In the University’s second full semester during a pandemic, students are continuing to adjust to the ever-changing restrictions implemented on Grounds. For first years, this is the only college experience they know, but for fourth years, this is a frustrating ending. The highly competitive Lawn resident application process has a slightly different meaning for the current and future residents as they adjust to these changes.
In contrast to the current students living on the Lawn, who could not have predicted that COVID-19 would impact their Lawn experience, next year’s Lawn residents are applying knowing the challenges that come with the pandemic. Amidst all the changes Lawn residents have endured, they cite familiar reasons for applying to live there.
“I applied because I was really excited about the social elements of the space, and in particular, smaller gatherings — like just [being] able to have my door open and have friends in my room,” fourth-year College student Moriah Hendrick said. “So a lot of those gatherings had to be shifted outside, but I do still feel like I've been able to have a lot of those interactions, and so that's been great.”
Fourth-year College student Jacob Olander expresses similar sentiments, citing the incredibly social environment as his main reason to apply. Year after year, the Lawn has been a hotspot for gatherings and parties — which is what attracts many of its residents. Even with a pandemic, current residents are still able to feel the benefits of the central living space on Grounds.
“I applied because I wanted to have a community space, and I'm a pretty extroverted person,” Olander said. “I thought the idea of living in a central location where people can visit pretty much all the time was very appealing to me. And I also had other friends who had done it, who lived here before, and really enjoyed it, so I applied. And luckily it worked out.”
In addition to the social experience, the Lawn also provides an opportunity for residents to live and study in a place of rich history. It is the location of dozens of protests and demonstrations since the school’s founding, as the University’s history spans the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement and countless other historical events that have shaped our country.
One fourth-year College student on the Lawn Selection Committee who wished to remain anonymous pointed this out as a main attraction for her during her application process.
“Even though the historical landscape of the Lawn is really complicated, and sometimes really dark, I think there's also something really powerful about living in such a historic space,” the committee member said. “So that was definitely another thing that drew me in.”
The Lawn Selection Committee has already made its selection for the following school year and is excited about the new students that will soon be gracing those rooms. Even though the application numbers were lower this year, the process was still very competitive, and committee members worked hard to ensure they chose the best group of people.
The intensive application review process is done by an assortment of 60 fourth-year students from all of the University’s academic schools who review all of the applications over a couple of weeks. There are multiple rounds where each member reads dozens of applications and scores them based on the strength of the submission. Due to the nature of the pandemic, selection committee members were asked not to focus too strongly on each student’s GPA or academic performance but to instead look at each application more holistically, which meant looking at extracurricular activities, community involvement and just generally how the applicants choose to spend their time over summers and during the school year.
“I think it was just really inspiring to read all the incredible things that all these third years had done, and all the ways that they had adapted to the absolutely ridiculous circumstances that we're living in,” the committee member said. “For me, it was a cool reminder of how many wonderful people there are at the school.”
Despite all the changes during the pandemic, the appeals of living on the Lawn stand firm in the minds of its residents and applicants. The strange situation has led residents to adapt and overcome, continuing to pave the way for a bright future at the University.
“Part of that honor and admiration that I feel for the community has come from watching how resilient they've been and how adaptable they've been,” Hendrick said. “And they've done a really, really great job of making this a space that can be home not just for them or for us, but for friends and younger community members as well.”