Students are your savviest renters.

The so-called Generation Z has grown up in an age where brands strive to be digital, accommodating and transparent. When choosing a place to live, students expect a contemporary experience— and that doesn’t just mean providing them with modern amenities or a sophisticated website.

No, the secret to succeeding with this demographic lies in your application.

Sound far-fetched? Consider this: the application is your make-or-break moment when converting a lead to a lease. It’s imperative then that it depicts you as a contemporary apartment community. With so much riding on it, there’s no room for error.

Five mistakes to avoid with your student-housing application:

  1. Using a paper application

This probably goes without saying, but students prefer digital over paper. Using a traditional paper application is an immediate red flag for any student that wants to live in an apartment that feels familiar and welcoming. It identifies you as being out of touch. While it may seem like a minor detail for those of us who grew up using paper for everything, young adults view a paper application as the antiquated exception to the rule.

Plus, digital provides convenience to the application process. For students, it allows them to submit their information quickly and efficiently on their preferred device. Meanwhile, property managers can easily review and process the application.  

  1. Not collecting roommate preferences

Moving in with a stranger can be stressful as your roommate may dramatically affect your rental experience. If you’re serious about studying and only socialize occasionally, you don’t want to be paired with another student who parties 24/7. And remember, a good match can benefit you as well. Compatible roommates are more likely to remain in their apartment longer and renew their lease.

As a property manager, you have the power to bring similar personalities together. Ask students to describe their living habits on the application. Are they night owls? Do they invite friends over often? What’s their level of cleanliness on a scale of one to ten? Let your application software compare their answers to those of other applicants, and create a complimentary pair.

  1. Failing to offer add-ons

When you’re selling students on your property, you probably want to offer them a baseline for amenities. Whether it’s high-speed WiFi or pool access, you decide what perks come automatically included on move in. But give them the opportunity to upgrade. It’s now common for student housing communities to offer a robust suite of amenities, so students will likely expect options.  

Your digital application should include an add-on section. What extras can you offer to sweeten the deal: Parking? Meal plans? Students can add these to their shopping cart as they go, and purchase them later. Giving them the option to customize their rental experience will reflect well on you. It depicts your community as flexible and accommodating of each renter’s needs.

  1. Dragging out the application process

More than half of rental decisions in student housing happen within one to two weeks of classes starting. That’s fast. When it’s “go time” on an apartment, students aren’t going to tolerate a long, drawn-out application process. They simply don’t have time to wait for you to review their paperwork, do a background check, and follow up in a week.

It’s important then that you move quickly. That doesn’t mean using your leasing team to pour over every detail (in peak application periods, that may not even be realistic). Instead, let student housing technology save you valuable time. While you work on marketing your property to new leads, the automated application review will check every detail, and determine whether or not the applicant meets all the necessary criteria. In a rush of applications, you may need the speed of technology to keep up.

  1. Offering a limited view of units

Applications for student housing have come a long way. These days, students expect a more thorough display when completing an application. That is, they don’t just want to know what units are available. They want to be able to envision themselves living in them. It’s a good idea to offer virtual tours on your website, but you can introduce students to your apartments on the application as well.

Rather than simply listing what’s available, let students shop by floor plan. Show them the layout of a unit to paint a picture of what their life will look like day in and day out. It not only helps them picture the “flow” of an apartment, it gives them a sense of size as well. “800 square feet” doesn’t mean much in a listing. To see how abstract square footage translates to real life, let them see the rooms, so to speak. A unit’s layout may seem one way in theory, but once it’s depicted in a floor plan, the applicant may choose another unit that better suits her.  

Want to up your digital application game? Check out On-Site’s student housing solutions.