Forms Commerce Streamlines College Admissions
College admissions is a two-way courtship. While the student waits anxiously
for acceptance letters to arrive, the college conducts a more subtle courting,
wooing potential applicants through a variety of marketing materials and strategies.
High-profile universities carefully manage their images, luring the best students
partly by playing hard to get.
Through it all, the number of forms and records required to complete the admissions
process is staggering, requiring students and parents to stay organized and
colleges to employ a small army of staff members to manage it all.
The development of companies that build and manage Web-based forms processing
has enabled admissions offices to increase their online applications substantially.
The online process helps colleges manage the flow of documents and reduce the
load on staff. Going digital also opens up new opportunities to reach out to
applicants in a proactive way.
Several companies offer such forms commerce products in the higher education
market, including CollegeNET Inc., whose Intelligent Connections technology
creates a two-way conversation between the institution and the applicant.
Based in Portland, Ore., CollegeNET focuses its business on the nonprofit world:
academia and the not-for-profit business sector. They have more than 600 higher
education subscribers and dozens of nonprofits on their client roster, including
the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. Simply put, CollegeNET builds custom
forms. Any form that a student would traditionally send via paper, CollegeNET
can create online.
The company works with each school to create a custom forms management process,
building each form from the ground up, not from templates. The school directs
the process of choosing the forms needed and detailing the look and feel of
the final documents. Once the forms are online, all data received—even
personal essays—become part of the CollegeNET database. However, CollegeNET
d'es not share the data with anyone other than the specific college or university
in question. According to Paul Casey, the company’s director of corporate
communications, CollegeNET has led the way in advocating data privacy. Says
Casey, “We don’t touch the data and don’t share or sell it. Everything
a student sends to us is entirely confidential.”
Institutional branding is an essential part of maintaining a college’s
identity. After all, every college is unique, whether due to its academic status,
athletic prowess, desirable location, or innovative online degree program. CollegeNET
works with institutions to maintain their brand integrity. Also, recognizing
that students are more comfortable applying directly to a college rather than
going through a third party, CollegeNET has made itself virtually invisible
to the user. Users won’t find any advertising or company logos on the admissions
application page. The only indication that a third party exists is a tag line
with the company’s Web address and phone number for users who are having
trouble completing the forms.
Online forms commerce has several advantages for clients.
manages the entire process and ensures that forms are complete and error-free.
Data validation technology guarantees that applications are complete by sending
error messages that prompt students to go back and fix mistakes, such as filling
in missing numbers from fields. They also can guarantee the institution 100
percent “hard apps”: No application is accepted without attached payment
or a qualified waiver of fees. In contrast, admissions offices often deal with
dozens of paper “soft apps,” applications that arrive with no checks
CollegeNET’s technology easily pairs related documents sent from various
sources. For instance, its Transcript Manager automatically matches the application
to the transcript. These two related documents from separate sources used to
travel separately to the institution. With Transcript Manager, both documents
travel to the admissions office together, saving staff time in tracking and
pairing them. CollegeNET forms also feature PDF printing capability and the
ability to interface with campus student information systems.
Intelligent Connections software gives the client a universal view of all communication
between a prospective student and the university admissions office. The software
tracks visits, inquiries, applications, incoming and outgoing e-mail messages,
and other correspondence. It routes appropriate parts of the application packet
to other campus departments as needed, making the connections automatically
without further data entry.
The online process also enables colleges to proactively market themselves to
candidates via tailored communications, including CollegeNET’s so-called
human forms. Data triggers built into the technology prompt the software to
send customized e-mails and requests for letters of recommendation. These triggers
can also send students more information, encourage them to explore an interesting
facet of the college’s programs, or update them on the admissions process.
While completing forms, students may encounter a button embedded with a tailored
message, based on data they have entered. For instance, a student who clicks
on “No” in response to the question, “Have you visited the school?”
may get an invitation to visit, a virtual tour, or a list of resources for arranging
Students also are discovering a number of benefits to applying online. First,
they can apply for a free user ID before filling out the college application.
With that user ID, any time a student fills out a CollegeNET application, standard
information—such as name, address, and intended major—is automatically
filled in. Also, with the user ID, a student can finish filling out the form
over a period of time, and from more than one computer, without having to input
data again. He or she can start the application at home and finish it in the
guidance counselor’s office.
Students also have access to an administration screen that notifies them that
their applications were received. They can go to the screen for updates throughout
the process. Counselors and parents stay in the loop as well; CollegeNET e-mails
them automatically to thank them for referring and supporting the student.
By keeping in constant contact with all constituencies, CollegeNET helps manage
the complex courtship between colleges and students with less stress on both
For more information, visit http://corp.collegenet.com.