Commencement housing apps to open this month

by Sara McGahan | 3/5/14 7:33pm

by Natalie Cantave / The Dartmouth

While some families celebrate a Dartmouth acceptance by purchasing College gear, others pick up the phone, calling local hotels and inns to secure lodging for Commencement weekend. Over 12,000 visitors flock to the College each year for graduation, filling local establishments.

Yet when rooms are booked and waitlists lengthen, applications for housing at the College, which will open later this month, accommodate the influx. The College allocates about 2,000 beds in residence halls to families of graduating students and College alumni, said assistant director of residential operations Patricia Hedin, who coordinates Commencement and Reunion housing.

The Commencement and Reunion office sends out housing applications during the first week of March, with Commencement housing applications due March 31. The nightly rate for Commencement and Reunion guests is $45 per person.

While most of these rooms are filled by graduation weekend, a few rooms are usually still available at the start of Commencement, Hedin said.

Upper Valley residents also contribute to the market, renting their houses to the families flocking into town.

Mike Holmes, of Etna, and Steven McConnell, of Hanover, said that although they have never rented before, they decided to offer their houses for rent during graduation week this year and posted advertisements on Dartlist. Late in February, Marian Ulrich reached out to the Upper Valley Listserv to advertise renting out her two-bedroom condo. Last year, she rented it to alumni who were visiting campus for a reunion.

The frenzy to book area inns and hotels, however, starts far sooner. While most local hotels do not begin taking reservations until one year prior to the College’s annual Commencement ceremony, employees at several hotels said they typically receive calls inquiring about graduation weekend several years in advance.

Families begin calling the Norwich Inn to book rooms for graduation almost immediately after their child is admitted to the College, Norwich Inn innkeeper Taryn Foster said.

These eager parents, however, find themselves turned away — unless they establish a client relationship with the Inn, Foster said.

Both Six South Street hotel and the Norwich Inn invite individuals to stay depending on their prior patronage. If rooms are still available, the hotels will open them up to the general public.

However, this is rarely the case, Foster said. The Norwich Inn maintains a waiting list for Commencement weekend, and in her experience, has never been able to grant everyone on the list a room.

According to Foster and Six South Street hotel front desk associate Katie Hayes, the two establishments begin the process of reserving rooms for graduation weekend a year in advance. Both hotels are usually full a month after starting this procedure.

Similarly, the Hanover Inn does not allow the general public to book rooms during Commencement weekend. The College allocates the rooms for graduation, Hanover Inn director of sales and marketing Alexandra Zullo said.

Matt Henry, office supervisor of the Residence Inn by Mariott in Lebanon, said the hotel has already received calls about rooms for the Class of 2016’s Commencement ceremony. The Lebanon hotel, as well as the Fairfield Inn and Suites by Mariott in White River Junction have both filled up for Commencement 2014.

Fairfield Inn and Suites assistant general manager Amanda Perreault said the hotel took longer than usual to sell out for graduation, possibly due to recently implemented changes, including a stricter cancellation policy, heightened rates and increased reservation deposits.

Employees at several hotels said their rates tend to go up every year for Commencement.

The Woodstock Inn, unlike many local hotels, allows individuals to reserve rooms earlier than one year in advance, reservations assistant Melanie Roesch said. The Woodstock Inn does not confirm reservations until publishing its rate.

Seniors said their families began planning for the weekend far in advance.

Jacob Walker ’14 said that his parents booked rooms for his Commencement at the Woodstock Inn last spring and faced no difficulty making a reservation, and Jonathan Brady ’14 said that his parents made their reservation at a bed and breakfast in Woodstock during the summer of 2012.

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