You are here

Editor's Note

There Has To Be a Better Way

University Business, May 2010

The story you are about to read is true. Only the names (of the schools) have been changed to protect the innocent.

My son Nick will graduate high school in June and the early months of this year have been spent applying for aid, completing applications, sending in fees, and all the other fun stuff that goes with applying to college.

In Nick's case, he applied to four schools, which I'll call Colleges A, B, C, and D. The scenario was the same for each: Fill out the forms, write an essay, have the College Board forward his SAT scores, and so on. Nothing unusual. So, we were pleasantly surprised when he received acceptance letters from Colleges A and B on the same day in early March. Now if only College C, his top choice school, would do the same, we'd all be happy.

But, in the first week of April a letter arrived from College C, informing Nick that his application was inactive because he had failed to complete it. They had not received his SAT scores, even though we had confirmation that the scores had been sent in February.

I called College C's admission office to see what the problem was. A helpful woman who answered the phone confirmed that the SAT scores weren't with the application, but offered to look for them with some additional information. She soon found the scores, which had in fact been received back in February.

A more efficient system would have alerted the staff to the discrepancy.

The problem? Nick filled out his applications under the name Nicholas, but his scores were sent out under Nick. He rarely goes by his full name and likely didn't give it a second thought. All the other identifiers matched, but because the first name was slightly different, the two pieces never found each other.

Mystery solved, the woman added his scores to the application and said it would be reconsidered, pending seat availability.

This made me wonder about College D, another preferred school that we hadn't heard from yet. We called the admission office there, too, just to be sure. This time we heard that all the pieces were in place. The forms had found each other and the application was being reviewed.

Why had one school out of four not been able to match the applications? Clearly College C has a different way of doing things, and I'm certainly not placing blame. Nick's own mistake caused the problem. But, other than the first name, the rest of the information matched. A more efficient system would have alerted the admissions staff to the discrepancy, saving time and some anxiety.

Not so coincidentally, efficiency has been on our minds a lot lately. In this issue we reveal the first honorees in our ongoing Models of Efficiency program. These campus departments have found a way to use technology and business processes to save resources and improve service. We were thrilled with the early response to the program and, even as this issue goes to press, our judges are beginning to review the entries for the second round. Learn more about the program - and enter your own department - by visiting the Models of Efficiency page.


Write to Tim Goral at