Admissions Office at University of North Carolina, Wilmington

Put on a Happy Face
University Business, Nov 2011
University of North Carolina, Wilmington
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Laden with application forms, transcripts, financial aid documents, and more, the admissions function is awash in paperwork. As frustrating as it may be for prospective students who have to compile and send such documentation, imagine being on the receiving end.

“Our operations staff were working way, way too many overtime hours,” recalls Janice Rockwell, director of admissions at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. “They were exhausted. They were stressed. We were getting a number of questions-slash-complaints about items that had been sent to be included in applications that we didn’t seem to be able to put our hands on.”

Hoping to control costs, reduce stress, increase the completion rate of application reviews, and improve morale, UNCW administrators went searching for a system that could transition its paper-based documentation to an electronic process. AdmissionPros, a software company headquartered in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, carried the day with a highly customizable product that served the university’s data management and marketing needs in multiple ways.

By scanning all incoming documents and putting the entire application infrastructure online, UNCW was able to realize more than $25,000 in annual savings thanks to the elimination of paper, folders, printer toner, labels, and ink. Tracking enrollment data and reviewing applications became substantially easier. And the formerly overworked staff grew cheerier.

Transitioning from paper to electronic documentation increased morale at this besieged admissions office.

“I don’t remember the last time we’ve had to use overtime hours, and that’s been not only a savings but, yes, much happier,” Rockwell says. “We feel much more organized. We don’t have stacks of folders lying around the office. We’re not digging for information. It’s more accessible now.”

In addition to helping UNCW better manage incoming information, AdmissionPros was a boon for the Admissions’ Office’s outgoing messages. University staff now have the capability of drafting and automatically sending messages to prospective students, who can be segmented in any number of ways, including geographically or by ability, year of entry, or ethnicity.

Thanks to automation, there are fewer instances of lost documents, and the rate of completion for application reviews has increased from 85 to 91 percent.

“This was key to us,” Rockwell notes. “The greater number of complete applications is what admissions statistics are based off of. You may be admitting the same number of students, but you’re admitting out of a greater number of complete applications. We’re more accurately demonstrating our strength via numbers. Selectivity often drives better students to you.” Rockwell points out that while change can be painful, the alternative is often worse.

“All offices at any point in time can become complacent and tolerate things that maybe are not as efficient as they should be,” she says. “You have to be fairly bold and committed to what the end is going to look like and feel like. If you’re able to improve on multiple levels, it was worth the difficulties in the process of change.”