BU Today

Campus Life

On Your Mark, Get Set — Get Housing

Best advice: do your homework and don’t panic


Click on the audio player to hear Brendan Gauthier (COM’11) describe the housing selection process.

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This world is full of choices, and here are the big three on campus:
Where are you gonna live?
What are you gonna major in?
What kind of job are you gonna get?

BU Today is onto all three this week, beginning today with housing (because the University-wide selection process starts today), segueing to a first-person account of “major confusion” tomorrow, and wrapping up on Thursday with a look at the help available to find a job — even in this economy.

Upperclassmen know the drill: on a cold day in March, the number comes in the mail.

A few weeks later, you find yourself in a waiting area, cheek by jowl with anxious classmates.

When your number is called, it’s a race against time, and one another — there are only so many five-person suites in Shelton to go around.

Room selection for next semester starts today, testing the patience of staffers, straining friendships across campus. For some, the living’s easy; students who want to remain in the same room pick early (1,300 have already chosen for next fall) and students interested in specialty housing signed up in early March. For others among the 7,400 who’ve applied for BU housing, it’s the start of some serious residence-related drama.

“Groups of students who want to be together should be able to live together, and whoever has the earliest appointment time should be able to pick their roommates,” says Marc Robillard, the director of housing. “But that person should have a plan B, the next best option. They have to know, ‘If I have to tell someone I’m not going to live with them, who is it? If there’s only a four-person apartment available, and there’s five of us, who gets asked to leave?’”

Robillard says there are five crucial “Bs” involved in picking housing: be prepared, be flexible, be realistic, be inquisitive, and be calm.

Be prepared:
The Housing Web site gives a basic overview of each campus residence, and floor plans are available in the department’s office at 25 Buick St., as well as at the Residence Life office. For a more detailed and student-oriented perspective, there’s also the Student Union’s Backdoor at BU report, which provides photos, a list of pros and cons, and insider tips about each dorm (Towers apparently has good burritos; rooms ending in 01 are the biggest in Myles).

Be flexible:
Don’t get your heart set on — or against — a particular building or even a particular area. It’s best to have more than one backup in place when the time comes to pick.

Be realistic:
“If a freshman going into sophomore year comes in looking for a single room in an apartment, they’re not going to get it,” Robillard says.

Be inquisitive:
The more detailed your housing question, the more likely a Housing staffer can help you find the right room. Robillard notes that this does not mean asking, “Why can’t I have that single?” or “Why can’t I get into French House?” Instead, he suggests being as specific as possible: is there a double available in West Campus? a single on Bay State Road? “You want to ask questions that lead to informed decisions,” he says.

Be calm:
OK, so you didn’t get the single or the suite. There’s still the chance to participate in summer selection. About 10 percent of the student population cancels housing between room selection and the semester’s start, for reasons ranging from study abroad to deciding on an off-campus apartment.

Robillard also advises having open and honest conversations with potential roommates about everybody’s first, second, and third choices, so that nobody is caught off guard when it’s time to make the decision. Because there’s one more reason to come to the appointment knowing your backup plan:

In the selection room, no cell phones allowed.

Jessica Ullian can be reached at jullian@bu.edu. Photos courtesy of BU Housing; Wally Gobetz; lumierefl via Flickr.