Next to filing your taxes and getting married, applying to college is one of the most important and complicated moments in life. For many people, the college application is the gateway into adulthood, yet it’s almost as complicated a solving a Rubik’s Cube. We expect students to seamlessly navigate a cumbersome process peppered with jargon-heavy terminology and acronyms all while acting as their own version of FedEx, making sure test scores, transcripts, and recommendations get delivered on time and to the right place.

Despite what can be a daunting challenge for students, we often lose sight of the fact that these students, their applications, and ultimately their enrollments are the lifeline of nearly every institution.  We rely heavily on our online applications and administrative processes to keep everything running, whether that’s through the Common Application, locally centralized services like GAFutures and ApplyTexas, CRM-based applications, homegrown apps, or a combination of different ones. And hopefully, you’ve moved away from paper applications; if not, give us a call, we promise not to judge.

At TargetX, we’re firm believers of embracing the Student Delight Cycle where we purposefully focus on the student experience, and how we can approach everything we do with a truly student-first mindset.  That’s why we recently collaborated on a webinar with our friends at the College of Charleston and Piedmont College to share our top 5 tips on making the most out of the online application experience. You can check out that webinar recording, but in the meantime, here’s a quick recap of our findings.  We sincerely hope these help both your students as well as your staff (who ultimately help your students).

1. Focus on engaging experiences from students, accessible from any device

  • Ensure your online application is device agnostic and works on both mobile and desktop browsers.  Bonus points for a truly mobile-first experience.
  • Use your institution’s branding to maintain a consistent look and feel from your website and other digital properties.
  • Make sure your application complies with all national and local accessibility regulations and adheres to accessibility best practices.

2. Personalize the application with dynamic content for your unique constituents to increase completion rates

  • Embrace your unique populations, and don’t force everyone down the same impersonal path; deploy separate applications for different audiences when needed.
  • Employ dynamic content and sections within your application to keep questions relevant.
  • Provide help text/videos where needed.
  • Pre-populate application fields/sections with data you already have on file. Bonus: this also helps maintain data integrity and reduce duplicate applications.

3. Automate all of your application-related communications

  • Take advantage of workflows and automation in your system for important messages such as:
    • Application started, but not completed
    • Completed application confirmation
    • Checklist item reminders
  • Don’t limit communication just to email. Be sure to utilize email, SMS, letters, and calling campaigns for a truly omni-channel communication plan.

4. Harness the power of automation & workflows for application processing

  • When possible, automate admissions decisions.
  • Route applications automatically to reviewers.
  • Trigger automated reminders and notifications to your review staff and faculty.

5. Make your application data actionable across campus

  • Identify who on campus needs access to data, and ensure they have the right access.
  • Counselors (territory analytics)
  • Faculty/reviewers (application processing metrics)
  • Administrators (key performance indicators)
  • Use your CRM to automate report delivery to key constituents.
  • Share the good news with both students and staff across campus.

These tips are just the tip of the iceberg (pun intended) when it comes to improving the online application experience.  If you want to hear more insightful perspectives from your peers in enrollment management, take a few minutes more and view our recorded webinar with the College of Charleston and Piedmont College where we go into much more depth.  At best, you’ll pick up a few more nuggets you can use in your department.  At worse, you can keep working at that Rubik’s cube.