One of the most exciting aspects of college life is the freedom that students enjoy when living on their own. When most students think about college life, one of the first things that comes to mind is Greek life, with the many sororities and fraternities on campuses across the country. While Caltech does not have Greek life, per se, we do have a unique housing system, similar to that of Hogwarts. There are eight houses and one residence on campus: Avery, Blacker, Dabney, Fleming, Lloyd, Page, Ricketts, Venerable, and the Bechtel Residence. Each of the houses has its own unique culture, character, and traditions. I am a member of Venerable House!
New students at Caltech select their houses through a unique process we call “Rotation”. When freshmen first arrive at Caltech, they are placed into a random and temporary house or residence. They spend the first two weeks on campus attending various events and dinners hosted by each house. This way, freshmen get to learn about the distinctive houses, meet current members of each house, and get a feel of where they may best fit in. At the end of the Rotation period, freshmen rank their house preferences based on their individual choice. But, the selection process is a two-way street. Not only do new students rank their house preferences but each house also compiles and submits a list of new students who they believe would be a good fit for the house. These lists are inputted into a special algorithm that places each freshman into a house. The goal is to match as many students as possible with their house of choice. However, this is not always feasible for a number of reasons. If someone does not get placed into their first-choice house, there is no need to panic! There is always the possibility to apply to and join any of the houses while at Caltech. Most students become and remain members of a specific house throughout their four years at Caltech but it is not uncommon for students to change their mind and switch their house affiliation or become members of multiple houses. As I mentioned before, I am a member of Venerable House but chose to live in Bechtel. There is some flexibility when it comes to the specifics.
Here is what my room looks like! (All of the butterflies and stars glow in the dark!)
The eight houses have various room accommodations ranging from singles, doubles, and triples. They share bathrooms and come with common living/dining/recreation areas. On the other hand, Bechtel is a suite-style residence. The options are single rooms or suites of 4, 6, 8, and 12 members. Within each suite, each person gets their own room. They do share common bathrooms, living, and eating areas amongst suitemates. All of the rooms in the houses come with the standard desk, bed, closet, drawers, mirror, and sink. Most of the rooms are the same size and have similar layouts. There are slight differences across the board depending on the architecture/design of the house or residence, of course. Like most dorms, each house and residence has the standard amenities, such as kitchens, dining halls, libraries, study rooms, lounges, and courtyards. As far as cleanliness is concerned, bathrooms and common areas are cleaned at least three times per week. Additionally, Caltech schedules a free cleaning for each individual room on campus once a term.
All houses and residences are co-ed and have a variety of students living in them from different majors and various grade levels. Additionally, before the Covid-19 restrictions, Caltech would guarantee on-campus housing for all undergraduate students for all four years. Recent restrictions have changed this, but the on-campus houses still house a big percentage of the undergraduate population.
This house system is not only unique but very beneficial to the student population. This system gives students a sense of community and comradery, from a social standpoint. Additionally, due to the rigorous curriculum at Caltech, it is imperative for students to have a support system throughout their four years of college. The house system allows students to interact and collaborate with other students, including upperclassmen, which is essential for students’ success at Caltech.