It’s a new year and with this new year are your typical suite of new-year-comings: another notch on the Gregorian calendar, a rotation of the Chinese zodiac (it’s the year of the fire chicken, for those of you who don’t know), an increase in inclement weather and the dreaded college housing lottery.
Currently, I’m a senior in his last semester and will likely never have to go through the toil of the housing lottery ever again. Nevertheless, I believe I’m in a position to impart what little wisdom I’ve managed to glean on this subject over the past four years onto those among us who might still consider themselves a bit green around the edges. In general, choosing one’s housing for next year ought to be a clean, simple process. Even so, as most students will tell you, it is too often a situation that can devolve into a mess of awkward miscommunication and hurt feelings. I don’t claim to be an expert at Dormitology, but I’ve found that there does seem to be a number of deviant behaviors and unsavory attitudes that people occasionally exhibit in the stress of uncertain housing. Here are a few methods by which people can avoid these unsavory behaviors.
For one, a big thing I’ve seen around here, come housing lottery time, is the exacting nature by which students will attempt to secure themselves spots in the most desirable of Brandeis’ on-campus lodgings. It’s true how living in a nice residence is pretty great and all, but I have in the past come across a number of rather extreme cases by which students would try getting themselves into the “best” dorms. I remember one instance in my first year where one of my friends was actually offered about a thousand dollars in exchange for his excellent, single-digit lottery number. It was a deal he accepted, but ultimately it ended up in him and his customer being busted for collusion and him commuting from home instead of living in the best sophomore housing available. Honestly, I’d have been tempted to act in a similar fashion, if only due to another rather staunch belief I have regarding this whole housing business.
This belief is simply that the way to avoid any unnecessary drama or confusion during housing season is to realize that the novelty and comfort of living in, say, Ridgewood as an upperclassman or Village as an underclassman is something that doesn’t stick forever and is actually kind of ephemeral. I’m well aware this is likely the prevailing attitude among most college students no matter what school they’re attending, but in the obscuring bloodlust of the housing lottery, it’s something that I’ve occasionally seen subsumed by the competitive instincts of We Who Are So Highly Educated Friends. Personally, I’ve found myself happy occupying places that are free of bug infestations and are reasonably clean. From what I’ve heard of my friends, everyone else seems to also get used to where they live pretty quickly; whether that be a dulling of the enthusiasm they have for living somewhere really, really nice, or a lessened distaste for whatever basement floor, insect-ridden, two-by-two-foot hovel they were forced to live in due to their lack of well-numbered friends and terrible luck with the lottery. Should you so happen to come across a well-numbered friend who’s willing to pull you (and two to four other people, if you’re talking about a suite) into their housing arrangement, though, you ought to think on what I personally consider to be the most important criterion of college housing overall.
This criterion happens to be the actual people one ultimately decides to live with. This is too often something students tends to overlook. It varies depending on the person, but I’ve seen romantic couples move in together and then break up, friends who have fallings out upon going through the ritual logistics of setting up next-year housing and people complaining of their current roommates and their inability to respect one another’s privacy. I don’t think I need to really elaborate on the potential shortcomings a hasty choice of roommates might introduce into a college student’s life. If anything, don’t be choosy about the lodgings; be choosy about the people you share them with.
Overall, that’s what my advice to anyone currently nervous about the housing lottery. Shady deals can backfire, the glory or dishonor of resting your luggage in a certain residence hall isn’t permanent and it’s typically a really good idea to figure out if you’re compatible living with your future roommates before you actually start living with them. You could also opt out of the housing lottery entirely and move off campus, but that takes arguably even more preparation, introduces more drama, is logistically harder and is a story for another tim