Dorms Declassified: How to Win the Housing Lottery

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Hello! My name is Alejandra (Ali) Gatas Johnson and I am your Dorms Declassified: Brown Survival Guide blogger. Living in a dorm with a roommate was one of the things that I was most excited but also nervous about for college. This blog is to help ease the concern and provide insight on residential life at Brown.

So what is the housing lottery?  The housing lottery is organized by seniority and then randomized. Therefore, the rising seniors are the first group to select their rooms/dorms, then rising juniors, and then rising sophomores. The size of the housing group does seem to have an impact on the number the housing group receives.

In the past, rising juniors and rising sophomores would join together in the same housing lottery group to mutually help each other. The higher rank of the rising juniors would pull the housing group’s number up to the top of the rising sophomore housing list. HOWEVER, this is no longer true. Now, if a rising junior joins rising sophomores, they forfeit their higher ranking number and are placed in the sophomore housing list.

If you’re a rising junior or senior and you are living in a room you would like to live in again, you can! You are welcome to stay in it or squat. The only stipulation is that you originally received the room through the housing lottery and it’s not sophomore-only or other special housing.

To be completely honest, there is no way to win at the housing lottery. It is a headache in general, but you can make it easier by internalizing and acting on some of these ideas:

  1. Do your research: start off the lottery process with good research and communication with your housing group. The more rooms you research, the less likely it is you will have to pick blindly.
  2. Understand that everyone has different opinions. Make sure you have open discussions with your housing group about what you want and what they want. Don’t make any assumptions.
  3. Don’t go into the housing lottery alone- I know it can be tempting especially if you had a terrible first-year roommate or didn’t click with a group. BUT it is recommended to go into the lottery with at least four people. The smaller the group the more likely you are to have a later number and potentially be forced into the Summer Assignment Process.
  4. On the other hand, if your group is more than eight, you should probably consider splitting into two groups. Too many people can offer too many opinions and make it difficult to come to a consensus.
  5. Be careful when you are choosing your housing group. You may not want to be in a group with different housing priorities. The greatest of friends do not necessarily make the greatest of housing group members. Joining the same housing group does not mean that you will only be friends with those people. It’s not exclusive.
  6. Even if you go into the lottery in a group, you can still pick rooms all over campus. You do not have to live on the same floor or even the same dorm.
  7. Every member of a group must pick housing or no member can pick housing.
  8. Look at previous lottery results to figure out what rooms are likely to be available when your number is called. This will give you a pretty realistic idea of what dorms you should put on your list.
  9. If you get a worse number than you hoped, look at past results and see what choices were made. Keep in mind the lottery changes every year.
  10. Have at least 5-7 ranked choices so you make sure to pick a room you want and know.
  11. Go through the housing lottery now. Don’t wait to enter the Summer Assignment Process. If you don’t pick your room now (in the lottery) then you will have to do so in July or August and have far less control.
  12. Make sure you are ready for when your lottery number is called. If you are not present, you will not be allowed to pick housing through the lottery and will be forced into the Summer Assignment Process.
  13. Lottery selections are final. Choose wisely.

If you have comments or questions about this column or anything related to Brown, please email me at


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