Top 3 “crimes” of college admissions departments (that have nothing to do with fraud)

The admissions process, particularly at highly selective institutions, has come under intense scrutiny in recent months. The fallout from the college admissions scandal — involving a scheme in which parents allegedly bribed officials and sporting coaches to secure their children’s acceptance at prestigious schools — continues to affect higher education institutions.

To combat this and other types of fraud, many institutions have announced sweeping changes to their admissions process.

But for the vast majority of admissions officers at colleges and universities nationwide, life goes on. There are still hundreds of applications to process for each intake cycle, thousands of pages of transcripts to review — and these are on top of the growing list of challenges admissions departments face each year.

For one thing, student demographics are changing dramatically. There are more adult learners, fewer full-time enrollments and students are generally more sensitive to the cost of education, according to a National Student Clearinghouse report.

Students also have more choices than ever when it comes to education options, which means colleges and universities must stay agile to compete over a shrinking student applicant pool. Admissions directors surveyed by Inside Higher Ed last year reported growing concern over meeting enrollment goals and target populations.

In light of this, the admissions process significantly influences schools’ ability to secure best-fit students ahead of their peers. If your institution still relies on paper-based, manual transcript capture and transfer credit evaluation processes, you’re putting yourself at a massive disadvantage.

The challenges

Here are the top three challenges created by manual processes in admissions:

1. Keeping students in the dark for weeks, even months

Each year, admissions officers process anywhere between 400 and 750 applications each. At highly selective institutions, this can go up to 1,000 applications. Each application arrives with a transcript of at least three pages — and although PDF is gaining popularity, paper remains the most popular format.

When your transcript capture and evaluation processes revolve around paper, manual data entry and transcripts, reviews by hand are the norm. This prolongs the decision period and forces students to wait weeks or even months for an update on their admission, financial aid and credit transfer status.

By the time your institution can provide an answer, qualified applicants may already be looking at other schools.

2. Not having enough information to guide applicants

One in three students has transferred institutions at least once, and almost half of them have attended three or more colleges. This makes course equivalency and credit transfer — already with the reputation of being a confusing maze — crucial in their decision to transfer to your institution.

Course advisors need to be equipped with the most current information to be able to guide students to register for the correct courses that award credits toward their degrees. Without an automated capture and evaluation solution, manual reviews are a time-intensive and laborious process taking up to 70 minutes per transcript.

A lack of a centralized information center further compounds the problem and keeps students waiting even longer for a decision. Vital data, including transfer credit equivalencies housed in disparate systems, result in an incomplete view of the student, leading to inaccurate advice. Students may end up enrolling in the wrong courses, which wastes time and money in addition to contributing to dissatisfaction and attrition.

3. Using precious resources on manual tasks

As mentioned, admissions officers review hundreds of applications and transcripts each cycle, and extracting information from even a “simple” document can take up to 20 minutes.

Burdened by paper-based processes, staff members spend a disproportionate amount of time on manual data entry — time they can use for higher-value activities like providing excellent student service. Manual data entry also carries the risk of error, which not only causes more rework for staff, it creates bottlenecks that stretch out the decision period.

The answer: automated transcript capture and evaluation

The right automated transcript capture and evaluation solution addresses these challenges by equipping your institution with the tools to drive faster decisions on admissions, financial aid, course equivalency and academic pathway programs. The solution will also eliminate the need for manual data entry by automatically extracting information using intelligent optical character recognition.

Automating your evaluation process also removes bottlenecks, as courses are compared according to your institution’s database of articulation rules, instantly identifying which credits will or will not transfer. Manual intervention and verification from staff are only required when necessary, allowing you to accurately process more transcripts in less time.

By empowering your admissions staff to focus on value-adding tasks, you also deliver excellent student service. Meanwhile, prospective students receive clear answers in days rather than weeks, allowing them ample time to decide to attend your institution.

In other words, automating transcript capture and evaluation is a win-win for students and staff.

To learn more, download the ebook Winning the race for best-fit students today!

Stephanie Lavallee

Stephanie Lavallee

With more than 15 years of experience in information technology, Stephanie recently joined Hyland as a product manager dedicated to providing solutions that meet common business challenges. Prior to Hyland, she worked as a product manager at Perceptive Software guiding strategy for new products and solutions. Her current focus is contract management and other repeatable solutions that will help our customers optimize processes to drive success.

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