Escape the Admissions Processing Wasteland: 2 ECM-Driven Steps to Fast, Quality Decisions (Part I)

Escape the Admissions Processing Wasteland 2 ECM-Driven Steps to Fast, Quality Decisions (Part I)“April is the cruelest month.” Or, at least it is to T.S. Eliot, who said so in the oft-quoted opening line of his very famous poem The Waste Land.

But, based on the ebb-and-flow of application volumes and processing spikes, folks in Admissions offices would likely disagree. In highly selective institutions, April means coming up for air and relaxing a bit after the intensity of the review/decision season. And, in any type of higher education institution, it’s the time of the midterm lull before the next seasonal or semester-approaching upswing in applications.

As Eliot points out in the poem, April may seem to offer hope for better days to come, but it also reminds us that there are still improvements to be made. That’s a fitting perspective to adopt in most Admissions offices. While April might bring some relief in terms of workload, it’s also an opportunity to improve admissions operations for the more difficult months.  

I’ll even say that if you let things stay the same, your Admissions office will continue to resemble a “wasteland.”

Where exactly is the waste in the Land of Admissions? Generally, you can look at these three areas: costs, resources and opportunities.

To help you get rid of waste, I’m suggesting two actions you can take:

1. Purge Paper

2. Monitor Metrics

Action #1: Purge Paper

Hopefully, this suggestion will be so obvious that you’ll wonder why I’m bothering to say it. Well, let’s just be honest here: I say it because, while most/all admissions offices know they need to clear out the filing cabinets and clear off the desks and floors, many haven’t. And, even if they have, often the changes stop at the level of simply bringing on an electronic filing cabinet for storing and retrieving document images.

If your institution has taken at least this step, I applaud your efforts. You are no doubt enjoying some of the cost savings and improvements to student service that come with having admissions files much closer at hand, retrievable from an electronic interface.

But, that’s not true operational transformation. True transformation is when you start noticing – and eventually stop noticing (because they’ll be so commonplace) – scenarios such as these:

  • Answering student inquiries on a first-call becomes so typical that staff no longer jot down call-back numbers. 
  • Review work just “shows up” in reviewers’ and committee members’ electronic inboxes, appropriately assigned and ordered according to your parameters for assignment, action, escalation, collaboration and so on. Even remote reviewers simply log in to their electronic inboxes to access the files specifically assigned to them.  
  • Efficiency goes well beyond merely (though importantly) shaving a few hours or a day or two from front-end application processing and file completion. Efficiency now means that the entire cycle, from front-end processing through review and decision, occurs several weeks – perhaps a month or more – earlier than before.

Your institution won’t experience these things without ECM capabilities beyond capture and store. Sure, becoming less paper-reliant, a necessary first step, will help in cutting waste from processing costs and resources. But, in an increasingly competitive landscape for attracting students and securing their enrollment, you’ll need to tackle that third, even more critical area of waste: wasted opportunity.

To do that, you’ll need more than greater speed and efficiency: you’ll need broader and deeper visibility into processes and into your prospective student population. We’ll talk about how in Part Two, focusing on recommended action #2: Monitor Metrics.


Tom von Gunden

Tom von Gunden directs Hyland’s market research, strategy and advisory initiatives in higher education. Tom holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University and spent more than a dozen years... read more about: Tom von Gunden

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