Where the College Kids At?

The beautiful period of life during which you have more ramen stacked on your mini fridge than dollars in your bank account: 

College. 

You’re a pretty smart cookie, so I’m sure you already knew that 44% of college undergrad students live off campus. Whether you like them or not, these sleep-deprived homework slaves pose a pretty good opportunity for the rental industry. But hey, if you want in on this chance, you have to play smart. College kids may change their major 512 times, but they know what they want for housing. Don’t you love it when your work is cut out for you? Sit down, listen, and take notes. Aw, look, now you’re the student. 

Bang for Their Limited Bucks

You know those days when you become a recent convert to good karma-ism after finding a crumpled ten-dollar bill nestled in the depths of your jeans pocket? Now imagine that being the entirety of your income source. College is survival of the frugalest. (I can make up words after surviving those dark times myself, thank you very much).

Most people find it cheaper to live off campus. The average cost of living at a four-year public campus clocks in at around $11,500 per school year. *Cue nervous college kid laugher*. Meanwhile, those who grab a roommate and venture into the wilderness beyond campus’ sacred boundaries save an average of $219 per month

But what does any of this mean to you? Sorry, sweetheart, but these kiddos generally don’t give a frick about your shiny and price-jacking amenities. Throwing all gas price logic out the window, students will hop in their clunker, let finances take the wheel, and drive further from campus to find lower rent rates. The ancient grunge shack of a property twenty minutes from campus is affordable and aesthetic, duh. Plus, every single “how to afford housing in college” crash course in existence breaks the news to students that relaxing pools and fancy fitness centers are figments of their fiscally-unstable imaginations. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. You need to make money on your property. When have I ever hung you out to dry? The answer to this problem, my friend, is versatility. Every hotel you’ve visited only had one type of room, right? And I’m sure your favorite sitdown restaurant solely serves a wide assortment of meatloaf. Give students options at varying price points. Freshmen are a hot mess in need of the bare bones minimum. Some upperclassmen, however, may have a small percentage of their crap together, thus allowing them to pay enough for a dishwasher, or if they’re big hotshots, a bathtub. You know what they say. If you can’t dazzle them with your brilliant amenities, baffle them with your bull…. unbelievably versatile options.

Practical Amenities

Perhaps that last section was a little disheartening. Whoopsies. Setting our versatility conversation aside, you’re probably wondering what in blazes you can include on your property that won’t scare college kids away. 

Stick to the basics. Really, their wants are simple and sweet. Without getting all grandiose and expensive, go ahead and include staple services. Students have a soft spot for fast internet, business areas, free printing, and parking spot distances that won’t leave them sucking for air. And yes, if you listen to me when I say control yourself, you can go ahead and include an inexpensive gym. They also love, with procrastination and rubric requirements coursing through their veins, designated study spaces

In order to keep yourself in check, consider the wise words of Sarah Castro. She’s a pretty smart lady who also happens to be the Director of Housing at Grand Canyon University. While decided whether or not to introduce another amenity to GCU’s housing, she always asks, 

“Is this a gap in service that we have? Or are we just buying something to buy it?…If we’re going to be adding things, it should be something of value that’s a definite gap in services for our students.” 

– SARAH CASTOR, GRAND CANYON UNIVERSITY DIRECTOR OF HOUSING

Insider Secret: If there is one thing students will cough up extra cash for, its space. According to Castro, who watches GCU students constantly select double-occupancy over triple-occupancy dorm options, space is something students are always willing to pay more for. Thanks to the 2018 National Multifamily Housing Council’s Comparing the Costs of On-Campus and Off-Campus Student Housing Study (hey, I didn’t name it), we also know that an extra 100 square feet of space allows off campus properties to charge 7-10% more in annual per-bed rent. That’s kinda fun, isn’t it? 

Home Away from Home

You can take a deep breath now. This point is shorter… but I will drag you back here by your ear if I catch you skimming it over. Finding a sense of community in college is very similar to hitting a piñata, obviously. After blindly spinning out of your normal social surroundings, you’re left to aimlessly swing at meeting new people. While the idea of striking up new friendships right off the bat sounds sweet, you generally end up whiffing or thwacking someone in the face (interpret that symbolism as you wish). Thankfully, resident halls, with their community bathrooms and force-fed floor gatherings, shove begrudging hermits and introverts into social situations. And then there’s you. You and your nontraditional student housing options don’t have that crutch to lean on. 

I know what you’re thinking. You can just ignore me this time around because it’s not that important, right? False. Relationships between students most influence a graduate’s perception of whether or not their education was worth the cost. Plus, “whenever you see things on TV or in the movies, it’s always a resident hall,” argued Castro, “so you want that experience.” 

It’s time to bring out the community big guns. Pool parties. Potlucks. Food Trucks. Movie nights. You name it. Be that cool mom or dad with snacks that make everyone want to come over to your kid’s house. I would like to personally raise a toast to companies such as Mobile Doorman, LittleBird, and MyResidentLiNC. These companies have done a lot of the heavy lifting for you by making resident event organization pretty darn easy. 

The Telephone Game: Marketing Edition 

I’m pretty sure I chose my college living quarters based on my middle school soccer teammate’s brother’s girlfriend’s recommendation. Gossip plays a role in this part of your rental success. Time and time again, Castro runs into new students who feel all entitled in their housing preferences. Why? “They have expectations… they’re going off of something that somebody else said.” If she had a dollar for every time she heard “oh, I want to live in this hall because so and so told me it was a fun area”, she could, well, probably pay for someone’s student housing. 

So what can you do to make sure that your property sounds lovely after passing through 72 different recommendations? *Cue the fireworks*. Targeted marketing! Check out this helpful piece on Marketing to College Students. I’m really digging their points on creating an online presence, making students feel special, targeting campuses (if allowed), and advertising the right amenities. 

Insider Secret: free t-shirts make up an entire love language for college students. Free swag is the way to their hearts. 

Did ya get all of that? College kids have a type. Whether you chose to keep their attention with low costs or bait them with free ramen, students offer too big of an opportunity to pass up. If you were unable to fully grasp this information, please feel free to attend my office hours or bring your questions to the IA. Form a study group or make flashcards. This material will be covered on the exam.

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