Got Those Lottery System Blues

One of the biggest lies we tell children and immigrants in this country is that in America you can become anything you want to be. Mantras like, “If you believe, you can achieve” and, “You can do anything you set your mind to” are abundant and carelessly tossed around as if they’re actually true.

However, in the back of our minds there is often that gnawing feeling that warns us that things probably will not turn out as we hope. That’s because so many things are beyond our control. Even though we propagate the myth that America is a meritocracy, where how well we perform (typically something we control) correlates to what we’ll gain, few aspects of life actually function this way.

Take the Colgate Housing Lottery, for example. The lottery is 100 percent random. The number you receive has no relation to what you may feel that you have earned. Although it has been less than a week since numbers were distributed, I’ve already heard many grumbles, not only regarding the results of the lottery, but also with the process.

Many current first-years are still used to the sheltered system of high schools, in which we were often rewarded for our achievements.

Not to say that Colgate by any means resembles the “real world,” but the atmosphere is of one that automatically recompenses people when they do something well or right. I’ve heard some straight ‘A’ students starting to say that they should have received lower (better) lottery numbers because they did well academically. On the other hand, last night, I had to laugh out loud as I heard several students discussing a conspiracy theory that anyone who had been written up by Campus Security was purposefully assigned a number in the 600 – 700 range.

The truth is that Colgate University doesn’t punish or reward its students through the Housing Lottery. You and your conduct have absolutely no influence on the results. Rather, you must accept that if you’re a rising sophomore with a number above 400 you’ll probably be living in Cutten Complex next year. More importantly, you need to accept the hand fate dealt you and move on.

The Housing Lottery is not the only event in life in which you will not have control or influence over the outcome. For the rest of your life, you’re going to see others you deem less qualified than you rewarded while your success remains unnoticed. How you react to this is completely up to you. In fact, even having a good attitude will not result in an explicit reward, the way it did in elementary school, when you received a gold star for being a good sport about something; however, a good attitude will make you a lot happier, and in the case of housing, your roommate will certainly appreciate it. Being the “glass half full” person really isn’t that difficult, and it is certainly worth the effort for the benefit it brings everyone around you — yourself included.

As far as other aspects of life, more meaningful and permanent than residence hall options, I don’t believe anything will be handed to us. Just earning a Colgate degree or just having a good record will not ensure success. I’ve just learned to accept that 1) I won’t always get a pat on the back when I do things right, but luckily, I won’t always be penalized when I do something wrong, and 2) that I don’t control everything. And that’s fine.

So for now, stop complaining that your floormate with a 1.8 GPA got a better lottery number than you. That’s life!