Recently, rising sophomores were forced to go through the notorious Tufts housing lottery. Many students were left disappointed by poor lottery numbers, leading to a pervasive question echoing around campus: Does the sophomore housing lottery system hurt first-year friend groups?
When considering the housing lottery, a few fundamental issues come to mind. First, the fact that there are limited rooms means that Tufts housing cannot give everyone their first choice living situation (ranging from 10-person suites to triples). Naturally, the big-ticket living arrangements (10-person and six-person suites) tend to quickly fill up with the first few lottery numbers. If no one in your friend group is able to acquire a good lottery number (ranging from 1,000–1,200), then the responsibility falls on students’ shoulders to figure out their next steps.
In my experience being a first-year student, friend groups tend to arise from proximity. Dorms such as Hill Hall are engineered in such a way that facilitates frequent drop-ins and hangouts from dorm room neighbors. The flexibility of being able to visit your friends at any time by simply walking a few feet results in lasting connections. Most students wish to keep the close friendship commute they became accustomed to in their first year. When it becomes harder to remain closer on a locational basis, students fear losing the connections facilitated by their previous proximity.
Second, the specific suite types are inherently restrictive in their size. The sizes of suites offered at Tufts only accommodate up to 10 people. This means that large friend groups of over 10 students that wish to live together are stuck in an uncomfortable predicament. They must pick and choose who they want to live with if they can even acquire a coveted 10-person suite in the first place.
The stress created by the housing lottery exists especially for those who were not lucky enough to find a close friend group early on in their first-year experience. The deadline to declare your living arrangement passes before the end of the year, raising the possibility of making new friends after housing decisions have already been made.
As for possible solutions, Tufts is lucky in that there are a multitude of different colleges from which it can draw inspiration from. The most efficient and easy-to-implement solution that Tufts could transition to is a housing process similar to the University of Michigan. At UMich, housing is not guaranteed for returning students. This means that while students have the option to look for a room on campus, they can also choose to live elsewhere. This gives them more flexibility to choose their living arrangements. Allowing sophomores to live off campus has a multitude of benefits for all involved parties.
First, students will get to pick the living arrangement they want, letting friend groups stay and live together. Second, the cost of renting off campus could, in some instances, be cheaper than Tufts’ housing rate. This benefit can be huge for students looking to find ways to offset the high cost of Tufts’ tuition. The last benefit for students is that having a portion of the class living off campus results in freeing up lottery numbers and rooms that would otherwise be taken. This diversification of housing offerings means that everyone has a higher chance of getting their ideal living arrangement.
This plan could help the university as well, offering a win-win situation. Tufts’ enrollment has consistently grown in recent years, rising by over 25% from 2015–21. By not having to worry about having enough sophomore dorms to house the ever-rising number of students, Tufts can continue to increase enrollment without having to deal as much with providing housing for sophomores.
Overall, if your friend group has concerns about remaining together next year, it’s possible for friendships to be maintained regardless of distance as long as everyone puts in the necessary work. It is important to note that the housing lottery can be a stressful time, especially in the midst of midterm season. But regardless of whatever your future living situation may be on campus, my first year at Tufts has shown me that living in close proximity to so many strangers quickly turns into living in close proximity to so many friends.