Winning the Housing Lottery

By Kate Mathalone

After receiving acceptance letters and making the big decision about where to go to college in the fall, many high school seniors rush to choose the best freshman dormitory; some will even have the luxury of requesting to room with a friend or acquaintance who will be attending the same school. If you are going to a very small, somewhat random liberal arts college in a far-away state, this won’t be the case.

In the spring semester of my senior year, I decided I would be attending a small Midwestern liberal arts college in a town that was an hour’s drive away from any major airport. I was the only student from my high school that would be going here, and the rest of my future freshman class was probably in the same boat. That summer, I received some housing forms that asked me to choose my first and second choice dormitories, which I filled out after attempting to research each dorm on the college’s website. I also completed a questionnaire for the roommate lottery (*this was a million years ago when Facebook was only accessible to college students, so utilizing social media to find potential roommates was not an option for me) and mailed it back to the school, eager to learn who I would be living with for the next year.

After what felt like an eternity, I received another envelope in the mail that enclosed a decisive piece of red paper. I would be living on the first floor of my first choice dorm with a girl from Cleveland, Ohio named Rebecca. I was provided with her email address and phone number so that we could contact each other and discuss serious matters, such as who would be bringing the microwave and whether or not she had a couch. I learned that she went by Becca and had three older siblings who had either graduated from our college or were still attending. I was surprised and excited to learn that we had madrigal choir in common and that she seemed to be pretty involved in school activities like I was. Our families met during orientation weekend, and we all went to dinner together where her parents told us about their family’s history with the college.  They also shared their favorite local spots with us, and we all went out together again during parents weekend a few months later.

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Becca and I didn’t have these decorative talents for our first dorm room

I was extremely fortunate to get paired with a roommate who became a good friend. Becca had a great work ethic, so she set a really good example and helped me stick to a daily schedule, stay on top of my studies, always wake up in time for breakfast, and go to bed at a reasonable hour every night. I was 18 and very impressionable at the time, so I think I was really lucky to get paired with someone who had an amazing effect on my study habits and overall health as I was adjusting to college life. Becca also had survived many Midwestern winters and was my expert guide during my first experiences with real snow. Though we haven’t remained as close as we once were, we still keep in touch through social media, and I know many of my favorite college memories would be incomplete if it wasn’t for getting to be roommates with Becca.

Quick Tips – The Housing Lottery

  • The early bird gets the worm. Complete and return any housing forms as soon as you receive them to ensure that you get first dibs on your dorm of choice.
  • Do some research ahead of time. If you already know where you’re going to school, start researching your options now! Thankfully, Facebook should make these tasks easier (and probably more fun) than they were for us oldies.
  • Utilize social media to find a roommate! See if there’s someone you have some things in common with that you could request for your freshman roomie. Ask people about their sleeping, cleaning, and study habits (even if that sounds boring) to ensure that you’ll have similar routines and minimal annoyances.
  • Take advantage of any local meetups AND freshman orientation to start making friends and meeting your classmates.
  • Don’t fret if you don’t get a great match; use it as an opportunity to pursue your interests, focus on your studies, and meet some great people outside of your dorm room. Make the most of your freshman year!