The housing lottery has always been hectic and with this year’s roll-out of a completely online system, students were left justifiably confused and maybe a little frustrated.
While the paper forms and waiting in Alumni Hall were time-consuming, it offered face-to-face interaction that allowed students to easily have their questions answered and find the best possible housing situation with the help of a member from Campus Life. This took away some of students’ concerns and anxieties about where they’d live next year and with whom.
Yet it wasn’t efficient. The new online housing lottery system means that students will not even have to leave their room to choose their rooms, and will have more time to discuss specific room and building choices with their roommates at their own leisure, instead of worrying about holding up the line. We can see the appeal in an online system, instead of filling people’s names in on paper maps in Alumni Hall and then having to input them into a system afterward.
Because it’s in its first year, however, the system has been met with a lot of confusion. Campus Life didn’t notify students that they would be changing to this system, and by the time it got sent out, students had a week to fill out their initial applications to get a priority number Ñ formerly a lottery number. In the previous system, students didn’t need to apply for lottery numbers; they only had to apply for their housing, and this caused a little confusion between what the different applications meant.
Because students needed to indicate what type of housing they would be applying for before they got their priority number, they only had about a week to finalize those plans.
While it seems that most students would be able to navigate this on their own, especially with the help of a “How-To” PDF, some didn’t apply for a number. According to Assistant Director of Campus Life, Housing Operations Koreen Kerfoot, 760 of the 935 eligible students applied for a lottery number, which leaves a gap for the students who didn’t submit their applications, either because they were confused, didn’t check their email or were planning on going off-campus.
It seems like there was a missed opportunity to hold an information session, or for RAs to each hold an information session with their respective buildings. That way, the Office of Campus Life wouldn’t be bombarded with questions, and there would still be a person who could be asked questions either during the meeting or after.
The Office of Student Life has done a great job of answering frequently asked questions via mass email to the student distribution list, but that means that enough students were asking the questions in the first place to warrant such emails. Many of these details, such as how to even apply for an apartment or block, could easily have been added to the How-To PDF. It seems that the application consists of a combination of listing what types of housing the student is applying for and then requesting suitemates and roommates. This is a lot more unclear and uncertain than the previous paper application.
Another concern is how students will be notified that they are able to choose their room. Students are unsure about whether or not these emails will be staggered by priority number or if every student will get them at the same time and it will be first-come-first-serve. Even if they are staggered, if the time slots aren’t made known ahead of time, students won’t know when to go in and choose their room, and might have class or a meeting when they’re supposed to be on the housing application website.
We hope that next year will go smoother and that students will use the resources available to them, especially via email, to make sense of the new housing lottery process.