Your first room at Caltech is randomly assigned to you. If you have a roommate, the only consideration taken into that choice is gender. Gulp.
The bright side: you’ll only live there two weeks! Caltech has this awesome thing (in my opinion) called Rotation. It gives incoming students a chance to decide which House (dorm) they want to live in. Rather than fill in paperwork with your sleeping preferences, your cleanliness, and your favorite kind of music over the summer, pre-frosh (you aren’t frosh until you are in a house) have the first week of classes to get to know all of the houses – the people in them, the traditions, the dinners.
In that week, members of the houses are judging which houses they think new students would like living in, and new students are deciding where they want to live. The first Friday, pre-frosh rank the houses, and that weekend, a mysterious process comes up with house assignments. Caltech houses have a variety of singles, doubles, and a few rare (and huge, fought-over) triples. Each house has a different process for assigning the frosh to their rooms. In Avery, my house, you pick your roommate (all the frosh are in doubles, though the house has singles and triples that upperclassmen can get). If you have special wishes (like being close to a kitchen, or in a certain alley, or on the east side of the building), they do their best to assign you to a room that meets that.
Rotation is time-consuming, but I really appericiate it. Especially coming from NH, I didn’t know the different houses at all when I came to Caltech; they all have their own charachter and culture, and while this changes a little with each incoming class, houses become pretty important to a lot of Techers – it becomes like family. You eat dinner with them, you go skiing with them, you do your laundry in the same room, you hang out and ask each other questions about credit cards, malfunctioning computers, and the best places to get food. In my experience, it worked out really well for everyone. It definitely did for me!
Rotation also means a lot of work for the upperclassmen. We organize a lot of activities for the pre-frosh to get to know the houses. A lot of the houses make house videos (you can youtube the old ones!) and prepare socials, activities, and special food.
All of the pre-frosh get flyers designed by the houses. I helped make the one for Avery this year, and we spent a lot of time folding it — here’s you’re picture of the blog!
Picking a house is really fun, and rotation means that you meet a majority of the Techers (even if you don’t learn their names). It’s an important part of our house (dorm) system, and I hope this gives you a better idea of how it works!