One unique feature of student life at Princeton is that nearly all students at the University live on campus for four years. Unlike many other schools, there’s not an ‘apartment scene’ here, and the residential aspect of campus means that the tight-knit, community feeling among undergraduates lasts for four years and beyond.
Students are randomly assigned a dorm and roommates their first year, and in future years are allowed to pick their roommates and their rooms through a somewhat complex process known to students as ‘room draw.’ Each April, the University housing office publishes a list of room draw times, which are weighted by class year and randomized within them. In other words (although this is slightly oversimplified), the rising seniors go before the rising juniors, but within graduating classes it’s impossible to predict before the times come out how your time will compare to that of a classmate. Rising sophomores go through a similar process, but draw in a pool of only students in their residential college.
Room draw is a fun time on campus: students who know they’ll be drawing into a room together for the following school year go around campus and visit the current residents of rooms into which they’d like to draw, scoping out the terrain and asking questions about the benefits and drawbacks of that particular location. Using floor plans of the dorms provided by the University, students compile a list of their favorite rooms and cross their fingers that it’ll be available on their draw day.
The range of dorm rooms at Princeton is pretty broad: there are rooms ranging from singles to an 11-man suite (known affectionately as “the Zoo”). Accordingly, there’s a room size, layout and location that works for pretty much everyone. A quick Google search of ‘Princeton dorm room’ reveals some of the many über-cool floor plans available to undergraduates. You feel a mix of stress and exhilaration as you watch the list of available rooms whittle further down until it’s your turn to draw.
Friends of mine at other universities across the country always ask me if I mind living in the dorms for four years, as I watch them all move into apartments off-campus. Each time, I answer a resounding no: the rooms available to Princeton students are usually a lot cooler than the typical ‘first year dorm,’ and I can visit any of my friends at school by foot in less than ten minutes!
Whether your time is at the top of the senior list, or at the bottom of your class, there’s a room waiting on campus for you to call home.