March 12, 2007

Housing Lottery Goes Online

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Although this academic year seems far from over, the housing lottery, which took place last week, provided a reminder that next year is not far off. The housing lottery was different from years past in that the entire selection process was online. All 3,164 students who signed up for the lottery were assigned a date and time at which they were instructed to sign onto the Cornell Housing website to make their selections.

For rising sophomores, “Bethe was the most popular. Becker was neck in neck with it,” said Max Schriefer, assistant director of housing and dining contracts.

Soon-to-be seniors gravitated more towards singles in Sheldon Court and Cascadilla Hall in Collegetown, according to Schriefer.

“It’s been going extremely well,” Schriefer said. “The initial worry was: will there be too many students online at once?”

The new system was put through rigorous tests to make sure it could withstand the week of heavy traffic.

In accordance with University policy, the selections last Monday were reserved for rising seniors. Tuesday and Wednesday were scheduled for rising juniors, and the next three days were for rising sophomores. Over 1,000 current freshmen signed onto the housing website on Thursday without a problem.

“Pretty much every piece of housing we’re trying to get online,” Schriefer said.

The effort to streamline the process included putting contracts, room change forms and waitlists online, in addition to the selection process.
According to many, this change was badly needed.

Last year, students were required to make selections in person. After looking at floor plans of the different buildings, students formulated their top choices. Once they got to the selection part of the process, if their first choice was taken, they had to formulate a new plan quickly.

“We really didn’t know what we were getting into,” said Alex Woogmaster ’10, a second year architecture student. “It was really nerve-racking and really stressful.”

“It was better this year just because it took a lot less time,” said Brian Adelman ‘09, who went through the process both last year and this year. “Last year you had to wait in line forever at RPCC. You had no idea what was available. This year you can do it right on your computer and you know what’s available.”

Putting the housing lottery online, however, also presented some issues. Those who had problems completing their selections did not have someone to help them work through it face to face.

Adelman specifically recalled “having to call the housing hotline because some of the floorplans on the website were cut off.”

The housing office was there to “coach people through the process,” though, according to Schriefer. He said that the office helped people who did not get into their ideal house, and explained the different options to them.

Though the means by which housing is chosen have changed since last year, the process has “gone as it has every year,” according to Schriefer.

“The University did a really good job of explaining how the system works,” said Tory Bredt ’10, a first-timer to the housing lottery. “But it was still difficult. We ended up having to call the housing office because we clicked the wrong button and couldn’t go back. In the end, the group of us who blocked together didn’t all get into one suite because we had a later time.”

Elissa Rosenberg ’10, Bredt’s would-be suitemate, added, “the process of doing the housing online was good. I wouldn’t want to have to actually wait in line at six a.m. But I still wish there were more rooms available for large groups of people.”

2,400 to 2,500 people are expected to sign contracts this year, according to Schriefer. These people will fill up West Campus housing, including the popular new Bethe House. Other new options include Hasbrouck Apartments on Pleasant Grove Road and Thurston Court near Risley. Both were formally designated for graduate student housing.