Applying to college may never be as easy as requesting a Lyft. But with Student Journey, we’re helping universities offer the self-guided admissions experience that learners prefer. Corey Miller, our Vice President of Customer Marketing, shares how focusing on the learner experience can deliver a substantial ROI for your institution.
Digital life has totally changed people’s expectations — from loans to buying a car. They have come to expect a simple, intuitive, guided process.
Which makes me wonder: How do prospective students feel about the college admissions process?
That process requires students to track down all sorts of records. Gather letters of recommendation. Build a resume in a standard form. And document all of their education histories.
In other words, students have their work cut out for them when they decide to continue their education. Would they be more eager to apply if universities took a simpler, more self-guided approach — without lowering admission standards?
That’s what we’re doing with Student Journey. It simplifies the college application process to meet learner expectations derived from experiences in other environments. At the same time, universities remain in control of the acceptance criteria, affirming that students have the qualifications needed to enroll.
It’s time for higher education to catch up
Before we explore Student Journey further, let’s run through why it’s important.
A Forrester Research customer satisfaction study showed that two-thirds of people see “good service” as companies “valuing their time.”
In many cases, valuing a person’s time means making things simple. Web tools backed by artificial intelligence (AI) let people engage with service providers when they choose, 24/7. It works because people can receive answers faster while participating in and directing the engagement.
This approach is standard practice for companies like Amazon and stores like Target and Best Buy. It’s less common in higher education, and that makes sense. While e-retailers primarily focus on convincing people to click “Add to Cart,” your university must tackle a lot more to help a learner start a program. But the lesson of leveraging technology to deliver a simpler, more efficient experience applies to the application experience as well.
You help them complete their application. And track down their transcripts. And secure financial aid. And find scholarship options. And enroll in courses. And the list goes on.
It’s a heavy load to bear before the work of educating a student begins. That said, it seems even more daunting from the student’s perspective.
Keep in mind that most students will apply to a university program only once or twice in their lives. Your university can make a great first impression by taking this process from onerous to something familiar and easy.
Why is making a great first impression so important? Because adult learners are no longer limited to night classes at the local university when they return to school. Instead, they can choose programs from around the world, and about 7 out of 10 learners apply to more than one.
At that point, which university will make the better impression: the one with a simple application? Or the one with a process the learner finds almost as complex as filing their taxes?
Of course, a simplified application does more than save learners’ time. It subtly says that you have considered their needs, value their time, and are ready to meet them on their terms. And it lets them know that you designed your online programs to be as seamless as other digital experiences they have had.
Develop a self-guided admissions model
I’ll level with you: Making a positive impression demands expertise, innovation, and hard work, especially since you must uphold your current admissions standards while simplifying the student experience. It’s such a heavy lift that some universities opt to replicate their on-campus marketing process for their online offerings.
Unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for every learner. While an adult learner and a high school senior may both want to pursue an undergraduate degree, their needs and the experience they are seeking will be miles apart. The same goes for a professional looking for a graduate degree and an international student seeking a hybrid program.
Meeting these populations where they are and offering a seamless, self-guided experience is our goal for Student Journey.
Our university partners can offer learners a self-guided enrollment experience with Student Journey. It lets them research, evaluate, and apply to an online program faster, all without making a phone call.
This approach doesn’t just offer benefits to learners. We can tackle all user experience and tech requirements through Student Journey, making it easier for universities to switch to a self-guided admissions process.
With each step, we work closely with the university to gather the test scores, education history, and other details they currently require for admission. As such, the student experience seems more straightforward even as the university upholds high standards for enrollment.
Does your university want to build this type of experience? If so, here are three ideas to consider based on our Student Journey work:
Make it mobile
Millennials enroll in online programs more than any other generation, and 1 in 5 access the internet primarily through their mobile device.
It’s vital to provide a mobile-enabled application process. We’ve created this experience for our university partners, and demand for it is growing. Our latest data shows that a third of learners complete at least part of their applications using a smartphone.
Make it immersive
Online learners don’t complete applications on paper. Why should we limit applications to form fields on a static white page?
With Student Journey, we’re using images and video to create immersive applications. These features do more than impress students. They also serve as onscreen tutorials for submitting materials, and they answer common questions and assist with onboarding.
Student Journey also offers tools that paint a clear picture of what learners will experience during a program. Examples include tuition calculators for planning costs and an FAQ hub with answers about each online degree and certificate.
Make it simple
A simplified admissions process begins with easy-to-follow instructions and workflows. We also help learners complete their application faster using tools that can:
- pull details from uploaded resumes, which saves students keystrokes
- grab the addresses of past employers and learning institutions from Google Maps, so students don’t have to look them up
- let learners sign documents digitally instead of printing and mailing them
While most of Student Journey is self-service, there are moments when learners still need to ask a question. At those times, we’re ready to help in the way that works best for them.
That means offering anytime support through chatbots and automated messages sent by email and text. When learners want to talk with an enrollment counselor, they can schedule an appointment at the time that works best for them.
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Student Journey is ‘smooth and easy’
Since launching this system, our metrics show that learners complete the admissions process faster. They spend less time in the enrollment funnel, reducing the chances they’ll abandon their application and increasing the likelihood that they’ll show up in your final enrollment census.
Learners love this approach. We surveyed about 400 learners about Student Journey in 2021, and the application experience received high praise. In fact, 90% of respondents rated it at least a 4 out of 5 (the majority gave it a perfect score).
We also received positive feedback about their overall experience. Here is a sample of what learners said:
- “Smooth and easy.”
- “It was very user-friendly.”
- “It’s easy and straightforward.”
- “My admission advisor is awesome. She answered all my questions and [helped] me along the way during the application process.”
Give learners the experience they want
If it sounds like we’re reinventing the admissions wheel with Student Journey, then I described it accurately. It’s our way of helping your university offer the self-guided experience that learners prefer while using your current acceptance measures to confirm their qualifications.
Student Journey is just the beginning of our marketing support, as we’re one of the largest marketing teams specializing in higher education. Our team includes UX designers, web developers, and technologists to attract more online learners. As your partner, we’ll add horsepower to your campus marketing team.
Discover how you can deliver a better experience for prospective students with our marketing and brand management services. You can also preview our learner-centric approach for supporting the entire Student Journey.
About Corey Miller
Since Corey joined Wiley in 2013, he has applied his passion for performance-based marketing to help solve higher ed’s toughest challenges. As Vice President of Customer Marketing, he tailors innovative marketing solutions around how the student journey has evolved, enabling our partners to attract and retain more students. He focuses on strategic initiatives that power growth on each partner’s terms while advancing our mission to unlock human potential through education. Corey has more than 20 years of experience leading performance marketing, advertising, media, and branding programs for worldwide brands. Prior to joining Wiley, he worked for multiple advertising and marketing agencies, where he managed accounts and tailored brand strategies for each client’s needs.