Find-a-roommate software eases back-to-school butterflies for MacEwan students

Holly Sangster travelled to Edmonton from Calgary, the first time the 18-year-old has lived away from her parents. And she did her homework before she arrived.

First-year students are matched through the school's online software

Some 500 new students are set to move in to the MacEwan University residence this week. (MacEwan University)

Heading into first-year university for many means moving to a new city or province and leaving home for the first time.  

Such is the case for several students at MacEwan University — 500 are moving in to residence on campus over the long weekend.

For Holly Sangster, who travelled to Edmonton from Calgary, it's the first time she has lived away from her parents.  

And she did her homework before she arrived.

Sangster, 18, practically hand-picked her roommate, Cierra Wanner from Cold Lake.

The two were already acquainted when they met in person for the first on Sunday during moving-in day at the campus.

"We're like the same person," Sangster laughed. "She's the Cold Lake version of me and I'm the Calgary version of her." 

They discovered they have common interests through MacEwan's online software, StarRez. 

Holly Sangster and Cierra Wanner joke around outside their two-bedroom dorm suite. (CBC)

"We're both really big into music," Wanner said. She plays the tenor saxophone while Sangster plays the alto saxophone. Both play the piano.

Wendy Brost, MacEwan's senior manager of resident services, said StarRez helps students choose roommates ahead of time.

"We have a really robust software for student housing," she said. "You can go around and see people's profiles."

StarRez asks students to fill out a questionnaire.

"What type of music do you like? Do you stay up late? Are you a morning person?" Brost said.

"This gives us the best possible match in roommate situations."

'Not a stranger anymore'

The system provides a level of probability that the two prospective students will be compatible roommates. If there is a compatibility rating of 80 per cent or more, it's a safe bet the two students will get along, Brost said. 

Students can also send each other messages and start chatting directly before agreeing to room together.

"We get them all together and doing fun events so they have a big group of friends before school even starts," Brost said.

Brost said students moving in to the campus residence are usually from rural Alberta, Manitoba, B.C. or Ontario.

Cierra Wanner's mother, Jeannette Hunter, is pleased her daughter found a compatible roommate at MacEwan. (CBC)

"They can get to know each other before they even move here," Brost said. "And they may discuss things like, 'I'll bring a coffee maker if you bring a toaster.' 

"Their roommate is not a stranger anymore."

'A really big step'

Sangster is enrolled in the Bachelor of Music in jazz and contemporary popular music, while Wanner is taking esthetics at neighbouring MC College.

Wanner said she is facing a different kind of adjustment from her Calgarian roommate. Coming from Cold Lake, population 15,000, to Edmonton, population 930,000, is a big change.

"Coming from a really small town ... is a really big step," Wanner said Sunday. "Definitely a lot of emotion."

Wanner's mother, Jeannette Hunter, said she's relieved her daughter found a suitable roommate. 

A total of about 750 students are moving in to residence at MacEwan this year. (CBC)

"That was a big concern for her that she might get paired up with somebody that she didn't really get along well with," Hunter said.

"They did a really good job with the selection process and how the students were able to match up with each other based on their activities, their likes, their goals, their dreams."

 A two-bedroom apartment at MacEwan Residence is $750 a month, including utilities, internet and furniture.