Okay, okay, I’m kidding. There’s no way to beat the draw. (I mean, it is just a random number that you have no control over. Sorry.) But you can do the next best thing: avoid it altogether. Put your housing out of the lottery system and into your own hands.
Disclaimer: This is written for those who want to live in a tier 1 or tier 2 house. If you’re into FroSoCo and the like (“FroSoCo and the like” meaning, uhm, just other tier-3 houses!), you can put your housing into pretty much anybody’s hands and you’d still be set.
So, let’s say you want to live in a tier 1 or 2 house all three upperclass years. You look at that recent Daily draw article and sigh. A 784 to get into Xanadu, a 1159 to get into Durand, and a 360 to get into French House… It doesn’t take a clairvoyant to see what’s happening if you get a 1500-3000 draw number: you’re not getting in. So what do you do? You don’t let it come to the draw at all. Here’s how:
1. Staff (Tier 3)
Staffing is pretty much the sweetest deal ever. You get a single. You get paid. You get to plan what happens at your house (and have people listen to you, too). You get a leadership position for your resume. You get to brag to your friends about being on staff. You get to use tier 3, and still live wherever you want. Perfect, right? Right.
OK, there is a caveat – namely, you can apply for staff and not get selected. But there are so many houses, so many staff positions, and so many senior staff who have to be replaced that you probably will be selected. In fact, in my 2 years at Stanford, I’ve never heard of anybody applying for staff and not getting any staff position (but then again, I guess people wouldn’t exactly publicize that). But even if you don’t get selected, you’re not worse off than if you hadn’t applied for staff at all (well, ok, except for the bruised ego. But then just don’t tell anyone you were rejected and move on).
Anyways, if the unlikely happens and you do end up not getting selected for that FM/CM/RA/Kitchen Manager/Co-op position, there’s always “round 2” of staff selection: RCCing. True, it’s a bit more technical than the others, but you’re just as much a part of staff and get to help with planning fun house events.
In order to make sure that staffing works out for you, though, I would suggest applying for every year you are eligible (i.e. not abroad). Alon is the only person I know who applied to staff as a freshman last year, and he is now getting paid and has a single as an RCC in Toyon, an all-sophomore dorm that was lower-tier 2 last year. Most of my other friends from freshmen year are not getting paid, have one-room doubles, and live in higher-tier 2 Crothers.
Now, just because staffing is so awesome doesn’t mean you apply for everything (although I guess you can). You choose what you want to do, and where you want to do it. If you love freshmen, do the freshmen dorms. If you’re looking for a more, uhm, chill experience, then a row house could be for you. And if you’re totally not into the whole community thing (just being real here), then there’s always Mirrielees.
2. Pre-Assign (Tier 2 or 3)
Pre-assigning is almost as sweet as staffing. You don’t get a single or get paid, but you get to use tier 2 or tier 3 to potentially live in a tier 1 house without any of the staff work and responsibilities. In fact, pre-assigning is so sweet that Stanford recently changed the tier system of pre-assigning, because it had become just so clearly better than the draw.
So how can you pre-assign? Well, if you studied Spanish, Latin, or Mandarin in high school, you’re outta luck (again, only because we’re talking about tier 1 and 2 houses here; otherwise, of course there’s Zapata and Okada!). But a Slavic language, French, German, and Italian (I know, Italian useful for something other than appreciating opera!) would get you into Slav, French House, Haus Mitt, or Casa Italiana – all tier 1 or 2 houses on the row. Synergy, EBF, Chi Theta Chi, and Columbae, all famous (notorious?) for something across the whole campus, are also pre-assignable (just go to the Co-op Crawl, do a dinner/cleaning event, oh, and know what you’re getting into! Jk, I think co-ops are really cool). Even dorms like Crothers and Storey have academic themes (e.g. Global Citizenship or HumBio) that make them pre-assignable. And then there’s the slew of ethnic ones, like Ujamaa and Muwekma, that can be great if you’re part of that community.
Now, you know how staffing has a pretty low not-being-selected-for-staff rate? Well, I think pre-assigning’s rejection rate is pretty much none-existent (except for Co-ops, though, from what I hear).
And finally, here’s the coolest thing about pre-assigning, which I learned from Tiffany (who, by the way, is living in Haus Mitt all three years): If you are a senior who only has Tier 3 housing left, you can pre-assign ANYWHERE.
3. Go Abroad (Tier 1 or 2)
All I ever heard about housing after going abroad were horror stories. This straight-edge guy ended up in Synergy, this party girl got a one-room double in FloMo, and everyone else ended up in far-away graduate student apartments.
The scariest part about housing after going abroad is that you can’t be in control: you can’t staff, and you can’t preassign (trust me, I tried…). You have one thing and one thing only you can do: the draw. Which is not exactly promising.
So when I decided to go to Paris this fall and started asking my friends what tier I should use, they just sadly shook their heads. “You’re gonna get screwed no matter what,” they told me. “So you might as well use tier 3.”
But the more I heard about it, the less I thought using tier 3 was a great idea. If almost everyone was using tier 3 when they were going abroad, I reasoned, then I could use tier 2 and have a better tier than almost everyone. So I did. And I got into French House coming back, and almost everyone I knew got into Rains or Escondido or Oak Creek.
As an aside, though, Oak Creek is pretty sweet if you don’t mind the distance and living with grad students. The apartments are amazing (they have jacuzzis – enough said), and my friend Tim actually chose to live in Oak Creek after coming back from Moscow last fall (and he loves it).
4. Re-assign (any tier) aka If All Else Fails
Even if you don’t get selected as FM/CM/RA/Kitchen Manager/Writing Tutor/Co-op task manager, even if you don’t get chosen as an RCC, even if you are not able to pre-assign, even if you don’t get a good number on the draw, there is still hope for you: Reassign.
If you get bad housing, you can either lazily admit defeat or submit that reassignment application. From my experience, most people lazily admit defeat. So if you’re one of the few who submit the reassignment application, you have a good chance of getting into better housing.
One of my friends was assigned to Columbae and reassigned to Roble. Another was in Rains but reassigned to Suites. Actually, everyone I’ve heard about who requested reassignment was reassigned to a place they preferred more.
So if you really, really, really care about where you live on campus (and to be honest, overthinking the draw the way I’ve overthought it might not be too healthy), try to control as much as possible yourself and leave as little as possible to chance in the draw. And once you do decide on staffing or pre-assigning to that tier 1 house, be sure to convince your friends to try to staff, pre-assign, or draw into the same house too – then it’s really perfect.