So, where do you live?/ What is the Telluride House?

The first question is a common one amongst students worldwide. Personal finance might still be a taboo topic in many countries and cultures, but for us there are a myriad of reasons to pose this potentially awkward question. Visiting prospective students want to see if they can afford to live in the city on their stipend, some of your peers want to know if you would be prepared to make the trek to their house in sub-zero temperatures for a Halloween party, and others want to know if they’re paying too much rent or too little, or if they can afford to live closer to campus/that cool coffee shop/even further away from the stadium. 

But for residents of the Telluride House, this question is loaded from several perspectives, not just from the financial one. How can we describe our experimental communal living situation to people who have never even heard of the program, let alone darkened our doorway? 

Option 1: “I have 24 roommates.”

This isn’t a lie, of course, but it often confused people: “How did you find them all?” “How big is your house?!” 

Then you have to explain that it’s not a conventional house share such as those found on the University Housing website or Craigslist. Whilst we choose the people we live with via paper applications and interviews, we’re looking for more than roommates to share the chores and utility bills. At least you can tell them that the House is so big because it’s a former sorority house, because that’s the truth. 

Option 2: “I live in a co-op.”

“Oh, so which co-op?”

“Well it’s not actually one of the ICC (Intercooperative Council) co-ops…”

This is difficult. We eat the same meals together and share bathrooms and communal areas, therefore the House does resemble a co-op in some ways, but two of the key differences - the fact that the room and board are completely free and that we don’t do any of the cooking or chores ourselves, unless we want to of course - means that this conversation can swiftly take an awkward turn.

Option 3: “It’s a scholarship house.”

Better, because all the members have indeed been awarded a scholarship. But the term “scholarship house” still fails to encapsulate House life in the fullest sense. Explaining to people what self-governance means to us and what our three pillars involve takes time…

So the answer to the question really depends on how interested your interlocutor is and how much time you both have. In any case, even the terms of scholarship sometimes don’t manage to capture the full scope of House Members’ experiences in the House, which also include informal dinner table conversations, baking, film nights, engaging with guests and visiting faculty, impromptu hallway chats… Words, then, cannot quite describe the House. 

Dinner Table Conversations

When evaluating our current application process, House Members often complain about the sets of essay and interview questions that have been reworked and revised over the years. Do these really allow us to find out whether someone is good at making conversation around the dinner table, a staple of House life? This is certainly a collective concern…

Other than inviting applicants to dine with us, a process that we discuss regularly but which seems fraught with logistical concerns, it seems that there is no real way to test this. But for now, we can at least enjoy thinking about what we do discuss whilst we eat.

Well naturally there are the grumbles and gripes about packed schedules, exams, and assignments, humorous and critical discussions about how we are taught and how we are asked to teach at Michigan. We exchange our summer plans, career goals, and vacation ideas.

As we settle into our roles in the House, the uniquely Telluridean conversations come along. Self-governance is both a blessing and a curse because we can decide to change our own internal structures via a democratic process but then talking about this is often akin to opening a huge can of worms and has indeed triggered many a late-night three-hour long debate. Is it a problem that some roles in the House carry more responsibility than others? Do some roles such as Secretary mean that certain people feel like they can’t speak as much in meetings as they would like? Should we even keep Community Service as one of our three pillars? The list is endless, but this willingness to sit and debate into the small hours is a testament to our commitment to House life.

Of course, we contest and consider other matters too! From politics to food, dating to budgeting, House Members have been known to spend ten times as long at the table as it takes to eat their food or to congregate by the fireplace or in the computer lab to share their views on all manner of subjects. 

When pressed, many of us would say that these informal exchanges are one of the best things about the House because by going off script, we can really get to know each other and have some more informal fun.


Q: What does the Telluride House scholarship include?

A: The Telluride House scholarship fully covers room and board, including meals. For exact details on scholarship content, please see our scholarship page.

Q: What are the official terms of scholarship?

A: Scholarship requirements can change from term to term, but generally include maintaining a certain grade point average (GPA), meeting community standards, and contributing to House life. For exact details on scholarship requirements, please see our scholarship page.

Q: When should I apply to the House?

A: Student applications are accepted in two cycles: current University of Michigan students should apply in the fall and incoming freshman and transfer students in the spring. For more information, please see our student applications page.

Q: How many people live in Telluride House?

A: The House can room up to 30 students, although there are usually are around 25-28 students living in the house. In addition, we also have private suites for up to three faculty guests as well as guest rooms for visitors

Q: Where is the Telluride House?

A: The Telluride House is located on Washtenaw Avenue in Ann Arbor. The House is within 10-minute walking distance of the University’s main campus.

Q: Can I take a semester off to study abroad?

A: Yes! In Telluride House, we call it “rustication”. It basically means that you’re not going to be living in the House for a specific amount of time (usually one or two semesters), but that you intend to come back. Rustication can be used for study abroad, to experience dorm life, or for unforeseen personal circumstances.

Q: How do you choose who receives a spot in the House?

A: The process consists of two parts: application reading and interviews.

In the first stage, every candidate’s application is read 5-6 times by randomly assigned house members. Each candidate receives an overall ranking based on the strength of the essays, awards, references, and community service, among other factors. Then we have a formal meeting to decide who gets an interview.

In the second stage, house members conduct interviews (usually an hour or two in length; phone interviews are possible) with the candidates who were selected at that meeting. Then we have another formal meeting in which we choose whom to offer spots in the house, based on the combined strength of the written application and the interview.

Q: Does the application process favor any specific minorities, academic concentrations, or state residencies?

A: No. Although the House naturally tends towards a diverse mix of people, there are no systematic biases or quotas in place to give anyone a “leg up”.

Q: I still have an unanswered question. Who can I contact?