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How to improve the university application and enrollment experience with a 100% digital process

Having an integrated online application and enrollment process makes life easier for both prospective students and universities.

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Higher Education Marketers Business Leaders

Published 21 Jul, 2021 5 minutes of reading

It's all or nothing. That's the decision a potential student debates in the first 5 minutes of applying to a university. In an increasingly globalized landscape, where enrollment choices are worldwide, that first direct interaction with the university is crucial.

In addition, it's no secret that college enrollment is declining. In the U.S. alone, enrollment in 2021 is 2.9% lower than last year, so it's no longer enough to create engaging elements for site visitors, but rather, friendly, simple and fast experiences that make the processes easier, without the need to contact a call center or go to the university’s campus. 

Let's take a look at some of the challenges that often occur in the application and enrollment processes and how a 100% digital process can be the solution.

The application and enrollment process can be cumbersome and disintegrated 

The application and enrollment process is a common challenge at universities, especially because they handle and exchange high volumes of sensitive information that must be organized and centralized. 

In this process, they end up encountering failures and inconsistencies that not only slow down the institution's internal processes, but also cause friction in the university admissions process, such as:

  1. Multiple registrations: Requesting applicants to register in several different systems (one for registration, another for enrollment, another for applications, etc.), where in each step applicants are asked to fill out the same initial form to complete their registration and personal data for identification and identity validation. This, in addition to being a bad experience for the applicant as it generates confusion between the different systems, generates extra costs that are reflected every time the applicant/student has to validate their identity with a text message or an email.  
  2. More than one background check: When unbundled systems are managed for each instance of the applicant (registration, enrollment, etc.), the personal and academic backgrounds are requested from the student separately, within each system. As a result, multiple records are generated in the applicant's academic record, or traceability of the origin and path followed by an applicant to become a student of the institution is lost, generating problems for both the student and the institutions.  
  3. Overexertion to maintain the integrity of the information: Sometimes, an applicant's information is stored in different systems. Then, in order not to pass on the problem to the applicant, copies of information are made between different systems trying to emulate an integration, either with manual processes or batch processing that does nothing more than duplicate information and can generate more issues than even the initial problem.

Two people walking in an endless circle of stairs

Benefits of an integrated, 100% online application and enrollment

Now let's get to the good stuff 😀 The benefits of an integrated online application and enrollment process, in addition to solving the problems we've already described, bring numerous advantages for students and universities everywhere you look.

Save time and money: In the past, admissions officers or college representatives had to go to countless admissions fairs to attract prospective students, rent equipment, provide materials, and pay their staff. Now an Internet connection is enough for a prospect to choose a program, apply and enroll. 

More flexibility for prospective students: Exploring different educational opportunities that fit their schedule and in different locations is a possibility that MUST be provided to prospective students. Even more so in an age where distance is no longer a constraint for prospects to choose their dream program.

Backed up and secure information: With a robust processing system, applicant information is backed up and secure. Storage systems that live in the cloud allow applicants to save their documents and not worry about losing any documents or data in the process.

Improved data management and administration: with all information documented and online, a university can get to know the applicants better. They can learn about applicants’ interests and profiles, and communicate with them in a more personalized and strategic way. Universities can then manage personalized SMS, reminders, etc. 

Centralized information: managing applicant information in one place allows you to have dashboards that provide information and metrics about applicants. This allows you to easily see where they are in the journey and if there are any general weaknesses or bottlenecks in your application process.

Happy person walking on a path

How is it done at Modyo?

For the application and enrollment process to be truly online and run smoothly, your platform should have the following features and integrations:

Responsive Web: It is increasingly common for applicants to enter directly from their cell phones to complete the admission process, which means having an improved mobile experience throughout the onboarding process is a must. 

Usability and accessibility: Indispensable to any digital product we make, especially when there are several steps in a process as well as a high volume of information exchange, a clean and fluid experience must be guaranteed. We ensure that there is helpful information such as FAQs and online chat options to solve problems and help applicants complete the process. 

Expedite document validation: Students' academic information is validated automatically through integrated services. In addition, through machine learning and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, we can identify that uploaded documents that correspond to what is expected during validation. 

Asynchronous communication: It is crucial to have SMS and email messaging integration in cases where  prospective students cannot complete a process immediately. Depending on the program, applicants may be asked for some additional validation or special documents, such as medical documents for physically demanding programs or artistic skills tests. In these cases, the flow must have options to notify the applicant that their documents were validated or rejected and that they can return to the online process.    

Digital signatures: Depending on the level of security that a university expects for digital signatures, simple signature (SES), advanced signature (AES), or qualified signature (QES) systems can be integrated. It is always recommended to integrate more than one provider in order to have failover processes in case of peak periods. 

Multiple payment methods: Have multiple payment methods supporting as many credit cards, debit cards and mobile applications from different financial institutions as possible. 

Parallel provider processes: When processes reach their peak usage, bottlenecks occur, often caused by integrations in which the central system has no intervention. To solve these cases, we integrate multiple systems and/or identity verification flows, multiple digital signature systems, and thus, ensure that each provider has a backup parallel process in case the main flow fails. 

Control settings: In order to avoid friction or errors, it’s important to have settings that allow the administrator to enable or disable functionalities so that the flow can still move forward. An example of this is when a payment gateway is down and cannot be offered for a limited time.

Integration with a CRM (Customer Relationship Management): All information that is submitted, entered or updated during the intake process should be centralized in a CRM. This facilitates reliability and allows traceability. Another important advantage of maintaining an integrated CRM is that once the enrollment process is complete, the university can move on to the next process in the student's journey.  

Continuous improvement: In order to continuously refine and improve an applicant's onboarding process and experience, we have product measurement plans that measure behavior and common errors during the application and enrollment process. 

two graduates taking a selfie of their diploma 

The university application and enrollment process can be complex and difficult to manage for universities. As academic experiences and opportunities are becoming more and more globalized, it’s important to provide a seamless and secure processes for applicants. If you are looking to create or improve your digital onboarding experience, Modyo’s next-gen digital experience platform can provide your organization with the right tools and guidance. You can talk to us by filling out a form here, and we would be happy to talk to you about your project.

Photo de Edwin Andrade en Unsplash.

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