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Like computer dating for college roommates, algorithm makes match

Like dating sites that promise to find the perfect match, technology is also helping colleges pair up compatible roommates.

Samantha Carneiro and Samantha Richards, freshman roommates at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California, joke that they're so much alike, they're practically twins.

"Both of our names are Sam, obviously," Carneiro says. "We both like Tiffany blue. We both really love giraffes. It's just the most randomest things."

They were matched with the help of an online tool called StarRez, a program used by more than 400 colleges and universities around the country, including big campuses like Ohio State, New York University, and the University of California, Berkeley.

StarRez works like an online dating site, using a proprietary algorithm to match compatible roommates. Students fill out a questionnaire and can then review matches and profiles. StarRez determined that the two Samanthas had a greater than 80 percent compatibility.

The algorithm can be customized by different institutions to weigh a variety of factors in making matches.

"Attributes might include whether they smoke, watch TV when they're studying, whether they like to cook," explains Joe Lindwall, the vice president of sales and marketing at StarRez.

The company says it's found the two most important factors are usually students' study and sleeping habits.

"The combination of those two things can really, really say a lot about how a student relationship is going to go," Lindwall said.

StarRez is only one aspect of the technology roommates now use to build and strengthen relationships.

"They're able to use Facebook or social media outlets to connect with that person and get to know them on a deeper level," said Samantha Alberto, the housing operations manager St. Mary's College.

Last year, 7 percent of first-year students at the school were unhappy enough to request a housing change. St. Mary's hopes to see a decrease in its second year of using StarRez.

The algorithm worked perfectly for freshman roommates Cameron Wiggins and Stephen Hasbrook. They got along so well they've requested to live together again next year.

"We're actually 100 percent compatible on StarRez," Hasbrook said.