Another school year is upon us, and this is a great occasion to reevaluate your school’s admissions process. If you aren’t confident that your application system is as streamlined and organized as it can be, consider how you can enhance this process — both for prospective families and for your admissions staff. A sophisticated application process can give interested families a great first impression and can empower your school’s admissions office.
How Has the School Admissions Funnel Changed?
Families work through a series of steps to make it from merely considering your school to becoming officially enrolled. We can refer to these steps as the admissions funnel. The process students and families take along this funnel has changed substantially over time. It’s critical for schools to understand how this process should look today so they don’t rely on outmoded admissions models and methods.
In the past, the first step at the top of this funnel was typically an inquiry. Families would reach out to a school to learn more about it or ask specific questions to determine whether their child may be eligible and whether the school would be a good fit for them. Next, the family would get a paper application and fill it out, submit it, and wait to hear the school’s decision. If they got a positive response, then the applicant would likely go to the school to enroll in person.
Today, rather than interested families reaching out to learn more about your school, you likely have families who learn all about your school online. They may find all the information and answers they need there to decide whether to apply or not. Families today are used to having this level of access to information, so if they don’t find answers on your website, they may simply move on. Once someone is interested in applying, they’ll look for clear instructions and a way to apply right away — once again — online.
This shift means the first touchpoint your school has with a family may be receiving an application from them. Or, you may see that a family has begun the process of applying but hasn’t finished the application. Or, a prospective family may request information on an event.
Rather than making personal contact at the inquiry stage every time, you’ll come into contact with families at various stages of the admissions funnel. Your application process should support these unique paths and help each family move smoothly from initial interest all the way to enrollment.
What Families Want out of a Modern Application Process
Though much has changed in the world of school admissions, the good news is that families’ and schools’ goals are likely aligned. Families want a streamlined process that is efficient, intuitive, personalized, and transparent. Your school can benefit from these same qualities:
- Efficient: Modern families are busier than ever, with around one in five parents or guardians even saying they feel too busy to enjoy their lives. With all the responsibilities families and caregivers must juggle, it’s no wonder they highly value efficiency and convenience. An efficient admissions process is also beneficial for your school since it can help admissions staff avoid manual tasks that could be automated.
- Intuitive: User experience should be a priority for your school and should guide the type of software you use to facilitate applications. The application process should feel simple and make sense to families at every step of the way. A complicated process that isn’t user-friendly could deter families from following through on applications.
- Personalized: While automation is a positive aspect of modern admissions processes, both for families and schools, applicants don’t want to feel like a number in the system. They want the process and any correspondence to feel personalized to them. Emails, for example, should include the recipient’s name rather than a generic greeting.
- Transparent: Transparency is also key. Applicants should be able to see exactly where they are in the process and what steps they still need to complete. Once they submit the application, they should be able to log in and see the status of their application and enrollment decision. Transparency is also helpful for admissions staff. They should be able to see exactly where each applicant is in the admissions funnel and should be able to see trends across applicants to make data-driven decisions.
How to Simplify the Private School Admissions Process
When it comes to some aspects of life, it may feel like technology has complicated things. That shouldn’t be the case for school admissions. You should find ways to make technology work for your school and prospective students and families so all parties enjoy a process that is efficient, intuitive, personalized, and transparent. Let’s take a look at tips for simplifying your admissions process.
Move the Process Online
If you’re still relying on analog methods for your application process, make the switch to managing the process, end to end, online. Today, 93% of American adults are internet users. Modern families are used to the convenience of completing a variety of tasks — from grocery shopping to scheduling doctor’s appointments — in a virtual environment.
The task of applying to a private school should be no different. Many busy families today would consider a trip to an admissions office just to fill out a paper form or having to print off and mail a form to be an unreasonable expectation.
If you want to give parents and guardians the option of applying offline, you can do that, too, knowing that most families will opt for the digital option. One possibility is to invite families to apply over the phone. In this case, an admissions officer can input the information provided into an online form to ensure all information makes it to the same online database. You can also provide families with a paper form and then transfer the information to your online system.
From your staff’s perspective, managing private school admissions online comes with some key benefits. Rather than having to file and keep track of a variety of paper forms and records, you can store all this information virtually in one place. Keeping files digital can help ensure your admissions process is better organized and more secure. You won’t have to worry about a misplaced paper form, for example.
This paperless process means admissions staff can access data from anywhere and work remotely. Using a cloud-based program also means staff members can easily collaborate, whether or not they’re in the same office together. They can read and review files simultaneously and can even make notes on applications that other administrators can see.
Clearly Organize the Process With Workflows
The admissions process should feel well-organized both from the applicant’s perspective and from your school’s. If your process feels a bit scattered or disjointed, concentrate on organizing the process with well-defined workflows. A workflow is simply a sequence of tasks that are necessary to achieve a certain outcome. In this case, that series of tasks should relate to moving applicants down the admissions funnel.
Determine exactly what needs to happen at each stage of the process to get from Point A, where a family is merely interested in applying, to Point B, where a student is enrolled and ready to start school. It’s helpful to have this linear series of steps plotted out from start to finish, but you may also find some applicants need extra assistance or intervention at different stages.
For example, a workflow may involve following up with applicants who began an application a week ago but have not finished it. This specific workflow could consist of an email campaign that begins at this point and ends when an applicant submits their completed application or officially withdrawals from the process.
Workflows can look different for every school. The point is to make sure you understand how your admissions process is organized so each step has a specific purpose in moving them down the funnel.
Automate Admissions Processes as Much as Possible
The best admissions management software should allow you to create automated workflows so you can eliminate manual tasks as much as possible. This is a primary way you can increase the efficiency of your admissions process. It’s also an important means of ensuring no one ever falls through the cracks. You won’t have to lament that you forgot to follow up with an interested family, for example, when this follow-up is automated.
Let’s look at some tasks you should be automating so you can free up your staff’s time and attention and streamline the admissions process for applicants:
- Appointment scheduling: To schedule meetings, interviews, or tours, why not eliminate the back-and-forth of checking calendars and simply automate the process online? Appointment scheduling software has become increasingly common in a variety of industries, so most families should be familiar with this technology. You can always give the option to schedule by phone if you needed.
- Personalized email campaigns: It’s easy for families to get distracted or accidentally miss a deadline with all the responsibilities on their plates. Email campaigns can help parents and guardians move through the application process without getting left behind. Sending individual emails or texts could be a time-consuming job, but you can automate these messages — without giving up personalization — with the right software.
- Status updates: You should be able to see at a glance where an application is in the process, whether the application is in progress, has been submitted, is under review, or has been accepted. Families will want to see the status of their applications, as well. Fortunately, you don’t need to manually contact applicants to share updates. This is another aspect of the application process you can fully automate.
Integrate Applications Across Your School
If you’re using multiple online tools to help manage student applications and other aspects of your operations, you can benefit greatly by choosing tools that integrate. This can make for a comprehensive software solution that is streamlined and helps you avoid manual data syncing and mapping. For example, schools may want their admissions software to share data with the tools they use for:
- Marketing: Integrating your application management with school marketing platforms like Finalsite can help you more effectively and seamlessly appeal to families and grow enrollment.
- Enrollment and tuition: Once you accept a student and they choose to enroll, you shouldn’t have to start over on a new platform. Instead, your enrollment and tuition management solutions should integrate with your admissions management software.
- Financial aid: You can also integrate some admissions tools with financial aid databases. This makes it easy for your school to see right away whether an applicant may qualify for some form of financial aid.
- Standard Application Online: If your school participates, or wants to participate, in the Standard Application Online (SAO) system, you can combine this system with your admissions management software.
Help Families Avoid Repeating Information
To simplify the private school admissions process for families, look for ways to eliminate repetitious actions. A customer service survey in the U.K. found that having to repeat the same information — whether online, over the phone, or in-person — is the most significant source of frustration customers can experience. This same principle applies to parents or guardians who are taking the time to re-enter information during the school application process. No one wants to feel their time is being wasted on repetition.
You can remedy this issue in two main ways:
- Master accounts: One way to prevent repetition is to allow each family to create a master account for multiple children rather than forcing them to create separate accounts for each child. This saves families from having to come up with different usernames and passwords and repeating information that is the same for both children, such as home phone number and address.
- Software integrations: You can also eliminate repetition through the integrations we discussed above. For example, with the SAO system, families can reuse the same information across applications for multiple schools. Ravenna also allows applicants to reuse standardized forms and information across applications for any schools that manage applications through Ravenna.
Gaining Insights to Improve Your Application Process
In addition to implementing the tips above for simplifying your process, you should stay on the lookout for ways to improve your application process. A great way to do this is to take advantage of analytics tools to identify potential issues in your process. For example, you may find you’re frequently losing families at a particular point in your admissions funnel.
You can also ask families directly to share any issues they ran into or what they liked specifically about your application process. Arming yourself with as much data as possible can help you make informed decisions that refine your admissions process over time.
Manage Student Applications Conveniently and Effectively With Ravenna
If you want to provide families with a seamless application process and help your admissions staff save time and gain valuable data insights, consider using Ravenna — an online admissions solution for private schools.
Ravenna can empower you to implement all of the tips above to organize and automate your admissions process. Families can enjoy the convenience of using a centralized system and one account for any school application that uses Ravenna. Admissions staff can benefit from the automated workflows, integrations, and other valuable features Ravenna offers. Request a demo today to learn more about Ravenna and how it can help you revolutionize your school’s application process.