Category Archives: International Admissions

May 1, 2013

Paperless Review at NAGAP 2013

NAGAP Conference 2013The admissions experts from ZAP Solutions just returned from the Annual NAGAP Conference in Orlando, Florida! National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals (NAGAP)’s mission is to engage and advance Graduate Enrollment Management Professionals by promoting excellence and collaboration through education, research, and professional development. The NAGAP Conference is an excellent opportunity for attendees to learn and discuss the different approaches and aspects of graduate enrollment management. The ZAP team had a wonderful time networking with other admissions professionals and spreading the word about AMP, ZAP’s paperless admissions solution.

While there were many informative and engaging presentations at the conference, one in particular caught our attention – “Best Practices for a Paperless Application and Review Process.” In this session, representatives from Duke, North Carolina State University, and the University of Minnesota presented their experiences with moving to an electronic admissions process. While listening to their presentations, we were surprised to discover that the committee review of applicants was being discussed as a new feature in online admissions management, since AMP has featured committee reviews being accessible online in our web-based admissions management system for the past ten years.

AMP has the ability to enable each of our schools to utilize an admissions management system that is customized specifically to their admissions process, including committee review.  The Committee Review process in AMP has features for administrators and committee members including:

    • Schedule committee review meetings
    • Assign applicants to specific committee members, automatically or manually
    • Review applicants’ screening reports, interview reports, and full application data
    • Rank applicants
    • Submit decisions with related comments
    • View a summary of committee decisions, as shown below

AMP - Committee Admin Summary

We are pleased to know that our well-established practices are becoming the new standard in admissions management. The AMP development team is constantly working with clients to innovate new ways to expedite the admissions process. For example, AMP recently launched the new “Experience Timeline,” a tool that charts the extracurricular involvement of an applicant, making it easy to evaluate a student’s activities over the course of several years.

We are always searching for new ways to make the admissions process easier for our schools, which is why AMP is one of the first-to-market in developing new features in paperless admissions management software, like our online committee review and MMI interviews. Our more than ten years of experience with admissions management has enabled AMP to become a market leader in innovative admissions management software.

August 21, 2012

The Shopping Sheet: Know Before You Owe

In a past post, we discussed the increased attention on the costs of college and the ever-increasing default rate for education loans. Since then, the Department of Education has unveiled a new tool for informing prospective students about the real cost of college: the Shopping Sheet. While the Shopping Sheet is not a requirement for schools, it is considered to be a new “best practice” in the world of higher education.

The Shopping Sheet seeks to provide transparency in financial aid offers and clear cost comparison between schools. This is a direct response to a common criticism heard from students; that financial aid letters often mislead the reader about the true costs of accepting aid, are confusing and euphemistic in their descriptions, and/or omit key information regarding costs of attendance. “Right now, colleges are not required to provide the full cost of attendance … or even to provide the contact information for a financial aid office,” says Lauren Asher, president of The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) of the Shopping Sheet.

“Countless students I meet across the country feel like the first time they really understood how much student loan debt they were in was when the first bill arrived,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “We must unravel the mystery of higher education pricing by giving students and families the information they need to make smart educational choices. The Shopping Sheet is a positive step in that direction.”

The main goal of the Shopping Sheet is to educate and inform borrowers so that they can make an educated decision before committing to a large loan package. This is achieved through the clear communication of the following information:

  • The total cost of 1 year’s schooling
  • Clear differentiation between the types of aid. Namely, between loans (which need to be repaid by borrowers) and grants (which are free money and are not repaid)
  • Net costs after loans and grants have been applied
  • Statistics on the school’s graduation rates, default rates, and median borrowing rates.

Schools that opt to use the Shopping Sheet will begin implementation during the 2013/2014 school year. Many universities have already pledged their support of the new system, including (but not limited to):

  • Syracuse University
  • Vassar University
  • Arizona State University
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of Texas

While it is disappointing that the Shopping Sheet will not be universally implemented, it does provide a blueprint for the information needed to make an informed decision. Diligent students & parents can use it as reference when comparing aid offers and when doing research.

Senator Al Franken fully supports the Shopping Sheet, but also recognizes the limitations to offering it as a non-mandatory tool. “The White House’s introduction of a shopping sheet, also known as a universal financial aid award letter, is a step in the right direction, and I want to thank them for recognizing that this problem needs to be addressed. But unless a universal financial aid award form is made mandatory, colleges will still be able to use whatever form they want, and families won’t be able to compare apples to apples when evaluating financial aid offers.”

Hopefully the Shopping Sheet will start a new trend of clear and transparent financial communication between schools and students. I predict that more & more schools will jump on the bandwagon in being up front and honest about the true costs of education. What do you think?

Has your school decided to adopt the Shopping Sheet? Why or why not?

June 28, 2012

Colleges Seek to Cut Costs Amidst Economic Pressure

The higher education landscape is on the edge of a big change. With increased attention on student debt coupled with decreased funding from state and federal governments, it is becoming clear that the status quo is not sustainable for many colleges and universities across the U.S. “The notion that universities can do business the very same way has to stop,” said Mr. E. Gordon Gee, President of the Ohio State University.

Before the economic downturn, colleges and universities successfully wooed applicants with l promises of financial aid, and assurances of gainful employment upon graduation. In the current poor economic climate, the priorities of applicants are changing. Among reports that as many as 1 in 4 student loan borrowers are delinquent on their debt, prospective students are becoming more leery of accepting large loan packages to fund their education, instead opting to look for the school that will offer the best value for their money.

As a result, more affordable public colleges’ admissions numbers are gaining momentum over private institutions. In 2009, SUNY New Paltz’s admissions office processed 15,500 applications; a 12% increase from 2008. With so many applicants vying for acceptance, admissions departments have unique problems to tackle. Should they accept more students, but risk diminishing the college experience through overcrowding? Or should they accept fewer students in order to improve their academic rankings? At SUNY New Paltz, the administration is using the latter strategy and maintaining focus on long-term goals instead of short-term profits.

While many public schools have an embarrassment of riches in the admissions department, they are also experiencing a steady decrease in federal and state funding. In fact, per-student state appropriations are at their lowest level in 25 years. In a report earlier this year, Moody’s Investor Services offered a bleak outlook for schools that rely heavily on government funding. Those schools will need to make some major changes to their business models in order to stay competitive. With the student debt bubble creeping towards $1 trillion, high unemployment, and steadily increasing delinquencies, raising tuition may not be a viable option in the future. Moody’s stated “Tuition levels are at a tipping point…We anticipate an ongoing bifurcation of student demand favoring the highest quality and most affordable higher education options.”

While it is impossible to predict what will happen when the student debt bubble bursts, there is no time like the present to plan for the future. In this uncertain climate, confronting costs should be the #1 priority of all higher education institutions. “This notion that higher education has an obligation to try to reduce administrative costs to preserve the academic core of institutions as a way of trying to pull down tuition increases is very important,” says Ronald G. Ehrenberg, a professor of industrial and labor relations and economics at Cornell University and director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute. “Tuition cannot go up forever.”

Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Cohen, Licensed under Creative Commons.

To reduce costs while keeping tuition rates reasonable, costs must be analyzed from a high level. Colleges and universities are notorious for having complex, decentralized management structures which create redundancies and inefficient operating procedures. By streamlining and standardizing operations across the board, schools can work leaner and more efficiently. At the Ohio State University, choosing a single vendor for pens saved $20 million and creating a common expense reporting system saved the school a whopping $75 million. At the University of Nevada School of Medicine, implementing  AMP – a flexible and streamlined admissions software – sped up their admissions department schedule by 3-4 months over their previous, inefficient process.

It seems that more schools are going to be jumping on the bandwagon of keeping tuition in check through cost cutting and restructuring. We at College Admissions Today would love to hear from you & your school – Have you or your co-workers implemented any cost-cutting or streamlining measures? Have they been successful? How would you cut costs if the decision was in your hands?

May 8, 2012

Social Media in International Admissions

According to Martin Bennett from EducationUSA, he states that to be successful in admissions you must ‘live where your audiences live’.  The audiences of admissions are students that ‘live’ predominantly on social media channels, like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.  For admissions professionals to engage more international students into their universities, the school must become creative and open with social media. Just last month, there was an article in The Chronicle about the new twists in online recruiting international applicants.

Madan Padaki, the CEO of Erudient, states, “Facebook is an ideal place to foster interaction, but universities are not doing it.”

There is no easy way for international students to visit campuses, which is why students rely on social media and virtual tours to convince them to go to a particular school.  Some high school students in the United States visit well over twenty or thirty different schools, and will rely heavily on those visits to determine whether they want to go there for the next few years of their life.  International students, on the other hand, do not have that opportunity, especially if they have a limited budget. Social media in admissions is a way for international applicants to view real photos and videos from the school, along with interacting with other applicants.  This is a chance for them to meet, engage, and question students as well as the admissions office.

Social media can work fast and effectively when it is used correctly.  Facebook applications are another excellent way for a school to connect with prospective students.  Comparative to other marketing mediums, social media is minimal in cost.  Out of the 1.362 billion people that have internet access, fifty-five percent of them have Facebook that they check at least once a month. Another reason why your school should target international applicants through social media is because sixty percent of your audience is in the college-age demographic with a Facebook presence, according to .eduGuru.  It is an easy way to target specific sets of applicants, and offer a variety of resources for them.

Social media doesn’t have to just be about Facebook and Twitter.  Your school’s admissions office could also consider creating a blog, where members of your office could write about specific topics.  For instance, have one of your admissions staff write specifically about topics of interest and tips that will benefit the international applicant, so that the applicant can have a better understanding about the process.

Do you have any interesting ways to engage international applicants using social media?