Frequently Asked Questions: Housing Processes

This is a "living" page containing questions regarding the housing lottery process, and will continued to be added to from time to time.

"How does the Office of Student Engagement determine my Lottery Number?  I don't think it's fair!"

This is a VERY common question, and we will try to best explain how lottery numbers are derived.  First, the lottery system was developed with help from previous Swarthmore Students, and the goal is for Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors to experience being in the top 1/3, middle 1/3, and lower 1/3 each of their three years.  Additionally, due to the current housing options that exist, it is reasonable to expect two things: (1) that rising sophomores will have to have a roommate because there are not enough singles available, and (2) that it is likely that one out of your four years will be spent in a non-central residential community (Mary Lyons, PPR, Woolman, Kyle).  We will now explain how each class' lottery numbers are derived:

The Rising Sophomore Number (numbers that range between 901 and 1350):

  • Rising sophomore numbers are RANDOM, and each student will receive a random number the Spring before their sophomore year.  This number is used in blocking as well as the Sophomore Preference Process.  
  • If you 'WIN' a BLOCK, your lottery number CHANGES to the average number used to win the block.  That is because it was your AVERAGE that awarded you the block, not necessary your number.  
  • During the Sophomore Preference Process, you will select 1 roommate (for a total of 2 students), and you will rank all of the residential communities you wish to live in.  The BEST lottery number of the two of you (not average) will be used to determine your room assignment, that will be awarded to you over the Summer (mid-late July).  If you receive your room via the sophomore preference process, your lottery number CHANGES to the best number out of the two students.  This is because it was the BEST number that awarded you the room.

The Rising Junior Number (numbers that range between 451 and 900):

  • Your rising junior number is NOT completely random, but is specifically constructed to move all students to a different "1/3" of the list.  This means that students who were in the top 1/3, will either be in the middle 1/3 or bottom 1/3.
  • All rising juniors will be ranked from top to bottom based on the USED rising sophomore number.  This means we do not necessarily look at your originally issued sophomore number, but the average BLOCK number, or the BEST number between you and your roommate for the sophomore preference process.
  • After the rank is constructed using USED block and sophomore preference numbers, the bottom 1/2 of the list gets inverted and put on top of the top 1/2 of the list.  Then all students get assigned a number beginning with 451.  We do this to ensure that a student experiences a different "1/3" of the list.
  • Some rising juniors get confused because they may feel that they have received two bad numbers in a row.  This confusion typically comes out of the fact that even though they were issued a HIGH sophomore number, the AVERAGE block number or BEST number used in the sophomore preference process was what was actually USED. 
  • Similarly to your rising sophomore year, if you BLOCK during your rising Junior year, you Junior lottery number will change to the AVERAGE used to win the block.

The Rising Senior Number (numbers that range between 1 and 450):

  • To derive your Senior number, your USED sophomore and junior numbers are added together.  This means that students with the largest sum likely have experienced less desired housing than those with low sums.
  • We then rank the list in order from HIGHEST sum to LOWEST sum, and then reassign students numbers beginning with 1.  This then best ensures that students who have experienced poor numbers will receive a strong senior number.
  • Some rising seniors get confused because they may feel that they have received two or three bad numbers in a row.  This confusion typically comes out of the fact that even though they were issued a LOW sophomore number and/or a LOW junior number, the AVERAGE block number and/or BEST number used back in the sophomore preference process was what was actually USED in deriving senior numbers.   

"How do I see my lottery number?"

Lottery numbers are available on MySwarthmore on the day that it has been advertised when ready.  Typically, they can be reviewed a few days before the lotteries, and never before the blocking process is due.

"I don't think my lottery number is correct--I should be in a higher class!"

If when reviewing your lottery number, you think that you should be in a higher class year, keep in mind that your class year is based on the Registrar's classification of your class year and credits.  OSE does not have any control over your class year.  If you feel it is an error, please speak with the Registrar and then OSE to see if this is an error or indeed accurate.

"What can I get with a Rising Junior Lottery Number?  Is it true that you will run out of singles?"

As a rising junior, it is important to know that historically, we run out of single rooms in centrally-located dorms about 1/3 to 1/2 way through the list.  As such, you will need to ask yourself the following question: "What is more important to me--having a single, or living in a centrally-located dorm?"  If having a single is more important to you, then you may need to be open to a single in a non-centrally located dorm.  If being in a centrally-located dorm is more important to you, then you may need to be open to a non-single room in a centrally-located dorm.

"The lottery ranges are big--do 400+ students really participate in the lotteries?"

By default, we assign ALL students lottery numbers, however SEVERAL students will not go to the lotteries: students who are going abroad or on a leave the following semester, newly hired RAs, SAMs, DPAs,GAs (and their roommates), students who received a block, students living off-campus, etc. 

"Will I need to live on an off-campus dorm like Palmer, Pittenger, or Roberts?  Is it true what they say about ML residents living on-campus during their sophomore year?"

Due to overall occupancy, a good assumption to have is that one out of your four years will be spent in a non-centrally located dorm (Mary Lyons, PPR, Woolman, Kyle).  If you are a first-year who lives in Mary Lyons (the only non-centrally located dorm that has first-years in residence), those residents will have priority in living in a centrally-located dorm for their sophomore year.  This will be taken into account during the sophomore preference process.

"I am a rising sophomore and really want a single--what can I do?"

More than 95% of sophomore have roommates.  If you really want a single, there are three options to consider: (1) there are a few blocks in Palmer, Pittenger, and Mary Lyons that offer singles to rising sophomores, (2) Strath Haven Condominium currently offers 6 single units, and (3) After the Senior and Junior Lotteries, OSE will assess the availability of singles remaining in non-centrally located dorms, and a separate sophomore "singles lottery" may be offered.  In the 2014-2015 year, approximately 8 singles in Mary Lyons were offered in a lottery to sophomores.  

"I am a rising sophomore and I don't have a roommate--what should I do?"

OSE assists all rising sophomores with finding potential new roommates for next year.  We will be offering a "mixer" where students looking to meet other students as roommates can come, enjoy delicious food, and meet other students.  Additionally, we will ask sophomores looking for a roommate to complete a brief profile, which will be shared with all sophomores who are looking for a roommate.  This will allow sophomores to have information in order to assist in connecting with others in finding roommates.  If by the end of the academic year, if a rising sophomore has not identified anyone to room with, OSE may assign the sophomore to live with another sophomore student.