Admissions Application Processing: Are You Prepared for the Seasonal Tsunami?

Turn paper piles into electronic files

Turn paper piles into electronic files

Well, Admissions folks, here’s wishing you a restful holiday season. Come January, you’re going to need a well-stocked reserve of energy. If the recent NACAC report is any indication of operational stress heading your way (and I fully believe it is), application volumes are yet again going to rise – perhaps in record numbers.According to the study, for each of the past 15 years several key metrics have continued to exceed those from the previous year:  number of applications received, percentage of students submitting three or more applications and percentage of students applying to seven or more schools. That’s a recipe for files turning into piles.

How to keep up? Well, if your office has already transformed its operations from paper-based to electronic processing, you may be well positioned to absorb yet another wicked wave of incoming applications.  Not only are you already likely to be scanning application-related supporting documents as they arrive in paper and adding them to the electronic file, but you may also be managing the review and decision process in an electronic, automated fashion.  You may even be further speeding the process by updating the document checklist in your student information system (SIS) automatically, in real-time.

For those offices that haven’t made the transition from paper to electronic processing and routing for review, well…all I can say is that you may want to resolve that the upcoming season will be your last in paper-based application hell.  Unless, that is, you’re truly enamored with time-consuming, staff-draining, decision-delaying tasks such as the following:

  • Manually updating  the checklist in your SIS with received documents
  • Sifting through folders of miscellaneous, pre-app documents to see if any match newly created student records
  • Conducting filing cabinet search parties to locate documents for  answering student inquiries
  • Manually managing file completion and routing of paper files for review (involving filing cabinets, color-coded labels, photocopying, campus mail, etc.)

And, speaking of review, the NACAC study shows that, just since 2005, the average number of applications assigned to each counselor for review has risen by a burden-escalating 73%. In a paper-based world, delayed decisions will be hard to avoid. That means more opportunity for those institutions with efficient operations to secure coveted students and meet or exceed their enrollment goals.

Meanwhile, their less prepared competitors will remain weeks behind, still struggling to process paper files and get them in the hands of reviewers. For the slowest of the slow, knowing who is actually in the review pool  may not occur until after the streamlined schools have already been issuing decision letters to that pool.

If you’re one of the laggards, that thought can’t feel good. Make it a New Year’s resolution to join the ranks of the speedy in 2013.

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 in higher education, serving as a tenured university professor, program director and accreditation specialist. His deep understanding of best practices in deploying ECM (enterprise content management) capabilities comes not only from his direct involvement in system implementations in colleges and universities, but also from his prior work as chief editor of Web and print publications focused on ECM and data storage technologies.

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