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Fortune or fluke? A frosh’s experience with the Draw


Housing after freshman year was one of the main things I was terrified about when I came to Stanford. Unlike some of our Ivy counterparts (looking at you, Harvard and Yale), we aren’t placed into a residential college or House to live out the rest of our years here on the Farm. Instead, we’re tasked with creating and/or finding a new dorm community each year wherever we wind up.

The Draw is scary because a lot of it (well, all of it) is luck: The dorms into which you’re placed and your room type and the kinds of community you’ll find are entirely based on your draw number, which is entirely based on … some random computer algorithm, probably. There are those who are insanely lucky (looking at you, draw number 1001 and every Toyon two-room double), and those who are absurdly unlucky (hello, FroSoCo!) Of course, part of the “thrill” (read: frustration) of the Draw is its arbitrariness. Entirely at random, a person’s sophomore year could either be blessed with living in Toyon, the all-sophomore dorm, or doomed to spend their days all the way over on west campus. Truthfully, it doesn’t seem fair that people – entirely at random – get placed in either really great places or really crappy ones.

This arbitrariness resulted in a flurry of excitement, despair and a little bit of schadenfreude the day the Draw results came out. Everywhere you looked and everywhere you turned (provided you weren’t part of a housed fraternity or sorority) you could hear: “Where are you living next year?” “What was your draw number?” “That’s so lucky!” “Wow! That sucks!” etc., etc.

My roommate for next year and I didn’t get exactly what we wanted. Our draw number was in the mid-1700s, which meant we got passed over for our top two choices; we also got stuck with a one-room double, instead of a two-room double.

I guess there’s maybe an implied fallacy in our heads (or maybe just in mine?) that because we managed to get into Stanford, whenever something is not likely to happen, the chance of it working out in our favor seems greater, because we’ve already beaten the odds once. But life doesn’t really work that way.

What’s so frustrating about no longer being a freshman next year is that the community that automatically comes with all-frosh dorms is now really in your hands – and I feel like there’s only so much that a couple residents can do to create community. Of course, this is all just hearsay, and overall my roommate and I got pretty lucky with our given Draw number – the community in mostly-sophomore dorms might be a pleasant surprise, and the fact that we were placed in a sophomore-heavy dorm in the first place is pretty great. In the end, we’ll be happy no matter what, because we’ve already built strong communities around us. But even so, having a really strong, tight-knit dorm community is something that I’ve really come to love this year and having that taken away might hit harder than expected.

Something keeps nagging at the back of my mind, of course, saying that maybe there’s something better than the Draw out there. After all, something that’s pretty ubiquitously despised by students and an ever-present source of frustration and stress (especially moving into spring quarter) doesn’t really seem like the kind of thing that should stick around.


Contact Matt Bernstein with other Draw stories at mbernstein ‘at’

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