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Upperclassmen can choose a room in the newly built New College House West for the 2021 Fall semester.

Credit: Andrea Mendoza

With a brand-new college house opening its doors and campus housing set to return to full occupancy this fall, room selection for the 2021-2022 academic year is underway.

The room selection application opened for all returning students on Feb. 23 at 9 a.m., and students must submit an application by March 15 at 5 p.m. in order to receive a timeslot. Timeslots are not given on a first-come-first-serve basis.

This year, students are able to request housing in New College House West for the first time. After starting construction in December 2018, NCHW will finally open its doors for upperclassmen residents this fall. The 13-story building located near 40th and Walnut streets will house up to 450 students in suite-style apartments, ranging from two- to six-person suites.

Penn is also set to return to regular occupancy levels in college houses next year, according to Penn Residential Services Associate Director of Housing Occupancy Katie Musar. 

“We are hoping to have all of our houses filled as they would during a non-pandemic time,” Musar said. “That means shared bedrooms, for example, in our double rooms and our Quad three-bedrooms.”

Campus housing operated differently than normal this year, as precautionary measures were taken in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. After closing on-campus housing for all undergraduate students in fall 2020 with some exceptions for students with extenuating circumstances, Penn later invited thousands of students back to campus in spring 2021 with several restrictions: students living on campus have been housed in private bedrooms, with no more than six students sharing a single bathroom.

To adapt the room selection process to the pandemic, which has resulted in students being unable to tour the college houses in person, Residential Services created 360-degree virtual room tours of many of the college houses, Director of Communications and External Relations Barbara Lea-Kruger said. 

For students planning on spending another year in campus housing, there are three phases of the housing application: Program Communities, Return to House, and Move to Another House. Upperclassmen have a choice between two price rates — housing will cost $11,014 or $15,418, depending on the type of room selected. More expensive rooms may include private bedrooms for all residents or amenities such as kitchens.

Students applying to Program Communities, groups centered around shared identities and interests in which participants live on the same floor, must complete their application by March 5 at 1 p.m. Applicants will receive an application decision by March 16. 

During the "Return to House" phase, rising third- and fourth-year students who request to stay in their 2020-2021 academic year place of residence will choose a room and bed space between March 22 and March 25. This option is not available to rising sophomores. Upperclassmen who wish to move to a new college house next year will select a unit and bed space from March 29 to April 1.

“An analogy that I’ve used before is it’s sort of like buying concert tickets in that you see where the seats are — except this time, it's rooms — and you’ll be able to see what’s available before you make your selection,” Musar said.

Until now, second-year students have not been required to live on campus in one of the University’s college houses. Penn announced in 2018 that, starting with the Class of 2024, sophomores will have to live on campus as part of its Second-Year Experience initiative. Similarly, in February 2021, the University announced that sophomores will be required to be on a University dining plan. Both decisions drew criticism from students, who alleged that the requirements are financially strenuous and restrictive.

All of the college houses on campus will have air conditioning next year, with Gregory College House's renovations completed in time for the fall semester, Musar said. Gregory has been closed for the 2020-2021 academic year so workers could install air conditioning.

Musar said that students should not worry if they don’t have a roommate or group of friends to apply with because of the isolating nature of this academic year.

“My tip is, always, don’t panic. We have space for you,” Musar said.