates freshman year, compared to 72 percent of the Class of 2011 that elected to use the matchmaking service.

Green attributed much of this to the use of Web sites such as Facebook to supplement CHARMS.

“The popularity of the program has improved,” she said. “Though, we have found that in the last year or so, students are using social network sites to communicate to find students and then matching themselves through CHARMS, which may count for some of the increase in CHARMS matching.”

CHARMS does not allow participants to see the names or e-mail addresses of the other students with whom they exchange messages. According to the Office of Housing’s Web site, anonymity is maintained because CHARMS attempts to allow students to extend, accept or decline invitations “without having to worry about rubbing another student the wrong way.”

But many believe that being able to see pictures and having a more detailed profile is a better indicator of compatibility than the anonymous CHARMS profile.

Nicky Budd-Thanos (COL ’10) used Facebook to find her roommate, with whom she lived again sophomore year.

“Facebook is better because you see everything,” she said. “Their interests, their pictures and what their friends are saying to them. People are more than just a number.”

But not everyone agrees.

Rebecca Shapiro (COL ’08), who met her two-year roommate through CHARMS, said that making the program more personal would not have added much.

“I don’t think the anonymous part really mattered,” she said.

Classmate Teryn Allen (NHS ’08) agreed. Allen, who also found her roommate through CHARMS, felt that adding pictures or more personal information would have been superficial. “People would have judged,” she said. “Maybe a more detailed profile would have helped, but pictures definitely wouldn’t have added anything.”

Jessica Eidson (SFS ’08) agreed that additions to the system such as names or pictures would be unnecessary.

“You can always ask the person for their name in a message,” she said.

Katharine Dennis (COL ’09) and Erika Satterwhite (SFS ’09) call themselves a CHARMS success story, as Dennis said she felt the final section of the CHARMS profile added the necessary personal element.

“While the questions you answer on your profile are good basic roommate questions, the part that really interests people, in my opinion, is the last sort of `additional comments’ section, where you can write pretty much whatever you want,” she said.

“The section is the best indicator of someone’s personality,” she added. “Questions [about personal preferences and hygiene] are important, but they don’t really offer insight into someone’s personality or sense of humor, which is really important to roommate compatibility.”

ost seniors who had problems with their roommate match thought it had less to do with CHARMS and more to do with a lack of honesty in the profile. Allen, who chose not to continue living with her roommate after the second year, said that it turned out neither of them were completely honest on their profiles. “We probably both lied about a lot of things, like cleanliness,” she said.

Some seniors suggested that adding a CHARMS “round two” might have helped with some of the downfalls of CHARMS, such as the fact that living preferences, interests and eating and sleeping habits that students list on their profiles often change when they get to college.

Andrea Bjorkman (MSB ’08) said that having another CHARMS session as students pick roommates for sophomore year may have been beneficial. “The freshman-year experience obviously doesn’t work out for everyone,” she said. “Having another chance to use a matching system like CHARMS might have helped.”

Following the example of CHARMS, the roommate-matching services provided by the university have continued to expand in the past few years. Last fall, the Office of Off-Campus Housing partnered with the Web site, “Off-Campus Housing 101,” which uses a program very similar to CHARMS. It provides students with an online resource to find compatible roommates by creating profiles showing their inclinations regarding cleanliness, dietary preferences and sleeping habits, among other categories. Unlike CHARMS, Off-Campus Housing 101’s “Roommate Finder” is not anonymous; participants post their names, contact information and picture.

While mostly used by those searching for off-campus housing and roommates, on-campus students could also make use of the Roommate Finder to discover roommates. Like Facebook, the Roommate Finder could be an alternative for students looking for a more personal, less anonymous system.

Satterwhite said that she and Dennis get along better than any other people they know who live together, adding that she would definitely recommend CHARMS to future classes. “The system works so well because you can chat with people and get to know them before jumping right into living with them,” she said. “And it’s definitely better than just having a random person live in the same room with you.”

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