Post-secondary students living in Waterloo, Ontario have more housing options than those of any other city in Canada. With a housing surplus of more than 1,000 beds, competition is tight among those offering off-campus student accommodations. This intense pressure also applies to the Housing and Residences department at the University of Waterloo.
When it saw that applications from incoming students for on-campus housing were low, UWaterloo’s housing team knew that they needed to better understand the needs and expectations of incoming students if they were going to help both domestic and international students succeed. UWaterloo reached out to Academica to better understand the expectations that incoming students bring to post-secondary housing.
A key part of UWaterloo’s mission is to constantly improve the student experience by making informed decisions based on timely and accurate research. Working with Academica, UWaterloo launched a survey among students in February and March of 2018 to learn more about what they expected from their post-secondary housing choices. Overall, the study identified five top factors that influence students’ choice of housing—cost, location, safety, amenities, and academic support.
UWaterloo took this information and worked with its four affiliated university colleges to create an engaging five-day digital marketing campaign, devoting each day entirely to educating prospective students about one of these five key decision factors.UWaterloo also used the survey findings to provide more targeted messaging to international students to reassure them of the quality and safety of UWaterloo’s housing options, in addition to providing more university advising services that were directly connected to Housing and Residences.
Finally, UWaterloo’s housing team made sure to share the results of this study with all staff who were working on the front lines with students. They gave all managers access to the report’s findings and presented key results at a university-wide meeting to help stakeholders learn more about the expectations of incoming students, and what more can be done to shape and fulfill these expectations.