Students crowded Sayles Hall Tuesday evening for the first night of the housing lottery — three-and-a-half hours of tension, anxiety and excitement as the lottery's first 469 numbers were called.
"You gotta go in with a game plan," said Jason Beckman '11, a Herald senior finance associate, as he glanced back and forth between the overhead projector that displayed the remaining rooms and his own notes of ranked choices and last resorts.
Many students brought laptops to study floor plans, scrutinize the sizes of remaining groups and track online which rooms remained. As Jillian Robbins '11, the chair of the Residential Council's Housing Lottery Committee, announced each selection from the podium at the front of the room, disappointed students crossed more choices off their lists.
Beckman, who had lottery number 147, was vying for a triple in Vartan Gregorian Quad Only two remained when several numbers separated him from the podium.
"I was just waiting for it to get taken off the screen right before I got there," Beckman said.
Fortunately for him, he and his future roommates secured the last available triple in the quad. "I got lucky," he said.
Other students were less successful.
"Being a group of three severely limits your choices if you're looking for three singles" in a suite, said Tim Dingman '11. "It wasn't hard to prioritize which suites we wanted. It's just stressful because there are so few good ones," he said.
"Right now, we're on the edge of our seats," he added as he waited for his group's number to be called.
Dingman and his roommates — Phil McCoy '11 and Bart Johnsen-Harris '12 — watched several of their ideal suites vanish from the screen.
"We might abandon our plan and go for three Hope College singles," McCoy said as suites of three continued to dwindle. "We can train the freshmen to be like us," Dingman added.
"I think I'd rather go for Hegeman (Hall)," Johnsen-Harris said.
McCoy's cries of agony were audible when Beckman took the last triple in New Dorm, but Johnsen-Harris got his wish when McCoy chose a suite in Hegeman.
Tuesday night's lottery proved that even students with high numbers had to have backup plans.
"I think 39 is a very good number," said Cherilyn Tran '11, who, along with Connie Trieu '11, hoped to secure singles in Slater Hall with their promising number.
"Slater might be harder because they had renovations to the bathrooms this year, so a lot of people might go for it," Tran said before the lottery began.
Whatever the reason, Tran was right — all of Slater's singles were gone after the 19th pick, and she and Trieu instead chose singles in New Dorm A.
As the ideal rooms grew scarcer, the crowd grew rowdier. While fewer people filled Sayles as the night continued, the cheers for students who did not show up or dropped to lower numbers became even louder. Students tried to strategize by merging with other groups or bargaining with the students in front of them.
But some students left the lottery stress-free. Kelly Newton '10.5 said she knew she would get her pick of singles in Minden Hall with the night's third number, and told The Herald that she was glad she did not have to go through the stress that comes with having a lower number.
"It's just kind of a waste of time to come here" and track the room selection, she said.
While Newton and hundreds of students after her had no problem picking singles, several students who entered alone did not have that option. After number 439, when the last single was chosen, several students passed, putting their names on the summer waitlist for housing, while others merged and selected suites in Graduate Center.
"I found it surprising that the singles disappeared so quickly, that so many people had to pass," said Ben Lowell '10, chair of the Residential Council and last year's housing lottery committee chair.
Overall, both Robbins and Lowell said they thought the lottery went very well.
"I think we had good crowd control this year," Robbins added.