Written By Joel Brown, Original Article – BU Today
Returning BU students can select next year’s room from the comfort of their current digs—or anywhere they have an internet connection. A new online room selection process replaces a system that’s been in effect for more than 25 years, eliminating the need for students to wait in line at the George Sherman Union.
“We’re meeting them where they are,” says Nishmin Kashyap, director of BU Housing. “It’s very streamlined for the students, it’s user-friendly, and so far they’re signing up with minimal issues.”
The best part? There is now one-stop online shopping for all housing-related functions via the My Housing Portal, where students can review their housing assignment, apply for a room change, direct swap, and submit a housing application. The new system launched in October 2015, but it kicks into high gear now with room selection for 8,000 continuing students for the 2016–2017 year. Continuing student housing applications close today, the deadline to sign a residence license agreement and pay the $600 housing guarantee payment. The same-room reservation process also ends today.
Students will still receive an emailed room-selection number based on class year and a designated time to get their room assignment, but they will complete the process online, from anywhere with an internet connection.
The three basic processes—same room/same room pull-in, internal, and community selection—remain the same. But one key change is that students who want to room with friends have to form an online web of friends. To include a friend in your web, the friend will have to accept your request and you’ll need the friend’s BU ID number. Once you’re accepted into each other’s web, you can assign each other to your room, suite, or apartment during the selection process.
“Students have to do their homework” to be ready for room selection, Kashyap says, but the new system should be less anxiety-provoking.
Tuesday, March 1, marks the launch of applications for summer students, employee housing, and summer special groups. Also in March, newly admitted freshmen and transfers coming in for fall 2016 can complete the new student application. Freshmen and transfers will be able to search for roommates and provide housing preferences that will help with their assignments.
This summer and fall, Housing, which handles about 11,500 beds in 144 buildings, will launch online damage billing, room condition reports, furniture and key requests, and mobile check-in.
The changes visible to students are the payoff of years of planning and a major shift behind the scenes by Housing staff and BU Information Services & Technology, which has moved housing functions off the University mainframe and onto a dedicated housing platform called StarRez.
“StarRez is one of the best in the industry,” Kashyap says. “It has a very intuitive, user-friendly, robust system.”
Soon after StarRez went live last fall, online new student and continuing student housing applications for this spring were launched, including direct swaps, room changes, and midyear pull-ins. (Dining plans are still chosen through the mainframe.)
The changes aren’t making life easier just for students, Kashyap says, but also for Housing staff. In the past, room-change applications were done by paper and pen and inputted to the BU mainframe.
“We used to put students in rooms one by one,” says Kashyap.“You can imagine how laborious it was. Now we can do bulk assignments with student preferences, mutual roommate requests, and so on as factors. For housing business, it makes sense to have a system this powerful.
“It’s a huge relief from the administrative perspective,” she says. “It frees us up to spend more time talking with students and parents about the experience of living in on-campus housing.”