Processing student applications can be an arduous task without the aid of the most up-to-date tools and technology. Here, we explore how universities can alleviate admin pressures and handle the application process effectively.
Although - according to UCAS - applicants to higher education courses decreased by around 6% in 2017, demand for a higher education remains relatively high and competition for places at universities continues to intensify. The dip can be attributed to the number of older students applying to study being in decline:
“We are seeing large falls for older applicants, partly because of strong young student recruitment in recent years depleting the pool of potential mature applicants,” explains Mary Curnock Cook, UCAS’ Chief Executive.
Whether recruiting for undergraduate or postgraduate courses, universities need to be able to manage student applications effectively to ensure the most qualified prospects become into enrolled students. A haphazard approach to managing applications will result in missed opportunities and misplaced paperwork… not to mention a very large headache for the admissions team!
Don’t underestimate the value of an application action plan
It’ll come as no surprise to anyone working in education that students’ expectations when it comes to content and engagement have shifted significantly over the last ten years. As such, new and emerging technologies should influence a university’s admissions action plan. Understanding and implementing these technologies will help to streamline the application process and deliver effective results by giving professionals more control over their branding and communications, without having to outsource elements to other companies.
“A solid student recruitment strategy should begin with the setting of clear goals after analysing enrollment data, in order to forecast trends and set targets.”
The transitional nature of technology means it’s important to keep track of changes and advancements in the industry - which is why any strategy should be re evaluated regularly and tweaked accordingly. For instance, at present, email is the most prolific means of communication between brand and consumer, institution and prospect. However, its face is always changing:
“Email is no longer a stand-alone medium - but something that integrates well with other media. Mobile in particular has changed the relationship between consumers and email and it is generally now a mobile-first medium. In addition, newer disciplines like Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) breathe new life into email to make it work harder while older techniques like segmentation help bring the right messages to the right audiences ever more effectively.” - National Client Email Report.
Our article on how to increase university admissions provides useful insight into the benefits of different channels when appealing to prospective students, but what about when the applications start to trickle - or flood - into the admissions department?
Consolidate and control your workflow by using a centralised system
The key to managing student applications in a systematic way is to use a modern CRM for higher education. Without this, universities often find themselves confronted with lots of bureaucracy to tackle in a short time frame. A CRM allows professionals to access, store, administer and manage all aspects of student data and communication throughout the entire student lifecycle.
“FULL FABRIC helped us digitalise the whole admission process which not only improved the applicant experience but also made the review and selection process a lot easier.”
The Saïd Foundation is a great working example of how a CRM can revolutionise the student application process. This pioneering institution provides postgraduate scholarship awards and supports students with disabilities, as well as those from disadvantaged backgrounds by providing them with access to a high quality education and better care.
Simplifying the process frees up time for creating targeted content to groups of applicants.
Before digitalising their application process through FULL FABRIC, applicants had to download and print a PDF form and submit it together with printed supporting documents to a local representative - time consuming for student and staff alike! Since streamlining their process through a CRM however, applications to the institution have increased by 62% and processing time has been cut by 20%.
“FULL FABRIC helped us digitalise the whole admission process which not only improved the applicant experience but also made the review and selection process a lot easier,” explains Emma Spittles, Scholarships Programme Manager at The Saïd Foundation.
A few of the benefits of using a CRM include:
- Capturing leads from multiple channels and using the information to inform the admissions and marketing strategy;
- Automating admissions by enabling students to apply through an online portal;
- Simplifying record management across the university, i.e. enabling faculties to input data for enrolled students;
- Creating and delivering dynamic, bespoke content based on qualifications, interests and application status.
Make the most of social media channels in a timely way
To optimise the admissions process and keep student engagement peaking throughout, universities should be monitoring social media at key times in the academic year to keep on top of peaks and trends. Using a social media ‘listening’ tool like Hootsuite or Pulsar Platform not only enables marketing and admissions teams to schedule and monitor their own social media content, but to track conversations surrounding higher education as a whole in order to inform their content.
For example, universities can track social discussions on results day by filtering and evaluating phrases relating to ‘acceptance’ and ‘disappointment’. In doing so, they can learn more about each group and tailor their content accordingly. See this example from Queen Mary University during the clearing period:
Managing student information from initial contact to alumni status
The great thing about a CRM is its capacity for managing data and communications for all students, no matter in what stage they are at in the lifecycle. This means one, centralised system can be used for communicating with applicants, updating student results across different departments, scheduling social event emails and keeping in touch with alumni throughout the year! Equally as influential is the ability to pull reports and use the data to make meaningful changes to processes throughout the institution.