A Modern Approach to Higher Education Admissions

A well-managed admissions team is essential to a school’s growth and success, but many schools still rely on a manual admissions process or use outdated software that creates extra work and leads to costly errors.

And with admissions departments facing a staffing crisis, your small-but-mighty admissions team simply doesn’t have the time and resources to follow up with prospects, track and manage applications, and keep all the trains running. As a result, you could be missing out on prospects and revenue.

For small and medium-sized schools, admissions is a key revenue source and having a well-trained, fully supported admissions team is essential to growing enrollment. Modernizing the admissions process can help reduce errors from manual work, increase departmental collaboration and improve cooperation between the school and applicants. This allows your lean team to stay organized and improve productivity and efficiency.

Sounds like a path to success, right? In this post, we’ll cover:

The Biggest Hurdles Admissions Teams Face

A major obstacle to successfully moving prospects through admissions is having the resources to execute on an effective admissions process. Admissions teams tend to be small crews, and they need support and resources to follow up with potential students, monitor and process applications, and maintain current and accurate information on every prospect. At a time when there is a shortage of qualified workers at colleges, universities, career and trade schools, it would be wise to rethink your admissions software and processes. While schools are having difficulty recruiting and retaining talented staff, supporting your current admissions team with creative and efficient processes can give your school a competitive edge.

Today, many higher-ed professionals want to work remotely or on a hybrid schedule, but with legacy software that can be difficult. A cloud-based student information system centralizes admissions data and can be accessed from anywhere. This way, schools can provide staff with more flexibility without compromising access to data and file sharing.

For many smaller schools, the admissions process is largely a manual. Teams are cutting and pasting information from databases into templates, individually writing and sending emails, searching for documents and saving to multiple drives. While the work may seem mindless or harmless, this manual approach comes with significant risks:

  • Delayed Follow Up – Failure to quickly follow up with a prospect is inevitable without real-time notifications, leading to missed revenue opportunities. Students are applying to multiple institutions, so teams have to be quick to pounce on new leads.

  • Time Lost From Disorganization – Looking for information, notes and data drains time that could be dedicated to targeting and following up on high-value prospects. If details on prospects aren’t recorded properly or even lost, that interested student could fall through the cracks.

  • Failure to Meet Your Goals – Prospective students are a hot commodity. If your team is not engaging in clear and consistent communication, then you won’t meet your enrollment goals and your school’s budget will suffer.

10 Attributes to Look for in Integrated Admissions Software

As more schools look to upgrade from legacy, onsite technology systems to integrated, cloud-based student information systems, it is important to make admissions software a top priority.

Admissions is the nerve center for any school, so you want to make sure your student information system lets the admissions team follow a prospect throughout the entire admissions cycle. Here’s are 10 components to look for:

  1. A Centralized Hub: There’s a lot of documentation involved in the application process, so everything needs to be stored in one location to maintain a Single Source of Truth for admissions teams and applicants alike. This means no more searching multiple databases or spreadsheets for the right information.
  2.  An Easy User Experience: Prospects and admissions teams need a system that’s easy to use. Applicants need the ability to pause the process and restart applications, and your team can easily keep track of how many applications are ongoing and completed, and follow up when necessary.
  3. Built-In CRM and Communications Platform: A robust student information system contains a CRM to track applicants and any communications between them and your school. This should be regularly updated and monitored to ensure follow-up communication with prospects is quick.
  4. Real-Time Notifications: It’s easy for prospective students to get distracted and end up with incomplete applications. That slows down your school’s admissions process and could keep a student from joining your program. To help students stay on track, the system can be configured with email, text and push notifications to remind students to submit forms, upload documents or check their email.
  5. Data Protection: Applications and financial aid forms contain a lot of personal information, so it’s important to be able to restrict access to sensitive personal data from within your team and outside your organization.
  6. Project Management Capabilities: An integrated system lets your school build customized workflows for project routing, review and approval. With an easy-to-use interface, staffers from admissions, as well as other key departments, can manage the system with minimal training.
  7. Financial Aid Integration: The vast majority of students need financial aid, which means your school needs to collect documentation, send out notifications, and submit reports to the government and students. An integrated student information system is capable of accurately coordinating these critical functions as a part of the overall admissions process.
  8. Collect Fees and Deposits: After an application is submitted, you might need to collect an application fee or a tuition deposit once they’ve been accepted. Students should be able to easily make payments directly in your integrated system.
  9. Seamless Hand Off: Once a student is admitted, your enrollment, registrar and financial aid teams will need access to the information supplied by the admissions team to help students select classes, process housing, and finalize and receive financial aid. All of that information is easily accessible in an integrated student information system since there’s no transfer of data between systems it reduces the likelihood of errors.
  10. Duplicate Management: There will always be interested students who submit multiple inquiries or someone who starts and then abandons an application and then starts a new one. To cut down on duplicate inquiries, you want a system that is able to recognize the same student by matching on key fields like email, social security number, address or phone number and merge these applications together. 

>>See how Campus Cafe Software’s admissions module manages all stages of the admissions process<<

How Integrated Admissions Software Benefits Career and Trade Schools

Unlike nonprofit universities and colleges, which have a set calendar for the admissions cycle, career and trade schools accept students year-round and have multiple program start dates. That means admissions is a more continuous – and complicated – process of data entry, tracking and management. 

Career and trade school admissions officers need a better way to manage student data. Instead of manually updating prospect and student information, here are two strong arguments for a student information system with an admissions module.

1. Fast-Track Government Reporting Requirements

The federal government requires many schools to submit regular reports on their student body, including the race, gender and ethnicity of the students, as well as attendance and graduation rates. For schools that participate in Title IV federal student financial aid, there are additional reporting requirements. Since much of this information pertains to admissions and enrollment, it helps if your student information system can generate the right reports. 

By upgrading your admissions process with a cloud-based student information system, trade and career schools can save time and improve their recruiting and application process. School officials can track prospective students, monitor follow-ups and application status, and keep admissions running smoothly.

Campus Cafe, for instance, includes a library of pre-built reports for admissions and enrollment data. This helps your school organize and sort data, and then build the right reports in less time.

2. Help Your Admissions Team Be More Proactive

Can a student information system really improve your admissions process? The answer is yes. From large nonprofit universities to specialized trade schools, the key to continued growth is attracting new students, and your school is only as successful as the students that you attract. 

But your small team needs help to boost admissions. They’re used to working with a lean operation, but you don’t want them to burn out and leave. When they can easily access and share information, it saves valuable time and resources. And when your admissions team saves time, they can enroll more students, which creates a return on investment that pays for itself.

In short, a modern, easy-to-use student information system with an integrated admissions module can save valuable time and resources so your team can work smarter, faster, and help build a robust student body and successful institution.

The Bottom Line

Campus Cafe’s admissions module keeps all stakeholders informed and aligned. Ready to see how it can help your admissions team work more efficiently and effectively? Contact us today for a free demo.

A Three-Step Process to Boost Admissions

In higher education, admissions is key to a school’s success. By building a robust and engaged student body, your school can help students achieve success in their chosen area of study and professional lives. Creating that community takes a lot of work and collaboration. Behind the scenes, your small admissions staff and faculty may need help keeping information accurate and organized. Rethinking the admissions lifecycle can help improve the entire process. The most effective admissions process involves planning, coordination and follow up, and documenting it all along the way.

At a time when students are rethinking what they want out of a post-secondary education, a reevaluation of admissions is a smart move. Consider these findings from a survey conducted among high school students

  • 38 percent of seniors say they are considering a college closer to home 
  • 89 percent of seniors said they are very concerned about paying for college

To stand apart from the competition and win over prospective students, schools can deploy a three-step process to boost admissions, leveraging data every step of the way.

Marketing

For many schools, recruiting the next group of students is essential to success. Marketing ranges from hosting in-person events and virtual open houses to digital and social media campaigns. It’s a good strategy to emphasize the quality of engagements over quantity. For example, a student is likely to be more responsive when they receive a personal email emphasizing their interests than an inbox full of generic messages.

To find interested students, your school needs to generate leads.The best idea is to meet students where they are (yes, that may include TikTok and Instagram). With today’s students, digital media and social media are important channels to target potential students: 69 percent of high school seniors say they’re relying more on college search sites, student reviews, and social media to review and make college decisions, while 71% report using virtual tours and online events. 

Specifically, schools can generate leads by utilizing:

  • Online forms
  • Mass communications that can be personalized
  • Digital tours and meet-and-greets
  • Using marketing automation software (i.e. Hubspot, Salesforce, Zapier)
  • Social media posts and videos
  • Emails from current students and alumni
  • Texts, emails and phone calls

Another useful tool is to analyze your institution’s web activity and see where prospective students are spending the most time. Your marketing team can use that information to customize outreach assets and to create a roster for follow ups.

If you don’t have a good system for capturing and reporting leads, all that hard work could be lost. You don’t want to lose these potential students! Student enrollment software helps your team to communicate with prospects by email, phone and text, and stores all their information and engagement with your outreach efforts in one centralized location for easy follow-up. 

Recruiting

Once your school has identified qualified candidates, it’s time to develop these relationships. College recruiting is all about capturing the interest of prospective students and getting them enrolled. It’s important to identify students who fit well with a school’s programs and community. In an ideal scenario, all of your students earn their degree and find gainful employment in their chosen fields. If schools recruit the best fit students, it increases the likelihood they’ll make it to graduation.

An integrated student information system can be a huge asset to recruiting. Through your school’s student management software, your team can contact prospects via email, text and phone, and record that outreach in the customer relationship management (CRM) system. The system can also assign team members to specific leads and responsibilities, and schedule campus visits, information sessions and interviews. To keep prospective students on track, the admissions module can send out reminders through text and email to nudge students and parents toward action.   

A student information system can also create more personalized outreach to prospective students. For example, when a student visits a club page or a program specific page for your school, that’s an opportunity to create customized marketing. A customized email can introduce that student to your school, its offerings and suggest ways to obtain more information. This is an excellent way to keep your school top-of-mind or to re-engage with a student.  

To maximize your school’s admissions efforts, your team should focus on working quickly and efficiently to direct personalized communications to qualified – and interested – prospects. 

Marketing communication shouldn’t stop with prospective students. Parents and caregivers are instrumental in the higher education decision-making and financial aid process. It’s smart to engage this cohort by email, social media and direct mail to educate them on a school’s value proposition, financial aid options and programs of study. 

Application Management

Once students know about your school, schools need to shift them from prospect to applicant to enrolled student. The easier that this process can be for prospective students, the better. For instance, students should be able to access a dashboard that shows their application progress, missing and completed forms, deadlines, make deposits and payments, and allows them to download and upload documents. 

Ideally, an advanced student information system for higher ed will contain an application hub that centralizes admissions documents, personal information and financial aid forms. That makes the process convenient for students and helps monitor a student’s application status and overall volume. Finally, the hub allows schools to easily communicate important information to applicants – including missing forms, deadlines and any needed follow-ups.

At every point during the three stages of the admissions process, teams need to work in concert to meet deadlines, make sure information flows to the right departments and foster communication. A process-oriented approach to admissions can help small teams stay organized and create a seamless workflow.  

To keep all key stakeholders on the same page, McKinsey recommends having a group representing admissions, enrollment, financial aid, marketing and analytics meet frequently throughout the year to coordinate their activities, including weekly during the fall and winter and as often as daily during crunch-times for planning in spring.

The Challenges of Integrating Third-Party Customer Relationship Management Tools

If your school wants to use a third-party CRM or billing tool, rather than an all-in-one solution, then it’s important for it to integrate with your student information system. That way, you can have closed-loop reporting. However, if you opt for a third-party app, consider these guidelines:

Marketing CRM: Ideally, a third-party CRM would be used for marketing purposes, and then your team would use the student information system for recruiting and application processing. That way, the marketing functions can seamlessly integrate with the advanced steps of admissions and other key functions, including financial aid, billing and registration.  

CRM for Higher Ed: It’s important to have a CRM that is designed for higher education that can process your student data and is built for the needs of a college or career school. Most third-party CRMs don’t have application management hubs built for higher ed. A generic or retrofit CRM designed for sales may lack the functionality that your school needs and may not be able to handle your applicants’ needs. 

For instance, a robust student information system will automatically process a student’s document requirements based on criteria including program, veteran’s status or international student status. It can also track application status and send out automated alerts about document submissions and completions.

Integrate at the Top of the Funnel: If you opt for third-party software, it’s best to use it earlier in the admissions funnel, rather than in the later stages. That’s because it can be difficult for software to integrate with your student information system later in the funnel. If the systems don’t communicate well, you could lose critical information or students might experience glitches in documents and submitting their application, as well as missing financial aid information and payments.  

How an Integrated Student Information System Supports Admissions Teams

Even the most experienced admissions team needs support. Integrated student information software can help the admissions process run more smoothly, minimize errors and improve efficiency. 

Boost Marketing Efforts: Your recruiting team could hit it out of the park, attracting scores of interested students, but if their information isn’t stored properly in a CRM, those valuable contacts could be lost. A student information system helps the marketing team track their efforts and then hand that information on to admissions to maintain and manage. If no one follows up, they may never walk your campus.

Enhance Recruiting: Today’s prospective students are digitally savvy, so your school needs to connect wherever they are, including social media, email, text and online ads. Your website and social presence are critical. Combined with events and traditional outreach, that’s a lot to coordinate and manage. A modern student information system can help organize your recruiting efforts, and data can be used to measure the successes of recruitment efforts.

Improve the Application Experience: When interested students go to apply to your school, it should be easy and intuitive. If they find your application process disorganized or cumbersome, they are likely to abandon the application. A modern student information system includes an admissions module with document management, forms, dashboards and application management. To keep students on track, a student information system can be programmed to send notifications via email and text.

An integrated student information system helps transform your admissions process into a smooth and efficient operation that sails from prospecting to enrollment. When your admissions team can leverage analytics and data collected on prospects, it increases the chances a student will apply, enroll and graduate. Having admissions data stored in one central location helps your key stakeholders stay up to date and informed every step of that student journey. 

By creating a well-coordinated admissions process, your teams can work smarter and faster, bring in high-quality candidates and set them on a path to success.

Ready to see how Campus Cafe’s admissions module can boost your school’s enrollment? Contact us today for a free demo.