Carleton’s annual room draw is a scramble to make plans and can be especially confusing for first-year students. Much of this article will explain the process itself. However, it will also examine perspectives from various Carls who were polled on their experiences with Carleton Residential Life as well as interviews with students who wish to remain anonymous. The latter section includes guidance in terms of what numbers are needed for certain housing arrangements historically. This is meant to supplement the extisting information provided by the college. As room draw approaches, some perspective and general information will be able to alleviate some of the stress inherent in the draw system. On top of dissecting the system itself, it seems a good time to reflect on the effectiveness and legitimacy of the process as room selection for next year draws closer.
To further preface this article, it is key to acknowledge that most students live in residences operated by the college for all four years. There is a Northfield option that allows students to lease housing in town, but the number of students allowed to use this option is severely limited. Most polled upperclassmen wished this was a more viable option, and have said it’s extremely difficult to do.
In other words, Carleton students must remain on Carleton room and board for their time here. Each student is assigned a number within their class. Numbers for rising seniors begin with 1, rising juniors with 2, and rising sophomores with 3. Numbers are completely random every year. It’s not true that having a good number one year implies a worse number for the following year. This is the frustration of some Carls who have had multiple bad numbers in a row. The system can also disadvantage those who choose to take a term off, assigning draw numbers from classes technically beneath them. One rising junior said, “I was assigned a freshman number for next year’s room draw (after taking a term off).”
There are various types of housing: suites, apartments, classic residential housing and townhouses. About half of the houses require some sort of meal plan and the other half don’t require one. The criteria for the specific minimum meal plan per house are unclear. Residence halls and apartments both require meal plans.
When the cost is broken down, the meal plan meals cost around $14 a meal.
Living off-campus and cooking does theoretically seem like it would be a cheaper option. Multiple Carls claimed that the system is a way for the college to obtain extra funds. One person called it “stupid” and “rigged to keep kids on campus and take their money.” Another Carl questioned the fairness of the system: “It seems completely unfair to me that Carleton restricts off-campus housing and keeps students on campus when their tuition is already extremely high without room and board.”
One of the main benefits of being an upperclassman in the housing system at Carleton is access to apartments and larger units. However, multiple Carls think there is not enough of a selection of group housing which makes it difficult to find housing for a group of friends. Other complaints come from upperclassmen who want to live in groups but without roommates. One Carl said he thinks that if the college is going to be so strict in limiting off-campus housing, they need to provide more attractive living options, such as more townhouse-like options or something different altogether.
One particular person pointed these issues out specifically: “Seniors and juniors want houses and don’t want roommates—there need to be more townhouse-like options if Carleton is going to continue to artificially limit off-campus housing. On top of the few attractive living options, the system is set up in a way where there is a lot of uncertainty and animosity around roommates and friendships.” Multiple people mentioned that it’s far too difficult to find arrangements where you won’t have a roommate.
One senior brought up the education students lose from not being able to live off-campus. The college is actively preventing students from learning how to pay rent and work with a landlord, a valuable post-grad skill.
Overall, most people seem to feel the system itself is fair but stressful. No one suggested a system aside from the current lottery, but many expressed discontent with the types of housing made available by the college.
Below is a list from the college about the minimum number needed, historically, to obtain the specified residential option. It also includes numbers collected in the process of collecting viewpoints for this article. These are numbers from last year. This does not mean that these are the highest or lowest lotteries numbers needed to obtain the specified housing, but they did fall within the range to get that housing option last year. These sampled numbers are marked with an asterisk and parentheses.
Townhouses – 1038 (48*)
James – 1075
Sevy – 1075 (1160*)
Davis – 1116
Evans – (1300*, 2011*, 3094*)
Complex single – 1436
Davis double – 2028
Complex triple – 2141
Burton – (2175*, 2150*)
Non complex single – 2433
Non complex triple – 3080
Non complex quad – 3120