High-Adrenaline Sports at Pomona: Room Draw

Last year, keeping track of which suites had been taken. The original file name is "abandon all hope"
Last year, keeping track of which suites had been taken. The original file name is “abandon all hope”

Iiiiiiiiit’s MAY on the Pomona campus (well, and everywhere else)! The weather has been getting hotter, and many of us are running low on sleep, motivation, and Flex. I won’t lie; things are pretty stressful for a lot of students right now. Yes, it’s now Finals Season, but before spring finals comes the uncertainty of What’s-Happening-Next-Year Season. We’re gearing up to graduate, preparing to study abroad in August, registering for fall courses (I’m taking Ethnomusicology, Intro Linguistics, and Feminist Interpretations of the Bible, among other things!), figuring out last-minute summer plans, and doing — [ominous drumming] — ROOM DRAW.

Since the overwhelming majority of Pomona students live on campus, ROOM DRAW is pretty universal, so I wanted to take some time to follow up on my previous post about dorm life and explain how it is that one gets into these fine scenic dorms of ours. If you’re like me and want to know what the process looks like, behold: the mystery of ROOM DRAW unveiled!

Your First Year

You may not have heard a lot about room draw on your campus tour or in your campus info session. Part of the reason for this is that room draw can be a stressful experience not worth advertising, and part of the reason is that as a first-year, you don’t have to worry about room draw! You will fill out a very detailed housing form that asks you questions about what music you like, what time you go to sleep, what things are important to you, how you feel about substance use, and so on until you’ve poured your soul into an online form. The trade-off for the really detailed housing form is that our hard-working Residence Hall Staff (RHS) will pore over your form (along with the forms of 400 of your new friends) and match you up with a sponsor group and, depending on your preferences, a roommate. The earliest you could possibly have to deal with room draw is…

Sophomore Year

But wait! A lot of sophomores also manage to avoid room draw completely by a) becoming a sponsor or b) living in Oldenborg. Sponsors are placed in rooms in the same process as the first-years, and Oldenborg has its own independent room draw system. If you’re a sponsor or you apply to live in Oldenborg, your room draw number is irrelevant.

Wait, what’s a room draw number?

An example of the room draw number list
An example of the room draw number list

Everyone who isn’t an entering first-year at Pomona has an assigned room draw number ranging from 1 (the best) to 1200-something (the worst). The rising seniors get priority, followed by juniors and then sophomores. All of the seniors are above the juniors, but for each of the three years you are eligible for room draw, you will be in a different position with respect to your graduating class. We call this having your “high,” “medium,” and “low” number, which actually makes very little sense, since the lower numbers are actually better… Whatever. At any rate, you’ll have one year where you’re approximately in the best third of your class’s numbers, one year in the middle, and one year where you have a relatively bad choice. It’s randomly assigned, so if you’re a sponsor or living in Oldenborg, you hope to get your worst number first.

Ugh, logistics. What living options are there, though?

Sub-free Room Draw

In your first year, you can choose to live on a substance-free or substance-optional residence hall. After your first year, substance-free housing becomes a separate application process. This isn’t to say that the rest of campus is forced to drink and do other drugs all the time, but rather that it’s left up to the students in the dorm by default (for instance, our suite is substance-free by habit but not by official registration). If being in an absolutely, officially substance-free living situation is important to you, you have the option of applying for said housing, and there are special areas of friendship suites and singles/doubles that are only available to substance-free applicants.

What is a friendship suite? Sounds like fun. I have friends.

Friendship suite room draw is one of the two most common methods of room draw (the other being singles-doubles). You get together a group ranging from 3-6 people — 4 is the most common — and fill out a form for the Office of Campus Life (OCL). OCL then releases a list and some maps of the available friendship suites, and a subset of your prospective suite shows up on a lovely Friday evening to wait for their number and draw into a set of rooms that you hopefully agree on. The suites might be a collection of rooms with a common room in the middle, or it might just be a line of single rooms on the same hallway for convenient proximity.

The catch is that no one is guaranteed a suite, and that if you don’t get one you’ll have to go through the entire process again for singles-doubles room draw a couple days later. Most people do get a suite, though, and deciding who’s living in the potential suite can be the hardest (and often most dramatic) part. Friendship suite room draw goes in the order of the suite members’ numbers averaged, and you have to turn in your form before the list of numbers comes out. (This is where it comes in handy to keep track of whether you’ve had your medium, low, or high numbers yet so you know what’s left.)

Three or four people go on the form as primary suite applicants, and then one or two can apply as “bonuses,” where they can be dropped cruelly from the suite for the primary members to get a smaller suite. The advantage to being a bonus applicant is that you can apply for different suites and decide during the process which you can live with. Additionally, your room draw number isn’t averaged into the suite average ranking number unless you’re a primary member. You can also always decide to not draw into a suite and do regular room draw instead — lots of strategies for trying to get the best possible option!

This is what the Friendship Suite room draw average list looks like!
This is what the Friendship Suite room draw average list looks like!

At the actual room draw, you go to the Smith Campus Center, check in, and then wait nearby for the registration people to get to your suite’s number. There’s an online interface that you can obsessively refresh to check what number’s up next and automatically updating maps that turn already-chosen rooms red to show you what rooms are left. Eventually, you get to register and choose the best remaining suite available. Where this is depends a lot on your preference — on average, sophomores tend to stay on South Campus and juniors and seniors aim for North Campus. Only seniors usually get to live in the “new dorms”. The whole process can take several hours: last year we waited for four hours and this year “only” two. People get very excited watching the maps turn red and eating snacks obsessively and high-fiving each other. I think it’s fair to say that some of my most intense adrenaline rushes in college have happened during room draw. You laugh. Just wait.

Other Room Draws

As you might expect, singles-doubles room draw works very similarly to friendship suite room draw, except that it takes slightly longer and it’s just you, your room draw number, and maybe a friend.

An example of a floor map with different kinds of housing options
An example of a floor map with different kinds of housing options (This is where we live this year!)

Besides the normal spring room draw, there’s a proxy room draw in the fall for students returning from study abroad! For this, you get a friend to go represent you and draw you into a good single or suite. A lot of people like to switch out with a friend going abroad in the spring, which is what my suite plans to do this coming year. There’s also a summer housing room draw for students staying on campus for research or independent projects (like me!).

As I said in my dorms post, while you’re at Pomona you’ll likely have at least one year living somewhere you absolutely love. Some dorms have great people, some dorms have great locations. You can even stalk all of the room reviews for factors like square footage, cell service, noise, and maintenance.

Despite all the hype, though, I’ve had a reasonably positive outcome both years I’ve done room draw: my amazing suite this year in Harwood and, for next year, a four-person suite in Clark III. I do think I peaked too soon — I am going to miss our kitchen, but I’m excited to live on North Campus and be immediately next to Frary…