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Credit: William Snow

Bonding with the residents of your freshman dormitory is a Penn tradition, but most students do not typically choose to stay in these dorms for more than a year — that is, until New College House came along. 

NCH, which opened its doors in 2016, prides itself on being home to a vibrant, tight-knit community. Many of its first batch of residents have chosen to continue staying there year after year, and some say they have no plans to leave. With its suite-style dorm rooms and 40-inch flat screen televisions, NCH was the first four-year house to reach capacity during the 2018-19 room selection period, leaving out some 250 interested applicants. In total, the dorm houses 344 residents, excluding staff. 

The dorm's popularity with upperclassmen is also growing. The percentage of juniors increased from 3.2 percent in the 2017-18 academic year to 21.9 percent in 2018-19. At the same time, the total number of underclassmen fell from 91.7 percent of the NCH population in the 2017-18 academic year to 73 percent in 2018-19.

The increasing numbers of upperclassmen may be attributed to NCH's "priority points" application system. All applicants to the house are given a lottery number, but returning residents have the ability to lower their number with priority points. Points are awarded for a variety of reasons, including event participation, employment in the office, and one’s ability to be a “good community member." 

Engineering junior Katrina Pham has lived in NCH since she was a freshman, and said she plans to room there again during her senior year. 

“It’s very convenient,” Pham said, citing its proximity to the Engineering Quad. 

Pham added that she has also come to value the close community at NCH. 

“Last year, I lived right across from Dr. Cam Grey," Pham said, referring to the NCH's faculty director.  "He had these wonderful conversations each weekend night where we would just talk about politics and events."

College junior Jacky Chan, who is entering her third year as a NCH resident, agreed. “[The faculty and staff] genuinely care for the residents and go above and beyond to check in on people,” she said.

Chan added that it was exciting for her batch of students to get to build the culture around NCH after arriving as its first occupants three years ago. 

“We kind of felt a bit special in the sense that we were living in a brand new dorm and quite a bit away from the Quad,” she said. 

Both Pham and Chan worked as front desk staff during their first year. Pham then went on to serve on the House Council, which receives an annual budget from the University to spend on dorm events. Chan, inspired by the spirit of mentorship at NCH, served as a Meliora Ambassador during her sophomore year. The position is part of a program that pairs upperclassmen with three to five freshmen also living in NCH. 

“We actually developed a tight knit community here," Pham said.  "It’s kind of something that we still identify with today."


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