Simplifying admissions for a better applicant experience

Gloucestershire College’s head of data management, Neil Pratt, explains how they are responding to students’ changing expectations

To attract a diverse cohort of students, the first step for any college is to offer a broad range of study options and have a slick admissions process in place. But offering a wide selection of courses that prospective students can apply for quickly and easily is not always as simple as it sounds.

At Gloucestershire College, for example, we offer a mix of full and part-time courses, higher education, apprenticeships and training for businesses, attracting students from the local community and overseas. Our students typically apply for multiple courses so they have options in the event that they don’t get the grades they expect.

But our previous admissions process made this much more complicated than it needed to be for students and staff. So, we made some changes to the way we manage admissions to make it easier for students to apply for the courses they want to study and help us better meet their needs.

Opening up opportunities

Our students often apply online for both level 2 and level 3 of the same subject, with one being their first choice. We then help them make a final decision on which to go ahead with once they get their examination results. The problem we were having in managing this previously was that our staff had no way of identifying from the information available on the application form which course was a student’s first choice.

So, if a student applied for four different courses, we’d have to invite them to enroll on each course separately, entering their information in full each time. They would then receive a separate letter from us relating to each course. This was not only confusing for students, it was an added burden on staff workloads too and so it needed to be addressed.

Improved experience

One of the challenges we had was that some of our admissions were run on the UNIT-e management information system, while others were managed on a separate IT system. This was not the most efficient way of working and didn’t provide an overall picture of student applications. We decided to manage all applications centrally through UNIT-e, which has made a huge difference to students’ experience when they apply online and saved hours of time for our staff.

Staff can now see a full history of each applicant, the progress of the application and all the communications relating to it. Students have the ability to indicate which of the courses they are applying for is their primary choice too. It means our team can send the students one letter, and invite them once for interview, making the whole process much smoother for all concerned.

Supporting students

We’ve seen some major advantages to managing admissions in this way. Our staff can spend less time in administration and more time speaking to prospective students, helping them with their applications and advising them on their course selection. The changes we’ve made have contributed to a 30% increase in online applications.

Data-driven insight

With data in one place, the college’s senior leaders can monitor the popularity of a new course or increase the marketing to promote a particular subject if necessary. We recently identified a growing demand for part-time hair and beauty courses, so have increased the number of places available on these courses.

Now, staff have a clear picture of how long an applicant has spent at certain stages of the online admissions process. It means they can make direct contact through the live online help tool if a student appears to be having difficulties completing the required information or seems unsure of which course to apply for.

They can also see if a student who has visited the website is waiting for further information or an invitation for an interview, which helps move the process along. The aim should be for every touch point with a student to leave them with a positive perception of the institution and all it has to offer.

To find out more about how Gloucestershire College are using UNIT-e, read the full case study here.

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