The College is launching a new housing opportunity for upperclassmen called Leap of Faith that imitates the first year housing experience. Starting this spring, the Office of Residential Life will pair students who opt into the program with roommates who share similar interests and habits using a questionnaire comparable to the one distributed to first years before they arrive at Bowdoin.

“[You’re] leaving your housing assignment in the hands of the ResLife office, which is where it was when you applied and arrived here as a first year,” said Associate Director of Housing Operations Lisa Rendall.  “[This housing option is] being willing to take that leap of faith, as we call it, to try something new with your housing.”

Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster said he has been interested in developing a program like this ever since he first heard a group of upperclassmen students say their core group of friends are the people they met during their first six months of college.

“I sort of test drove the idea with groups of first years and sophomores that I’ve been having lunch with,” said Foster.  “You think of your three closest friends…inevitability the response almost always includes people from my first year floor or even my roommates.”

Rendall said that ResLife hopes for about 40 to 50 participants. In addition to the potential reward of newfound friendships, students who register for the program have another incentive: housing choices include Coles Tower, Stowe Hall, Howard Hall, Chamberlain Hall, Brunswick Apartments, Mayflower Apartments, 52 Harpswell Road and the fifth floor of Osher Hall.
Students may indicate a preference for the fifth floor of Osher option or the apartments, suites or rooms option, depending on whether they want a floor of new people similar to the first year experience.

While the Leap of Faith program will take the place of the housing lottery for students who choose that option, participants may still apply to College Houses. If they are accepted to a house, their Leap of Faith registration will be withdrawn. Since College House spots are competitive, Leap of Faith could provide another way for sophomores to live in a community with a new set of people.

“I think a lot of sophomores who apply for College Houses aren’t really sure what to do when they don’t get in,” Rendall said. “This might be an interesting option for them, so I’m hoping they will think about this as an option and apply for it simultaneously.”

Rendall said that juniors whose friends are abroad may find this program a good option. 
“[If] all your friends are studying abroad in the fall, but you’re going to be here because you couldn’t sync up your abroad options, why not try Leap of Faith housing and live with some new people for a semester?” Rendall said.

Bowdoin Student Government Vice President for Student Affairs Justin Pearson ’17 had similarly positive thoughts on the new option.

“It’s recommitting to the idea of allowing yourself to be a little vulnerable, then capitalizing on that opportunity,” Pearson said. “It’s really exciting because you won’t get to do this again.”

No other NESCAC schools offer a comparable program. Hamilton is interested in developing one. Amherst and Wesleyan have ways (lists of names, Facebook pages, mingling events) in which students searching for roommates can connect with each other; however, they provide no questionnaire and do not attempt to draw students together out of shared connection rather than necessity.  

Pearson said he hopes the program is not seen as one for students without other options.
“My biggest fear is that people will see it as ‘Land of Misfit Toys,’ instead of seeing it as an opportunity to really reach into those ideals of Bowdoin,” he said.

Pearson also emphasized the way this program is meant to expand one’s friend group—connections that every Bowdoin student could use.

“It’s going to take really strong people to say, ‘I think I have a strong enough foundation at the College with my friend group that I’m willing to step out on faith…and try this,”’ Pearson said.

Many students said ResLife did a good job pairing them with their first year roommates.

“If I wasn’t doing ResLife, I’d probably do this Leap of Faith housing because the roommate pairing worked out really well this year,” Hannah Berman ’18 said.

The program hopes it can create the same depth of friendship that comes from so many first-year housing placements. 

“You’re trusting in the fact that Bowdoin has admitted...this extraordinary group of human beings to this campus. And how can you really go wrong?” Foster said.

Pearson echoed Foster’s sentiment of admiration for students at Bowdoin.

“College is about taking a leap of faith,” Pearson said.  “Now it’s how you can capitalize on [your decision] to make some new, fun connections.”

The success of this program, according to Foster, ultimately does not depend on the number of people who participate.

“It’s not going to depend whether there’s eight or 80 people,” Foster said. “If we get a good response and it’s a positive experience, I don’t see why we wouldn’t keep doing it.”