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‘Craigslist For College Students’: Penn State Student’s App Aims To Modernize Campus Commerce

From furniture to student tickets, one Penn State student created an app that will help college students easily find items for sale, categorized on a platform that’s easy to use.

Launched on August 17, CampusStore, developed by senior computer science major and Penn State student Jerry Noel, was created as the end-all solution to peer-to-peer sales for students on college campuses. What started as a summer development project that eventually grew into a marketplace where students could buy, sell, and interact with each other, CampusStore was created to solve problems he had seen friends and fellow students experience firsthand.

Courtesy of CampusStore

“The idea came about over the course of many years. I would always hear people talking about how they were going to sell their stuff,” Noel said.

Noel explained how he saw that there were few online marketplaces available to college students that worked effectively and fit their needs as a suitable place to match buyers to sellers.

In an assignment for one of his computer science classes, Noel was tasked with creating an auction website for one of his assignments. For Noel, the project served as a trial run of the logistics of building a marketplace-type app and eventually fueled the motivation to begin to develop CampusStore.

“Last semester, I told myself, ‘I have to build this,'” Noel said.

Though he didn’t grow up with a programming or software development background, Noel was on track to create something important from a young age.

“When I was younger, I always had this weird desire to build something… I didn’t know it was going to be in the tech space,” he said. “That mindset of wanting to build eventually led to wanting to get into tech.”

Noel eventually settled on a major in computer science. Inspired by the story of Facebook and its creation, Noel’s curiosity started with trying to understand how the platform worked from the backend.

“I saw…all this software jargon. I saw a bunch of jibberish text and didn’t know what it was. Kind of in life, when you don’t know what something is you kind of want to know [more],” he said.

From there, Noel started learning how to code in his early years of high school. Though it was a slow process, he was reaffirmed by seeing some of the changes he made to programs and applications he used for testing. Beginning with websites, and later to app development, Noel was hooked on programming and the process of creating new apps.

Courtesy of CampusStore

As for the app itself, CampusStore was developed with the frustrations that Noel and his friends had when trying to sell items online.

To be eligible to use CampusStore, you must create and verify your account using your school email address. This measure, as Noel explained, not only offers peace of mind to buyers and sellers on the platform as an added layer of security, but it also helps create a culture of authenticity on the app.

Noel emphasized the importance of the knowledge buyers and sellers have on CampusStore — they can be sure only other students are the ones seeing their listings.

“You’re interacting with students, and it’s not just, anyone on the planet,” he said. “On other [marketplaces], you’re really messaging anyone. Sometimes you’re messaging someone in another country as you…and some of them aren’t real students.”

Noel also saw that, as is the case with other apps, finding exactly what you were looking for with no real filter options could get pretty exhausting. These issues of the selling process were fundamental problems he wanted to fix with the creation of his new app.

“On Facebook groups when you list something for sale, right underneath your post might be someone’s mom [selling something else entirely]. It’s very unorganized,” Noel said. “On CampusStore, you’re not going to see someone selling a ticket, and then underneath will be someone subleasing something. Things get lost that way.”

Instead, on CampusStore, Noel created categories and an array of powerful filter options so students could find items exactly within their price ranges.

“Even if it’s just a [Facebook page] that’s just tickets, you’ll still find [unrelated] things on there…and there’s no option to filter by price… It’s just a post,” he explained.

“You can list a price in a post, but that’s not always what happens. In fact, a lot of students end up paying more because no one’s listing prices. [Students] just have to waste time and message everyone to see who’s selling at a price that’s affordable,” he continued.

Noel spoke about how he believes the categorization options within the app will help get students away from the uncategorized messes on Facebook groups, Discord, or other marketplaces.

“The differentiating factor is that it’s organized in a way that allows people to find what they’re looking for easily,” Noel said.

With the creation of his app, Noel also wanted to capitalize on the close proximity that college students have to one another to help facilitate sales more convenient for those on his platform.

“This is really local,” Noel said. “If you’re selling a physical item, you can get it the same day. Maybe they’re in the same dorm as you or an apartment over a mile away. This is much faster than something like eBay where it has to get shipped to you.”

“I always tell everyone that we’re Craigslist for college students,” he explained jokingly.

As for safety on the app, CampusStore takes a similar approach to other platforms.

“You’re messaging college students. That’s not the end all be all of everything, but it is one step in becoming proactive in the situation,” Noel said.

Beyond the “Safety” section for users to access within the app, CampusStore urges its users to follow normal safety protocols as would be the case with any other app where users are buying and selling items. Meeting on campus, during the day, and in public settings are all guidelines that Noel urged the app’s users to keep in mind when making exchanges on his platform.

While CampusStore expands, Noel plans to continue to monitor users’ safety and notify them of additional measures he adds to help protect users on the app.

As for now, Noel hopes to help the app grow within the categories it currently serves and get CampusStore onto the phones of more college students.

“Right now on the app, there’s the physical items, tickets, subleases, and roommate matching,” Noel said.

Noel aims to promote CampusStore as the “everything” app for buying and selling as a college student. Eventually, he plans to monetize the platform using ads and a “featured listings” section to help offset his costs. For now, though, students are free to sign up for CampusStore and post their first listing at no charge.

CampusStore is currently available for sign-up at 30 different universities with plans to expand more at Penn State and to reach students at new schools. Interested students can learn more about CampusStore on its website, and the app is available for download on iOS and Android devices.

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About the Author

Luke Pieczynski

Luke is a junior accounting major hailing from Pittsburgh, PA, and is Onward State's social media manager. He can often be found sipping on a cold brew or skipping through his playlist for the *perfect* song for the moment. He's a fiercely loyal Sheetz Freak and will not settle for another Pennsylvania gas station. Please send your best take on why VLOOKUP is better than INDEX and MATCH to his Twitter @lukepie11 or his email [email protected].

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