So why do students at Olaf make such a big deal out of room draw? Is it really worth it? I remember very well the first week of March, all the first-years gathering in the dorm lounge, waiting anxiously to hear everything Director of Residence Life Pamela McDowell had to say about the details of room draw. I have to admit, the idea of getting to decide whom I was going to live with and where I was going to live was kind of exciting. Finally, I felt like I had some serious independence. However, that feeling was quickly shot down by the realization that I was not actually in control of my rooming situation. It was all about the numbers.
Really, the system is pretty fair: seniority combined with the luck of the draw. And once you get past all the confusing administrative jargon on the Residence Life website, it's really quite simple. While many students might not be so down with the four-year residency requirement, St. Olaf has a lot of different options for rooming. The problems seem to stem not from the system, McDowell or Residence Life, but in my experience, it comes mostly from students.
Drama is inevitable at a small school, so in an effort to try to ease the pain, I have compiled some helpful tips for coping with room-draw stress and making sure that your future room draw experiences don't turn into an episode of "The Hills."
First, don't make too many decisions too early. Week One is not a good time to pick your roomie for next year. I personally felt very out of the loop the first few weeks of school when others were already talking about rooming next year and I hadn't even gotten to know my first-year roommate. Committing to a roommate too early can lead to a very big mess that, if not dealt with, can result in a lot of dramatic events. I've heard of friendships ended over room draw issues. It can be very traumatic, so just hang back until at least second semester.
Second, if you act like something is a big deal, chances are it will be a big deal. Don't approach room draw as though it's the end of the world. If you don't want to room with someone, tell them. If you have a dorm preference, make sure it's known. Backstabbing is a common sport during the room draw season. Open communication and honesty are the best policies. So what if you've been communicating well with your future roomie, and you've compromised on your dorm choices?
You have your number and the big day is here. The next step is sending someone to draw. You should pick someone who can think fast and be assertive to get a good room. Also make sure that they understand -- in detail -- your room choices. If you tell them to just pick any room, do you actually really mean any room? I've also heard of friendships ended after choosing a room. That could lead to a seriously awkward living situation next year.
The most important advice is just to be flexible and optimistic. Nothing on campus is more than a seven minute walk away. It just comes down to the numbers. If you're a first-year with a number over 100, you're probably going to live in Mohn. If you're a risk taker, you can get on the wait-list, but the best bet is just to move forward and start talking about room decorations and fun party ideas.
My triple will be hosting trashy Tuesdays where we watch trashy television all night, costumes included. Connect with other people in your dorm through Facebook and throw your own parties to celebrate getting screwed by room draw.
Just look at the bright side of the situation and be thankful that you have a few more years before you have to live out in the 'real world.'
Ellen Weaver '11 is from Shawnee, Kan. She majors in history.