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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).  We will now explain how each class' lottery numbers are derived:

The Rising Sophomore Number (numbers that range between 951 and 1400):

  • 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.
  • First-Year students living in Mary Lyons will receive a lottery number in the top half to allow them an opportunity to live in a centrally-located dorm. 
  • 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.  

The Rising Junior Number (numbers that range between 501 and 950):

  • 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 their USED rising sophomore number.  This means we do not necessarily look at your originally issued sophomore number, but the average BLOCK number, or the number you used at the housing lottery.
  • After the rank is constructed using your USED block or housing lottery number, 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.  This allows students to experience being in 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 housing lottery 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 500):

  • To derive your Senior number, your USED sophomore and USED 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 insures 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 "bad" sophomore number and/or a "bad" junior number, the AVERAGE block number and/or BEST number used in the housing lottery process was what was actually USED in deriving senior numbers.   

"How do I see my housing lottery number?"

Housing 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.  OSE will email all students with information on retrieving housing lottery numbers when they are ready.

"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 FIRST 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, Palmer, Pittenger, Roberts, Woolman).  First-year students who live in Mary Lyons do receive "better" lottery numbers to allow them to have a better chance of obtaining a room in an centrally-located dorm.

"I am a rising sophomore and really want a single--what can I do?" or "What about those blocks that have singles in them--can I apply as a rising sophomore?"

More than 95% of sophomore have roommates.  If you really want a single, there are two options to consider: (1) there are a few blocks in Palmer, Pittenger, Mary Lyons and Wharton Quads that offer singles to rising sophomores (consult with the Sophomore Blocking List) or (2) Choose a Mary-Lyons single room on the Rising Sophomore Housing Preference Form.

"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 offer a "mixer" before the sophomore housing lottery 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.  Additionally, students without a roommate can elect to have a single-occupancy room in Mary Lyons.