A Suite Decision

Selecting your room for next year is no picnic

It’s getting to that time of the school year when Harvard students must make a critical decision that has an enormous impact on their happiness for next year, and likely the rest of their lives. We will argue over it, we will laugh, we will cry. I’m talking about, of course, the agony and ecstasy of selecting our rooms for next year. Who can blame us for caring so passionately about what suite we live in next year? It’s the place, after all, where we spend most of our time. It’s where we sleep, where we eat (thank you, Half Shell Delivery), and where we go to class (thank you, video lectures online).

Many of us have already lost countless hours of sleep while stressing about potential rooms, going over floor plans in our head while anxiously wondering many things. Will that closet be big enough to fit my clothes, shoes, and cases of Ramen Noodles? Will it be awkward using a bathroom that has two toilets but no dividers? Will I be annoyed all year if I share my bedroom with John and his constant “gifts” of “fragrance” that come out of his “butt”? Will he be mad that I published that in The Crimson? These are all legitimate concerns that you must face when selecting suites. You’ll likely permanently damage some friendships during the decision-making process. Don’t worry, next year you’ll find that it was totally worth it when you’re soaking up that extra nine square inches of space in the bedroom that you fought so hard for.

There are many factors that you must take into consideration when choosing a room. One of the first things you should think about is the location of the suite. Do you want a quiet, out-of-the way room? Then take the top floor of your entryway. Just remember to bring along a sherpa and some trail mix during your ascent to the fifth floor. If the mere thought of stairs makes you sweat, then maybe you should take a room on the first floor. Be prepared, however, to keep your shades down so random passersby won’t be privy to your most personal and intimate moments—you definitely don’t want them catching a glimpse of you getting dressed or of your Google search bar.

It is also probably a good idea not to choose a suite that is right next to a resident tutor. While these people are usually easy-going and understanding, they generally are not appreciative of loud noise late at night. Tutors usually go to bed—get ready for this—before midnight. You’re probably asking, “How can these people finish their papers, play a few matches of Halo on Xbox, grab late night Felipe’s, and poke all of their crushes on Facebook before midnight? Well it turns out that tutors don’t lead similar lives to us college students, and that is exactly why they won’t be pleased when they unintentionally overhear you at 2 a.m. raving about your sexual misadventures or singing at the top of your lungs to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” Make sure that your suite shares walls with students who share a similar lifestyle. People say that the walls of Harvard dorms are paper thin. I say that isn’t giving paper enough credit.

Besides the location of the room, students must be aware of the many subtleties that can determine their satisfaction with their suite. Don’t rely solely on floor plans when choosing a room. You have to actually visit the room in person before you make a commitment to it for next year. Just because someone is currently living in it doesn’t mean you should be shy when you are inspecting it. Test the Internet connection. Lie down in the beds. Sit on the toilet. You can never be too exhaustive in your testing. Trust me, you don’t want to choose a suite only to discover next year when you move in that the toilet paper dispenser is eight feet away from the toilet itself.

It is critical that you keep things in perspective during the suite selection process. Your Harvard experience will not be defined by the four walls that surround you, but by the people that surround you. So what if your shower head is only about four feet high and one section of floor in your common room is permanently sticky? You’ll adjust better than you realize. As hard as it is to believe now, your happiness next year is not directly proportional to the amount of square feet in your room. It is, however, inversely proportional to the amount of free “gifts” that John emits into your bedroom while you try to write your column.

Eric A. Kester ’08 is an anthropology concentrator in Winthrop House. His column appears on alternate Fridays.