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Finding Home Amid the Uncertainty: Tips on Navigating BC’s Housing Process

The Boston College housing process is not something most students look forward to. Sandwiched in the middle of spring midterms, the process is usually associated with stress and drama. The uncertainty of the lottery system gives students little time for reflection—if a student’s first choice does not work out, they have less than 24 hours to finalize an alternative plan. Housing should be exciting, hopeful, and unifying, but it’s an annual burden to many instead. I’ve gone from crying to laughing to smiling as I’ve frantically navigated the changing dynamics of the process. As my final housing lottery approaches for my senior year, I’ve reflected on my housing journey. Regardless of where you fall in the process, I hope to provide a transparent and empathetic perspective on housing selection at BC. 

To the Anxious Freshman:

Perhaps it feels like every freshman besides you had their eight-person suite figured out by Winter Break. Or perhaps you already have an eight-man group figured out. Either way, the glorified “eight-man” dominates the sophomore housing conversation, with quads, six- and nine-person suites, and traditional-style housing consecutively following as backup. I remember the idealization of eight-man suites with their personal common rooms and non-communal bathrooms. Jumping from a freshman double on Upper or Newton to an eight-person suite feels exceptionally spacious, and if you like to spend your spare time among others, an eight-man might be the right choice for you. But do keep in mind how the transition from one direct roommate to seven suitemates might affect you—eight-mans entail more day-to-day shared experiences and possibly more room for distraction from your schoolwork. 

My sophomore housing process did not go as planned. I followed the common trend and formed a group of eight, but the lottery did not work in our favor. Unfortunately, I did not receive a pick time for an eight-man, quad, or nine-person suite, and I felt frustrated because the decision was out of my control. Little did I know 66 Commonwealth Ave., the hidden gem of Lower Campus, would become the perfect home for myself and many other students left disheartened by the housing process. Traditional housing allowed me to live near the friends I blocked rooms with, but it also gave me the space to unwind—I could always call it a night when I was ready to exit the Walsh party scene. I enjoyed participating in floor mixers and community events, and, looking back, not having to clean my own bathroom was a blessing. While the housing possibilities for sophomores may seem overwhelming, the variety of locations means you will likely know someone living in every dorm. No matter which building I stepped into throughout this past year, I always found a room where I was welcome. 

To the Overwhelmed Sophomore: 

Junior year provides a greater breadth of housing options. Some students are granted four years of on-campus housing and tend to reside in four or six-person apartments in Stayer, 2000 Commonwealth Ave., or 2150 Commonwealth Ave., and sometimes in Gabelli or Voute. Others with three years, including myself, live off campus in the nearby Brighton and Newton communities. On-campus living provides convenience and security, with amenities fairly similar to the underclassman years. The “2K” apartments are a happy medium between the on and off-campus dynamics—they are located near popular off-campus streets and have full kitchens, but BC is still responsible for their maintenance. 

While often requiring a longer walk to class, off-campus housing allows students to find a living situation suited for the size and needs of their group. But, the conversations surrounding off-campus housing frequently create pressure to sign leases absurdly early, with some students putting pen to paper as early as freshman year. I was overwhelmed when this stress hit me in April of my freshman year, when I wasn’t even sure if I would study abroad during junior year. Come fall of my sophomore year, I signed a lease when I decided not to study abroad. As the semester continued, I learned that I likely would have found off-campus housing even if I had waited longer to sign a lease because many students sublet their rooms while abroad. 

While living off-campus this year, I’ve learned useful management and negotiation skills, from paying bills to petitioning a landlord for door locks. I’ve had to meticulously manage my schedule, making sure I leave enough time to catch the Commonwealth Avenue bus every day and get groceries each week. I enjoy having the space to welcome friends, host club meetings, and get a taste of adulting through the upkeep of my home. That being said, I do miss the closeness and comfort I felt being a short walk to class and experiencing the community evident amid the chaos of Lower at dinner time.

To the Nostalgic Junior: 

The final chapter awaits. In light of my last housing lottery, I have much more gratitude and resilience than I would have expected to gain from housing setbacks. When I think about the tears shed under Stokes bridge freshman year after reading “unfortunately you did not receive a pick time” for the third consecutive day, I look back and feel empathy for my past self. But, I also remind myself how little I recognized the hope and opportunity on the horizon. Sometimes the greatest treasures come when we least expect them. While I kindly ask you to join me in manifesting a Mod for my roommates and me, I know that no matter where I call home as a senior, my BC experience will not be defined by it. 

To all Eagles:

I wish I could give you a step-by-step list on how to successfully conquer the housing process. But in reality, navigating the housing experience has simply taught me to be open to uncertainty. Some of my greatest experiences at BC have come when I least expected it. The housing process also helped me learn more about myself and peers. I recognized my abilities as a leader and friend and deepened relationships. Honest communication was key through it all. The stress and drama of housing, coupled with pressures of everyday college life, can distract us from a process that should be rooted in unity. Where you call home does not define your BC experience—it is the people who make the place, the mentalities that make the ambience, and the memories that make it home. 

January 31, 2023