Students express concerns with housing selection system, propose changes


Ava Mandoli/The Daily Northwestern

Foster-Walker Complex. Some students said they could not obtain a single this year.

Nicole Markus, Senior Staffer

After more students requested single rooms this spring than past years, some students have reported frustrating outcomes from Northwestern’s housing lottery system.

Every spring, sophomores and upperclassmen who want to live on campus are randomly assigned housing priority numbers ranging from one to more than 1800. Some students with high priority numbers said they had difficulties finding housing that accommodated their location and room preferences. Others said singles were especially hard to come by, even in Foster-Walker Complex, the singles-only residence hall.

Jenny Douglas, the director of operations and services for Residential Services, said she attributes the increased demand for singles to a rise in students who matriculated in 2025. Students who wish to change their room assignment or get a single can join a waitlist, she said. 

“We do our best to accommodate as many of these requests as possible,” Douglas said. 

Weinberg freshman Charlotte Sandler is one of several students who are unhappy with their living situations. Next year, she will live in Bobb Hall, which fulfills neither her request to live on South Campus nor in a single room, she said.

Sandler said by the time she entered the portal with her 1200s priority number, no available rooms fit her preferences. She decided to delay room selection and enter the random lottery in hopes of being placed in a residence hall on South Campus, but instead NU placed her with a random roommate up north. 

Sandler entered the waitlist for a single two minutes after it opened, and she said 30 people had already joined, leaving her with little hope she would get moved.

“I think it just goes to show that there is definitely not enough housing on this campus, especially for sophomores,” Sandler said.

McCormick freshman Ryan Kessler said because of his high priority number, he was unable to pick a single in Plex, where a lot of his friends plan to live. He said this surprised him because older students told him Plex normally does not fill up until the end of housing selection.

“I was just hoping that I would get lucky and get a good, low housing priority number because I didn’t have the nicest of dorms this year,” Kessler said. “I thought maybe … I’d get good luck and be able to live in a nicer dorm next year.”

While incoming freshmen rank their top residence hall choices, and residential services assigns them to a room, sophomores and upperclassmen can choose their residence halls and rooms directly. Sandler said while this process is intended to give upperclassmen greater freedom, it is not a fair system.

She said she thinks Plex should be reserved for sophomores and upperclassmen to give them a better chance of getting a single. She also said to make the system more fair for all students, everyone should rank dorms the way freshmen do.

“There’s a lot of people who are in the same boat as me, and I think that’s a really unfortunate consequence of this system,” Sandler said.

A previous version of this article misstated the number of people on the housing waitlist when Charlotte Sandler joined it. The Daily regrets the error.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @nicolejmarkus

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