Campus Life

Fall room assignments: Balancing the demand

University Park fall 2016 room assignments to be posted on eLiving after 9 a.m. July 18

Interior of residence hall Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Are you ready to #LiveTheTradition? The wait is almost over! University Park fall 2016 room assignments will be posted on eLiving after 9 a.m. on Monday, July 18.Simultaneously, the Room Exchange eBoard will open for students to use until noon on Tuesday, Aug. 9. 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 Thursday, Aug. 25, to Monday, Oct. 31. Visit for details, as there are some restrictions based on the type of Housing and Food Service (HFS) contract the student has accepted.

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 more than 14,500 room assignments annually. With such a large number of assignments, you may think we have an office full of staff that process assignments all day. Actually, the Assignment Office has only three assignment coordinators who are responsible for processing assignments. Although there are several automated features of the room assignment process, usually staff are manually processing assignments. The process is time-consuming and takes about three months to complete.

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. This year, eLiving was integrated with LionPATH to receive students’ data and provide eligibility validation. The eLiving system 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. The system 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 lottery process for future years.

According to Jennifer Garvin, director of Ancillary Services, “The assignment process begins with the data in eLiving. For each housing request, the Assignment Office carefully analyzes eligibility, gender, Special Living Options, room types, roommates, accommodation requests, break access/holiday housing, and residence hall renovations. Our data is continually updated. This year, we are challenged with the unexpected increase of the first-year student enrollment with guaranteed occupancy and building renovations. Our goal is to honor students’ requests by assigning a space that’s safe, secure and comfortable.”

The assignment process is similar to a puzzle — there are many moving parts, all of which need to fit together. Assignments are processed 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 preferences, such as housing area and Special Living Options, 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.

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 awakened early and also 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 aren’t 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!

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 at 814-865-7501 or

Last Updated July 26, 2016