How We Assign Housing

It starts with a mission…and an algorithm

MIT has invented a computerized model to make the process of deciding who lives where as efficient and equitable as possible—and to create residential communities that feel like home.

Most assignments are made by running both the student applications and the housing vacancies through a series of algorithms. Algorithms are used in two separate allocations. The April allocation assigns students to housing in the fall. The November allocation makes assignments for the spring. These complicated systems achieve a simple goal—housing the maximum number of graduate students who want to live on campus in their first choice of assignment.

How the algorithm works

  • First priority is to give the greatest number of graduate students the opportunity to live in graduate housing.
  • Second priority is to get students into their top choices. More weight is given to moving someone onto campus than moving someone from their second to their first choice.
  • The more places you rank among your preferences, the more likely you are to receive an on-campus housing assignment.

What happens next

Is the allocation process a lottery?

  • The process for assigning graduate housing is less of a lottery than ever before.
  • Previously, students were randomly assigned a number and placed into numerical assignment until there were no more vacancies. This could take weeks to complete.
  • Our current process is extremely fast and efficient. Using algorithms, a computer program takes into account all preferences and vacancies and optimizes the matching of students to available vacancies.
  • This process could still be considered a lottery in the sense that we don’t have enough vacancies to go around. While assignments are made through preferences, the process is still marked by some degree of randomness.

Allocating housing to single students

How it works

  • The graduate housing assignment process is designed to give priority to new students.
  • The idea is to give as many new graduate students as possible a year on campus so that they can participate in the vibrant life of the community.
  • Most single residences have an approximately 40:60 ratio of new to continuing students.
  • To determine how many spaces go to new students and how many to continuing students, we look at the number of continuing students who are remaining in the residence from the year before.
  • Let’s say we have a building with 100 spaces. Each year, 40 new students must leave when their contract expires, always giving us 40 spaces in this building.
  • Of the 60 continuing students who remain, only 21 graduate and leave. The rest renew for another year.
  • This means we will be able to assign 40 units to new students, but only 21 to continuing students.
  • Gender is also a factor. If 6 of the 21 spots are in female apartments, we have only 6 spaces for continuing female students and 15 spaces for continuing male students.

Allocating housing to students with partners or families

How it works

  • Moving can be disruptive to families, so new students with families get an initial housing assignment of either one-and-a-half or two years.
  • Two buildings on the MIT campus are set aside exclusively for families— Eastgate and Westgate, which together comprise 411 apartments. They house three groups of students:
  • New students—students who have never before been registered at MIT and have received either a two-year, non-renewable assignment in the May housing allocation or a one-and-a-half-year non-renewable assignment in the November housing allocation.
  • New students/second year—students who are in the second year of their initial “new student” housing assignment.
  • Continuing students—students who don’t meet the criteria for “new students” and have received permanently renewable “continuing student” assignments in the May housing allocation.
  • In a family residence of 100 people, the usual breakdown is 40 new, 40 continuing, and 20 renewing for the second year of their initial assignment.
  • To determine how many vacancies will go into the pool for new applicants and how many for continuing applicants, we look at the ratio of students renewing in that building.

Good to know

Find out who is eligible for graduate housing.
Review your housing options.
Learn the rules governing family housing.
Check housing policies.


Contact the Housing Office