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How to Survive the Housing Draw

housing draw

May the odds be in your favor. 

Housing draw is as predictable, unpleasant, and frequent as the Reaping from the Hunger Games. It comes every year, some people clearly have a leg up on the others (seniors, District 1, what have you), and 23 people die from it every year. Regardless of whether or not that last claim is true, everyone is negatively affected by it in one way or another. Its predictability, however, makes it something that you can be prepared for. There is something you can do to arm yourself against it, and I am here to let you know what that is. Well, there's 15 things, actually. Quit being pedantic.

1) Everyone around you is a potential future suite mate

Most people don't think of others in terms of what future benefits those people could possibly render them. Most people are fools.

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And I pity them.

In college, friends aren't just friends. Friends are tutors, shoulders to cry on, sources of advice, providers of snacks, occasional causes of annoyance, and potential roommates. Basically, they're your siblings, and no one wants a crappy sibling. It's important to keep in mind when you're forming relationships with these new and exciting people that if you room with them, you can't just go home and cry to your mom about how much you hate them because your home is their home too. Having friends and living with them are two different things. Remember that.

2) Don't let appearances deceive you

At the beginning of most friendships, you spend time with the person in class or in dining halls or other public places. Oftentimes, it is only once you've truly gotten into the friendship that you are invited to their suite. I call that early part "the honeymoon phase".

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Enjoy it while it lasts.

Who a person is in public and who they are in private can be radically different. Just because their pencil case is immaculately organized doesn't mean they don't "put their laundry away" by just plopping it on the floor. This is the kind of stuff you need to know about people, but you often can't tell it just by looking at people.

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But sometimes you can.

3) Pick at least one person to definitely stick with

I don't know about y'all, but I have a tendency to pick favorites. With housing draw, this can be a blessing or a curse. I was particularly blessed in that the person I chose as the one person I definitely wanted to room with (aka My Precious) chose me as well. This tends to make the housing process a little easier, because no matter what happens with everyone else around you, one person can be definitely relied upon to be constant.

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Magical vows may be necessary to really seal the deal.

If you're living on campus, there is pretty much no chance for you to just live with that one person, but that's not what really matters. What matters is that you have someone else who will, without a doubt, board the struggle bus with you and ride it wherever it may go.

4) Decide what's most important to you and judge people based on their conformity

Okay, hear me out on this one. This may sound awful on the surface, but you're doing it already, whether you recognize it or not. My feeling about it is that since it's inevitable, why not take it to its conscious extreme?

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Ooh, you don't like The Boola? -10 points.

I, personally, am a huge fan of spreadsheets and quantifying human emotions. Last semester, My Precious and I picked out the traits most important to us in future roommates--cleanliness, respectfulness (read: shutting the hell up during quiet hours), unlikelihood to sexile us or to vomit on our furniture, etc. etc. We then took all the girls we were considering and gave them points for the good stuff they did and took away points for when they didn't match up to things we wanted. This may seem cold-hearted, and perhaps it is. But pragmatism is God in this godless world of housing draw.

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And only the strong survive.

5) Begin thinking about this WAY before housing draw season

Remember how I said we started making that list last semester? Yeah, it was around October. That may seem ludicrous to you, but if it does, then you just don't know how to win this housing draw game.

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People who have plans are always #winning.

We were in it for the long con. We decided on our two top candidates and conspired to make them want to A) live with us and B) live with each other. There was a series of orchestrated lunches and "coincidental" meetings, and even a plan for a surprise birthday party for me, which was the only ruse we could think up with a sufficient premise to bring together all of our candidates. It was wildly successful and I would recommend it to anyone. What I would not recommend, however, is telling them about it. That might be a bit awkward.

6) Yes, you do have to have That Talk with your current suitemates

In life, you're not gonna like everyone and not everyone is gonna like you. That's the truth, and everybody knows it. Translating that knowledge into everyday life, however, is a bit harder. I like my three suitemates, and the four of us get along pretty well for having been forced to live together. That being said, it's clear who likes who more.

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Even though no one explicitly addresses it.

There comes a time in every suite's life when someone must talk about it, though. I had that burden this year, by (as casually as I could) dropping the "Soo... who are you guys thinking of living with next year?" one afternoon and mentally crossing my fingers. Liking someone doesn't mean you want to live with them, and in the same vein, being incompatible suite mates doesn't mean you or the others are bad people. Don't worry, though-- whole suites rarely stay together from one  year to the next. They know that, too.

7) Know what sizes of suites are likely to be available to you 

The totem pole is real, and freshmen are at the bottom of it.

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I know how you feel, man.

Housing priority is from seniors down, and as such they get the first pick of the suites. By the time it gets down to freshmen, there isn't a whole lot of variety left, but sophomores and juniors have at least a bit more wiggle room. If you're a freshman, ask someone who knows what the housing draw was like and see what sizes of suites you're likely to get. There are a bunch of ones of varying sizes, but that doesn't mean you'll get the one you want. You could plan for a seven but end up getting a four, which means you need to...

8) Rank your friends in order of importance to you (for real)

This is, unfortunately, essential. I've heard all sorts of housing draw horror stories where people planned for a big suite and then got one that was one bed short, and had to basically vote someone off the island.

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Bye, Felicia.

I avoided this deftly by picking three girls who were non-optional. The smallest suites in Pierson are fours, so if we got stuck with one, we'd be fine. Plus, that way, we could make alliances with groups of two or three if we ended up with a six or seven. There are two awkward positions in this situation-- the one who has to decide who to boot, and the boot-ee. Obviously the former is ideal, and that's why you should be the one to set out to organize the suite. They can't kick you out if you were the one who started it in the first place! They're nothing without you! You made them who they are today!

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ALL SHALL BOW TO YOUR GREATNESS

9) Prepare for alliances to shift at any given moment

Yale is often--rightly--compared to Hogwarts, but it is also like Westeros in two important ways: winter is much dreaded and lasts forever, and people form complicated alliances.

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And also, everyone is unreasonably hot and rich.

However, much like in Westeros, alliances can be undermined and sabotaged. Some people would watch the world  burn if they could be king of the ashes, and that applies to housing draw as well. Currently, my Fantastic Four is negotiating an alliance with a Dynamic Duo from the floor below us, but anything could change at any moment because there are other interested parties who would be greatly pleased if something were to... happen to that alliance.

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Completely accidentally, see?

Keep in mind that if you want to be suitemates with someone particularly popular (or fickle), their loyalty to you and your ideal suite plan might not be as strong as you'd like.

10) Don't forget about people who aren't in your entryway

I can't speak for the sophomore, junior, or senior experience. But as a freshman, living in a different entryway from someone might as well be living in different countries. I still can't name all the Pierson freshmen, but I'm alright with that. I've managed to scrounge up enough friends from the few freshmen I do know to put together a nice suite.

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Three friends, to be exact.

It's easy to forget about people in other entryways, but this could be a fatal oversight. Some of the best friends you could ever have might be one wall from you, and you'd never know because you never bothered to branch out beyond the entryway that Yale arbitrarily assigned you. Even though you're less likely to meet them simply because you don't live right up or downstairs from them, don't rule them out. Knowing more people increases your chances of putting together the best suite possible.

11) Gender-neutral housing is an option 

While I am aware that, yes, men are from Mars and women are from Venus, coexisting is possible and sometimes preferable. The default housing situation seems to be gender-specific, mostly because that's how Yale makes us start out and we tend to have a sort of inertia with that pattern. One of the Dynamic Duo is currently in talks with a Dastardly Duo two entryways over who are trying to steal her away from us. I personally won't have that-- not because I don't believe in mixed-gender housing, but because I don't believe in losing.

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As a wise man once said: "If you ain't first, you're last."

My personal suite is shaping up to be all girls, but who knows? That may change junior year or senior year. ONE WORD OF ADVICE, THOUGH: Don't move in with your significant other or with an already-established couple. Fights will be public to the suite, sex will be public to the suite, and breakups will be public to the suite. This applies to anyone of any gender. Just don't do it.

12) Beware of floaters!

One stage of my suite planning stage was to have a set number, and if we got a suite bigger than the number we wanted, fill in the spaces with randos. One plan in the works was to have a five and plan for a six, and so we started looking for people who were unallied. There were very few, and the ones that were free agents were undesirable. Suddenly we realized-- floaters are floaters for a reason.

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Once you've identified a floater, try to avoid their notice at all costs. 

There's a second type of floater as well-- the one who everyone thinks is living with them. Don't be that person, and don't make any plans involving that person. If there are four other suites planning on him/her, there's a 80% chance that he/she won't be rooming with you. Don't build a foundation on a fault line.

13) Don't get too hurt if people you wanted live in a different suite

Not everyone is going to get the suite they want. This is one of the many harsh truths of Yale, but one of the easiest to deal with. Having all your friends in your suite might sound like it would be fun, but upon further ponderance, it would probably actually result in you never leaving the house.

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Which, again, might sound fun at first, but in the long-run, it is ill-advised.

If all your closest friends live in your suite, you'll have nowhere to retreat to when you get tired of being at home (besides the library, but that's lame). When you're fighting with one of your suitemates, the others won't want to take sides because you all live together now, and then who will you talk to? Sometimes having some of your closest friends living in another suite is a blessing in disguise. Especially if you need somewhere to go during sexile.

14) Have a summer home

This is a piece of advice I barely need to give to half of Yale University, since I'm sure they already have six.

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All six of which are decorated like this.

What I mean by a "summer home" in this case, however, is a suite that you spend a lot of your time in that isn't your own. My summer home is the Dynamic Duo's suite on the floor below me-- they have comfy chairs and a full-length mirror, and at least one of the four of them who live there are always home. That's really nice for me to have, because most of the time my suitemates are out, and it gets lonely on the fourth floor. It's also nice because we've broken all the mirrors we had in our suite.

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Thereby resulting in... an eternity of bad luck, approximately.

15) Keep in mind that you can switch colleges

If push comes to shove and you just can't stand the thought of living with people in your college, you can always switch. I considered switching to Branford a bit at the beginning of the year (said no one ever) because my best (read: only) friends at the time were there. I found my place in Pierson, though, and I'm sure most people are able to do the same in their respective colleges before housing draw rolls around. Don't be afraid to switch, though-- there's a place for you somewhere. (Or just move off-campus. That's also an option.)

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But just remember that half the year will be spent like this if you do.

No matter what your suite turns out like for next year, though, remember that that doesn't define your college experience. Life is what you make it, and sometimes good things happen when you least expect them. Just go with the flow and try again next year.

Darby Mowell
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