The Doomsday Planner’s Survival Guide to Room Balloting at Cambridge.

Say goodbye to those people you see around college that force you to throw on a half-hearted pursed lipped smile, it’s balloting season.

Virginia Bernardi

"Living in a room with no en suite is a lifelong 5 week blues." - Isaac Newton

It starts on a Sunday morning. A time usually reserved for lazy brunching and gentle chatter. And yet, as you’re about to bite into that golden hash brown, it suddenly hits you. The question everyone avoids but secretly wants to ask; what everyone’s been waiting to ask since the ballot in first year.

It’s round two and everyone seems to be rearing to go.

The anticipation on your friends’ faces is evident as they ask: “So, where are you living next year?”

You freeze. You had an answer in mind but suddenly you’re not sure what to say. Will they be offended if you say you’re not planning on living with them? Will they try to recruit you to their side? Should you even be sharing your plans or keeping them on the down-low?

You laugh, playing it cool, shrug your shoulders and say something like: “Oh you know, probably wherever the crowd goes…”

Little do they know you’ve been planning for months. You’re no rookie: formulating a strategy has been at the forefront of your mind ever since your year’s meltdown in first year.

Someone who’s new to the game may not take it seriously: sitting back, relaxing, and waiting to see where the crowd takes them. You, the Ballot Doomsday Planner, know better.

You knew the need for a strategy after last year, with all its crying, serpentine messages in group chats, and frantic, last minute changes. And let's not forget the aftermath of varying reactions: those content because they got what they wanted, those resentful because they hadn’t and those still clueless about exactly what sort of living situation they’d signed themselves up for.

Some may think that all rooms are equivalent. Well, they’d be wrong.

As the expert planner, you know that there are many factors to take into consideration when selecting a room. It is after all, where you‘ll be living for six months of your life. You have to consider size, position, amount of light, facilities, proximity to a bathroom or kitchen — and that’s just in terms of room quality. Everyone knows that the real stress comes when considering the social aspect of balloting.

Is this Hull or Girton accommodation? You'll never know.

Who do you want to live with? It’s understandable that in your last year you’d ideally want to be with as many of your friends as possible. But you also want to live with people who keep a clean kitchen, who’ll be fun to be with but won’t disturb you at 3 a.m. when you’re trying to work. A carefully crafted cocktail of companions has to be created, and even then complications can arise. First, they may not agree with your plan (though you are the Planner so why shouldn’t they?). Second, the ballot in your college may force you to choose your rooms one not directly after each other, and hence risk separation.

You reach a crossroads: do you give up your carefully thought-out room choices in order to stay together, or do you separate to prioritize the quality of your individual rooms, reassuring each other that everything is fine, that you’re already friends so you’ll see each other anyway?

It’s a decision that can make or break friendship groups: will all the members stick to the plan or will some leave the others behind and go at it alone? Worst of all, will some leave one friendship group for another if faced with a choice? The drama promises to be electric.

The rough wilderness of the balloting world demands survival of the fittest and teaming up for survival. As a Doomsday Planner you know this well and your planning has been to try and get your whole group out alive. There may come a time, however, when you might have to think about yourself. What will you do: will you look after the group or will you make sure you achieve your goal? To what extent is it condoned to be ‘selfish’ in the world of balloting?

So there you are at brunch. The discussion carries on and exclamations fly around about how this is “Officially the worst time of the year”, “Guys, I’m literally snaking you all for an en-suite” and “Wouldn’t a house in town just be easier?”. You sit and let this unfold: going over your plan in your head, waiting until the right time to disclose it, glad that at least this year no one is being forced to move out — that really messed things up last year...