Housing Application Timing Can Directly Impact Your Occupancy and Student Satisfaction.
Managing the timing of housing application processes is more of an art than a science. From admissions and enrollment deadlines to competition and student behavior, there are many factors that administrators must take into consideration when planning the application process. Although online housing applications provide students with an easier and quicker way to secure housing, accommodation providers still have a difficult decision in determining the appropriate timeline to make the different phases and steps of the process available.
We asked Steve Gilmore, Associate Director of Housing Assignment Services/Occupancy Management at the University of Arizona (UA), and Al deVries, Associate Director of Residential Programs for Administration and Services for Stony Brook University, about their housing application processes, best practices and challenges.
University of Arizona Housing Application Process
First-Year student housing application timeline at UA:
University of Arizona Housing Application Timeline
Best Practices at UA
UA uses data extensively to support their decision making. The collected data is used to measure interest in certain areas like theme communities. Their process allows them to have most of the spring semester to see how many students will be in the theme communities and they can pull back if a theme isn’t doing as well to make space for others.
UA’s current process is based on improvements they’ve made over time to overcome former challenges. One process that they’ve changed is the timing of the roommate selection process, along with the room selection process, which is all managed using StarRez.
“By opening roommate tools in March, our hope is that students are completing their own profiles and searching for/selecting roommates, and not their parents. ”
Roommate Selection Process at UA
Although the housing application opens in September, they delay opening roommate tools until March for three reasons:
- Parents are often more involved in completing application steps with (or in many cases for) their students early in the process. “By opening roommate tools in March, our hope is that students are completing their own profiles and searching for/selecting roommates, and not their parents,” said Steve.
- Students are closer to becoming college students and their responses to profile questions may be more accurate than if they were answering those questions earlier in their senior year of high school.
- Mandatory entry profiles are used to identify students admitted to theme communities. Delaying roommate selection allows theme community partners to admit as many students as possible before March 1, so that when a student is admitted to a theme community, roommate search results only include other students admitted to the same theme community.
Room Selection at UA
Prior to using StarRez, students were able to choose space in housing starting as early as November. This resulted in many students who would sit on space, making it unavailable to others, and then would cancel later. UA changed the process to make the License Agreement (LA) and Rent Down Payment (RDP) steps of the application process available starting in mid-April. Both of these steps are required and need to be completed before selecting a room. Room selection then begins in mid-May, so many of those students who previously would’ve chosen a room and then later cancelled won’t even be a factor because they won’t complete the LA and RDP. Therefore, the process makes more space available for those students who do plan to be there in the fall.
Steve said, “By pushing the availability of certain steps of the application process out, it keeps students engaged with the housing application over a fairly long application/assignment process timeline. It also gives us check points throughout the process where we can identify students who may no longer be planning to be here and remove them from the applicant pool to make room for others. This is particularly helpful for those students who, rather than just calling us or replying to one of our email reminders to let us know, choose non-response and failure to complete application steps as their sole method of letting us know they aren’t coming.”
Stony Brook University Housing Application Process
First-Year housing application timieline at Stony Brook:
Stony Brook University Housing Application Timeline
“Stony Brook added a ‘Summary of Housing Applications’ document on their portal to help students see all the different applications, although only those applications that are available for each student actually appear when the student logs in.”
Best Practices at Stony Brook
Two important timing factors considered by Stony Brook are:
- They try to schedule application processes so that they don’t overlap since students may need to fill out more than one application. Stony Brook added a “Summary of Housing Applications” on their portal to help students see all the different applications, although only those applications that are available for each student actually appear when the student logs in.
- They take the admissions cycle into account because they don’t want students to have access to the portal until they’re admitted and credentialed.
Stony Brook has been using StarRez for more than three years now, and they tweak their processes every year as necessary. Some of the highlights include:
- They moved to self-selection for new students in 2016.
- They moved to self-selection of gender-inclusive housing in 2018.
- They’re creating an RA application process in the portal as step one of creating a one-stop student employment process for student positions.
Stony Brook has an in-house IT team that, along with StarRez, provides Al and his staff with great resources and data to provide services that work well for them and their students. They use metrics extensively. They have an array of customized reports that they’ve developed to help drive decision making both in terms of placement as well as in managing spaces throughout the year.
Challenges at Stony Brook
Stony Brook faces some challenges with the housing application process:
- First-year students don’t find out which undergraduate college they’re assigned to until mid-May for the fall semester. As a result, students are delayed in accessing the portal when they actually want an earlier access point. Al said, “We then give access shortly thereafter in a tiered fashion (honors and other specialty groups, first-year students and then transfers) for students to select rooms and roommates.”
- Similarly, they guarantee housing to new grad students who apply by May 15th, but the graduate school isn’t finished processing many of the new grads. Again, as a result, they are delayed in accessing the portal, and they may end up in a community that they don’t want to be in.
It’s a challenging responsibility to determine all the deadlines and processes for the housing application process. StarRez can help by enabling you to have flexibility in configuring your processes and timelines along with providing you with reporting capabilities based on your needs.
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