Luck of the draw: housing lottery


Joel Sampson

Picken Hall is a desired residence for 2nd year students.

by Joel Sampson, Staff Reporter

The Simpson College housing lottery process is designed to be fair and comprehensive. To first-years or even seasoned Simpson students, the process can be confusing. The “lottery” process functions on a number system, in which students are looking to get the lowest number possible to be admitted into their desired housing for the 2023-2024 academic school year. 

Ethan Brown, assistant director for residence life at Simpson, says the lottery system is used for plenty of higher-level educational institutions. 

“The lottery system is a system that’s pretty typically used across higher-education housing processes,” Brown said. “Most schools use a version of it.”

Brown says the classes of students ultimately determine where students will be placed in the lottery. 

“Essentially what it is, it takes the classes of students and puts them in brackets,” Brown said. “So a first-year student has their own bracket, same with sophomores, juniors, seniors and fifth-years.”

Each class bracket in the lottery is separated by the thousands. The goal for students is for their numbers to be the lowest. Fifth-years and seniors start at a base of zero. Juniors start at a base of one thousand. Sophomores start with a base of two thousand. First-years start at three thousand. 

After the base number, the lottery begins. 

“From there, you get assigned a random number,” Brown said. “So, for example, every first-year student starts off with a base number of three thousand, and then it’s randomized from three thousand to three thousand five-hundred.”

Filling out surveys can lower students’ lottery numbers.  

“There’s a couple of ways to either add or subtract from that,” Brown said. “Students should receive emails about surveys that they can fill out to get a couple hundred points knocked off.”

Students can also have points added to their lottery scores. 

“There might be an addition of points if there are certain requirements that students don’t meet,” Brown said.

Brown will have been working in the Simpson College residence life department for two years in May. He says there was a time when GPA used to play a factor in housing lottery numbers, but it no longer does. 

“GPA used to play a factor before I was ever here,” Brown said. “That was kind of a trend in higher education for sure. It’s also a trend that’s been moved away from in a lot of places.”

Brown says access to educational opportunities before college is the reason many schools have done away with the GPA factor. 

“Not everybody has always been given the same tools from the very beginning to be academically successful,” Brown said. “Some people might come from very affluent schools and were given a lot of ability to succeed and they were able to bring that success to college, where somebody might not have had that.”

For questions regarding the housing lottery process, students and parents can book appointments to talk to the people who work in residence life, or they can always look to the Simpson College website: