Are you ready to #LiveOn?
University Park fall room assignments will be posted on eLiving at Noon EST on Tuesday July 21.
Simultaneously, the Room Exchange eBoard will open in eLiving for students to use until Noon EST Friday July 31. This feature is for students interested in “swapping” their room assignment with another student to live either with a specific person or in a different building. The eBoard will reopen from Noon Thursday August 27 until October 31. ***There are some restrictions based on the type of Housing and Food Service (HFS) Contract the student has accepted. For example, students have a specific room assignment for a medical accommodation will not be eligible to change rooms.
Behind the Computer
Viewing your fall room assignment is a much-anticipated event, and you may be surprised to know how much work goes into the process. On average, the Assignment Office processes over 15,250 room assignments annually! With such a large number of assignments, you may think there is an office full of staff who process assignments all day. Actually, the Assignment Office currently has only three Assignment Coordinators who are responsible for processing assignments. Although there are several automated features of the room assignment process within the eLiving, usually staff prefer to manually processing assignments. The process is time-consuming and takes about three months to complete, but provides more hands-on review of students' preferences.
To handle the University’s HFS Contracts, Penn State’s Auxiliary & Business Information Systems built the eLiving system from scratch in 2005. Prior to that, all HFS Contracts submitted by students were on paper. In the fall of 2016, eLiving was integrated with LionPATH to receive students’ data and provide eligibility validation. eLiving maintains various information about residential students, such as the date a student accepted the offer of admission and if the required acceptance fees and deposits were received. eLiving also interfaces with LionPATH to send room and board charges to a student’s account for payment. Students use eLiving to enter HFS Contract preferences and to participate in the housing process for the following year.
The first-year student assignment process is similar to a very large puzzle – there are many moving parts, all of which need to come together and make the perfect fit. Once the preference modification deadline passes, the data is extracted from the eLiving system. This data is manipulated into various spreadsheets that are utilized by staff to start categorizing students. Then, staff start making room assignments in date order based on when the student accepted the offer of admission. To complicate this, students often have roommate requests. Pairing students up can be tricky, as the request must be mutual. Add to this different requested preferences, such as housing area and Special Living Options, and ranking of priority (roommate, area, or SLO), and you have a very complex process. Often, staff are not able to honor a student’s preferences because the option was filled by the time the student’s assignment was processed. Student accounts are also monitored to check that they have scheduled and attended New Student Orientation. Cancellations are received almost daily, which then creates a space that staff have to go back and re-fill. It's a very fluid process that can be overwhelming! But our seasoned staff handled the process with amazing clarity and flexibility.
You may be nervous about living with a random roommate, and we understand. Will you like the same music? Will you have similar study habits? Penn State values diversity and does not use a roommate matching survey. Why? We find that students’ opinions differ from when the HFS Contract preferences were submitted, to once you are here and living on campus. During high school, you may have woken up early and gone to sleep early. But once you are here, you might love to sleep in and stay up late to study. People change, and that’s precisely why we don’t use a matching survey. One way students like to learn more about their roommate is through social media. But keep in mind, things are not always what they appear. Don’t be quick to judge a person based on a picture or news feed. Reach out to your roommate and get to know each other before arrival. Your roommate just may end up being your best friend!
Word of advice: when learning about your new roommate, do not rely on social media. Often, people present themselves online in a certain way, and does not necessarily indicate a person's true character. Nor can you predict how you will interact with this person and live with them. This is a great opportunity for you to learn how to interact with a person.
And don't forget to complete a Roommate Agreement Form - having that difficult and uncomfortable conversation now will help if any issues pop up later. It will provide a tool to have that conversation and a baseline of expectations.
The thought of being assigned to supplemental housing - a larger room that can accommodate more than two roommates, usually between 4-8 - can be daunting and nerve-wracking for some students. We understand - the concept can seem inconceivable, but we have found that in most cases, the room situation works out for students! Why? When roommates work together, set expectations, identify boundaries, and most important - communicate with each other - the living situation is most agreeable. We recommend working with the RA to create a "roommate agreement" to start the communication process and establish a baseline of guidelines.
The Assignment Office will continue working on assignments after July 22; as cancellations in regular double rooms occur, students in supplemental housing will be reassigned. After the first few weeks of the fall semester, a survey will be sent to students assigned to supplemental. The survey will ask the student to identify preferences for reassignment, such as staying in the same building/housing area, or selecting a room type with a higher room rate. The Assignment Office will then use the survey to process reassignments should vacancies become available. We have found that less than 10% of students in supplemental housing return the survey - the rest are satisfied with their room assignment and opt not to move.
Read more about one student's experience in supplemental housing.
Now that you know your assignment, it's time to get packing for #PSUarrival! Review this website for lots of helpful information about packing and planning your arrival to University Park.
Housing, Food Services, and Residence Life are preparing for your arrival, and we look forward to welcoming you to campus soon!
Questions? Please contact the Assignment Office or 814-865-7501