Prospective students aren't all that picky about their admissions websites expectations--namely easy navigation and functions like campus visit scheduling. Yet, according to the 7th annual Enrollment Power Index (EPI) from the National Research Center for College & University Admissions (NRCCUA), they aren't likely to find everything they need.
"No site has ever met 100 percent of the functional criteria indicated by [NRCCUA] research," says Ron Morris, director of admissions marketing research at the organization. This year, the study used 28 criteria and awarded mostly Cs and Ds to the more than 3,000 institutions examined. And that was with grading on a curve.
"Prospective students keep raising the bar," notes Morris, "as they become familiar with functions at commercial sites." He reminds administrators that improving a site--say, by ensuring that all pages can be reached from any given admissions page--doesn't necessarily take a whole lot of time. "Colleges and universities have a real opportunity to stand out, if they examine what they're doing and make the necessary changes," he adds.
Sarah Coen, director of Admissions at number-one rated Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky., sees easy site navigation as crucial. "If [students] can't find what they're looking for in a matter of seconds, they move on," she says. The student testimonials on Transy's site are popular, and the online visit-planning sheet helps both prospective students and staff.
Future plans for Transy's site include giving applicants their own personal, secure sites, as well as enhancing the current students' blogs, Coen reports.
As all schools look to the future, Morris offers a heads up about what will soon be expected of all admissions sites: instant messaging with counselors, virtual 360-degree campus tours, and live web cams.
The EPI report sells for $995 at www.nrccua.org.
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