Dorm Life at Brown: Housing Lottery, Chapter 1

Barbour Hall, an upperclassman apartment-style residence

Hello prospective students, confused current students, and lost surfers of the web. Welcome to He, She, and Phe: Dorm Life at Brown, where I address your questions about the most ubiquitous aspect of college living. My name is Justin Ferenzi, and I’m here to help shine some light on the rollercoaster ride that is dorm life.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous part of Dorm Life at Brown is the housing lottery. Now, I’d like to add a quick disclaimer-I, and most people I know, aren’t really sure exactly how it works. I’m not even sure the people at ResLife have figured out all the ins and outs of it yet. We’re all just kind of going with the flow here.

That being said, I figured it might be helpful, or at the very least amusing, for me to periodically document my experiences with the lottery as I go through it. That way the things I explain won’t be so colored by hindsight, and I won’t accidentally take for granted that you’d understand something just because it clicked for me somewhere down the line, as tends to be the case when I talk to upperclassmen about it.

Today, let’s talk housing groups. Buckle up, ’cause it might be a bumpy ride.

The flexibility that Brown affords you for housing is a really cool and wonderful thing, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. My friends at other colleges have a lot of stringent rules and restrictions on when, how, with whom, and where you can live, but Brown just kind of lets you do whatever. There are a few rules, of course- some dorms are only for upperclassmen, for example- but it’s generally pretty chill.

But with great power comes great responsibility. Choosing your housing group, a.k.a. the people you’ll spend the next school year with in a very intimate setting, is really important. You aren’t afforded the luxury of choice your freshman year, so it’s definitely a new experience to pick your roommate(s).

You can have any sized group you want, from one to thirteen (though most people would not recommend going above 6). It’s hard to have an odd numbered amount of people in the group, just because most housing options are built for an even number. There are some triples, and some three-person suites consisting of a single and a double, but it’s wisest not to try for those unless you’re an upperclassman or get a really good number (I’ll talk about housing numbers later, as in, when I understand them.)

Housing groups can cause drama. It’s still a month away and I know people who are very torn up about their situation. My most important piece of advice is this: don’t be afraid to say no. If you feel like a person just wouldn’t be a good fit, or if you like the size of your group already, or if for any other reason you’re not comfortable with it, don’t feel bad turning down someone who asks to join your group. It’s not like inviting someone to a party; it’s your domestic situation for an entire six months.

Choose your roommates wisely. Have open and honest discussions with your friends or other potential roomies about expectations, habits, routines, ground rules, etc. It’s hard to admit that maybe your best friend wouldn’t make the best roommate. You don’t have to live with someone to still hang out with them. As my WPC put it, your chosen roommates are supposed to be your rocks. If someone isn’t steady, don’t try to force it- you might end up falling over.

In summary: 1) stick to small, even numbered groups. 2) don’t be afraid to say no. and 3) be honest with yourself and with others, and make the choices that are right for you. And if things still end up disastrous, you can always just request a single.

Hopefully this was an informative snapshot of dorm life and a helpful source of advice. In a few weeks I’ll post the next chapter, as new things about the lottery come to light for me. Until then, feel free to shoot me an e-mail with any questions you might have, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

When Justin Ferenzi isn’t blogging, he’s obsessively refreshing his email account for blogging-related correspondence. For any and all questions about dorm life at Brown, don’t hesitate to send a message to


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