For first-years arriving at Northwestern, the housing lottery can be quite the task. Thumbnail artwork by Olivia Abeyta

North or South Campus, everyone knows which dorms are the best. Willard Residential College and the newly rebranded Schapiro Hall, on opposite sides of Northwestern’s campus, make incoming first-years eager every April as they fill out their housing applications and rank where they want to live in the fall. But come August, many first-years will be sorely disappointed when their housing portal shows an area, dorm or roommate that was not on their list.

According to an email interview with Vina BonDurant, the housing coordinator for operations and services, first-year housing assignments are determined by a computer program that takes into account a student’s lottery number, their roommate status, chosen preferences and current availability. First-years rank 10 dorms and, in theory, are placed in their highest available pick.

Weinberg first-year Yana Tsetlin is living in Jones Hall this year, a dorm located by South Beach. She said she ranked North Campus dorms highly, with potentially a few South Campus dorms at the bottom of her list.

“The location is what bothers me the most, personally,” Yana Tsetlin said. “But I also think we were asked to rank dorms, we did, and then we were not given a dorm that we wanted. Of course, not everyone is going to get their first ranking, but at least something [in the same part of campus].”

Tsetlin described Jones as being in a “sideways direction.” On a campus defined by north versus south dorms, Jones is east. She said the dorm does not have sufficient amenities to make up for the location, and she hopes to move to a different dorm next year.

“[Jones] is not a dorm that people want to stay in,” Tsetlin said. “If it is so inconveniently placed, there could be a dining hall, a package center or gym facility. The standard is very different from other dorms.”

Julianna Tia, Weinberg second-year, moved from Allison Hall to Kemper Hall this year because of a “lucky” priority number. Priority numbers are lottery assigned in Spring Quarter. Students log in during their priority number’s date and time slot corresponding with their preferred housing to select their dorm. With a number below 180, Tia was able to get an earlier housing selection time and pull her roommate with her to Kemper.

“Freshman year, you go through less of that stress of being assigned a number and frantically selecting when it’s your time to choose a dorm because the school does it for you,” Tia said. “But then it’s either a hit or miss because you’re either in a good dorm or a bad dorm.”

Weinberg first-year Sarine Meguerditchian is one of the first-years unhappy with their dorm. Residential colleges, like the Communications Residential College (CRC) in East Fairchild, operate on a points system for returning students. According to an email from Residential Services on Feb. 13, each residential college has 55% incoming students and 45% returning students. Meguerditchian said she feels like she is “infiltrating” the CRC community because the dorm amenities do not suit her.

“[The dorm amenities] are really cool, but I’ve been in [the screening room] one time,” Meguerditchian said. “The amenities that are there are geared towards communications majors, so very cool if you want, and if you don’t, then you’re just dealing with the bad facilities and the amenities.”

Poor amenities are often a stereotype of college dorms, but Meguerditchian and Tsetlin expressed more frustration with the housing selection process in general. Tia said she thinks the process could be improved, particularly for first-years.

“I don’t think [the housing process is effective], especially for freshman year housing, after seeing some of my friends assigned to dorms that they never chose,” Tia said. “I don’t even know what system they use to assign to dorms because I think they have said they try to accommodate what everyone wants, but it’s definitely hit or miss.”

Some first-years were not placed in a dorm they ranked highly, but were still placed with the roommate they wanted. Yet, housing did not place some first-years, like Ashley Park, with their requested roommate.

“It was a huge disappointment because we were so close in the beginning,” Park said. “And we did request each other. We’ve been talking since January because we got in [Early Decision]. But to find out that we didn’t get placed together, that’s really sad.”

Meguerditchian went random for her roommate selection, and was instead placed in a single room in CRC. Despite this, she said she has enjoyed living in a single and met one of her close friends because they both live in singles on the same floor. They bonded over their “mutual hatred” for the dorm.

“There’s definitely some people that really, really want to be [in CRC]. And it’s definitely a good community for people that want to be there,” Meguerditchian said. “Then there’s other people that are just there because they were placed there, and we’re just living there.”