Yale’s residential colleges, modeled after the college system of Oxford University in England, provide students with more than just a place to live.

Incoming freshmen are assigned randomly to one of the University’s 12 colleges, and, although most freshmen live outside their colleges on Old Campus, students have plenty of opportunities to become familiar with their college’s people and amenities.

The goal of the colleges is to allow students to live in a group of a few hundred, and residential colleges are touted by the admissions office as small communities within a big university. College deans and masters — who both live and work within the college — join students as important parts of these college communities.

College deans oversee academic and housing issues, such as student schedules, extensions on papers, and room draws each spring. The rooms themselves, in the colleges and on Old Campus, come in all shapes and sizes. The most common configurations feature single and double bedrooms connected to a central common room, and some suites have their own private bathrooms.

The other half of each college’s dynamic duo, the master, works with various committees to improve student life and to organize social activities, including study breaks and Master’s Teas. Each year most colleges hold about ten such teas, which offer opportunities for intimate discussions with prominent outside visitors. Last year, “Survivor” winner Richard Hatch visited Silliman, comedian Al Franken spoke in Pierson, and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue visited Saybrook.

Residential colleges also offer an array of other perks for their students. All have their own dining halls, computer rooms, laundry facilities, television rooms, gyms, music rooms and student kitchens, and some colleges have darkrooms, pottery rooms, recording studios, billiard rooms or even saunas.

Some of the facilities that house all these amenities were found to be crumbling in the mid-1990s, so the University began extensive renovations in the 1998-99 school year. Each year, one college is closed and its students sent to a temporary dorm informally known as “Swing Space,” which is located near Payne Whitney Gymnasium. Berkeley, Branford and Saybrook colleges have already been renovated, and Timothy Dwight College will be closed this year. College renovations will take a break during the 2002-03 academic year when renovations on Vanderbilt Hall on Old Campus will commence.

Yalies associate strongly with their individual colleges, and rivalry among the colleges can also be fierce, especially when it comes to intramural sports. The residential colleges battle each other all year in sports like soccer, water polo, hockey and basketball in an attempt to capture the Tyng Cup, which is given to the college that has the most overall success in intramurals. At Yale football games, members of a college often sit together to wave the college’s flag, chant the college motto, and taunt students of the other colleges. And the rivalry goes beyond the field too, as in the sometimes-fierce Silliman-Timothy Dwight snowball fights.

Many social events also center around the residential college system, as individual colleges sponsor some great parties and dances. These galas include the Silliman Safety Dance, where the ’80s are alive and well, Morse and Stiles Casino Night, which is a swanky formal with gambling, cigars and swing dancing, and the Pierson Inferno, a Halloween costume party. Residential colleges also hold holiday balls and winter formals, as well as screw dances where roommates match one another up on blind dates.

Colleges also provide social outings and trips throughout the year. These adventures include such items as ski trips to Vermont, jaunts to New York for a baseball game or an opera performance, and afternoons picking apples or pumpkins out in the countryside.

Whichever college you find yourself in, you will find a close-knit community and warm, friendly atmosphere that will persist through your bright college years.