For many schools, a prospective student’s visit to their campus is a crucial final stage of the admissions process. Whether by taking a campus tour, scheduling an interview with an advisor, talking over their financing options, or finalizing application details, the physical presence of the student is often needed to make their enrollment official.
Unfortunately, the realities of the COVID-19 crisis mean this simply isn’t possible for the foreseeable future. So how can schools continue to drive enrollments for their courses over the coming months?
After hearing that many of our clients and friends in the sector face this issue, Higher Education Marketing has worked hard to find a solution. Now, we are proud to launch our new Virtual Admissions Assistant.
Modified from the technology used to develop our custom-built Student Application Portal, the Virtual Admissions Assistant aims to replicate every stage of the admissions process remotely. Keep reading to learn more about how it can help your school during this difficult time.
An Intuitive Step-By-Step Interface for Your Prospective Students
One of the challenges of researching schools online for prospective students is collecting all the information they need. While you may offer plenty of insight into your courses, campuses, financing options, and application requirements, prospects still need to review all of it to get a clear picture of what you offer.
The Virtual Admissions Assistant allows you to collate all of these relevant details in one place and present them in an intuitive, step-by-step format. Doing so will enable potential applicants to progress naturally towards applying, armed with everything they need to know.
To further personalize this experience, the Assistant also includes a helper, which offers information at every step to tell users a little more about your courses, campus, and other aspects of your school, and to help them navigate the process.
The text can be customized to include whatever your school feels is relevant, and you can also select your own custom help icon that is consistent with your brand. Not only that, but HEM can help you create instructive videos to guide students through the Assistant, which can be incorporated into your help section.
Bringing Your Campus to Life Online
For many students, a visit to the campus can be instructive. It’s a chance to see the learning facilities, amenities, and atmosphere of the school firsthand and evaluate whether it’s the right fit. If they are coming to your institution from further afield, it may also be an opportunity to explore the surrounding area and get a feel for it.
In order to give prospects this experience remotely, some schools offer online video tours. If you have these assets, they can be hosted on the Virtual Admissions Assistant and integrated into your step-by-step process. You can frame this alongside a map, as well as a summary of what your location has to offer.
Example: When selecting a campus in the Virtual Admissions Assistant, prospects can click the More Details button on each option.
This opens a pop-up box that houses any campus info you wish to include. Here, the school has detailed the campus’s location and the facilities on-site, and also added a YouTube video tour.
While it won’t quite make up for not being able to visit in person, it can be a very nice touch, offering them the next best thing.
Showcase Your Programs for Online Student Recruitment
In addition to providing information about your campus, the Virtual Admissions Assistant also provides the space for in-depth information about your programs. You can include a synopsis of your courses and the subjects involved, just as you would with a program page.
If you have any videos showcasing what students will learn, or better yet, testimonials from alumni, these can be added to give prospects a fuller sense of what to expect. You can also include the available start dates, and allow prospects to select theirs before moving on to the next step.
Example: Just as does with campus selection, a pop-up box with more details about each program can be opened during the Program step in the Virtual Admissions Assistant. This example includes information about course delivery, course content, career opportunities for graduates, and a student testimonial video. The start date options on the left include both morning and evening schedules.
The Virtual Admissions Assistant uses the same easy course builder as our Student Application Portal, meaning you also have the ability to incorporate optional add-ons, pricing, and additional materials and registration fees if needed. The builder uses a similar step-by-step process to the front end of the Assistant, making it easy for any of your staff to create new options or edit existing ones regardless of their technical knowledge.
Helping Students Figure Out How to Finance Their Studies
Another thing that many schools use in-person visits to discuss is financing. Different students in different circumstances will want different options for paying for their studies, and your school could offer flexible payments, financial aid, scholarships, or many other possible options.
The Virtual Admissions Assistant allows you to present all of these choices for students before they apply. Once they select how they intend to pay for their course, this information will be saved within their summary, and can be viewed by your team when the time comes to process their application.
Prospective Students Can Still Connect With Your Admissions Advisors
As much as the Virtual Admissions Assistant can be configured to provide all the information a student needs before applying, they are still bound to have questions and may want one-on-one contact with one of your admissions advisors.
To facilitate this, you can offer them the option of requesting a phone call.
Upon clicking, they will be prompted to enter their number, so that one of your advisors can follow up with them as soon as possible. The request can be pushed directly to the phone of an admissions advisor, and will also be viewable by your staff from the back end of the Assistant.
Providing this facility will allow you to quickly answer any questions and guide prospects past any potential stumbling blocks that keep them from moving towards application. You can also request that they provide their email to give you an additional means of following up should you have difficulty connecting with them by phone.
The Virtual Admissions Assistant Delivers Prospects a Summary of Their Selection
After selecting their options, prospective students will reach a page which provides a full summary of the program they have selected, their campus, start dates, and financial options. If they are ready to apply at this point, they can be prompted to log in to the Student Application Portal, or create an account if they are new to the process.
Of course, many prospects might not be quite ready to make their decision just yet. They may want to compare your school with others, or talk about their decision with their family, or just think things over for a few days.
If that is the case, you can offer them the option to have their summary emailed to them so that they can review it. In doing so, they will provide their contact details, which your admissions team can use for further follow-up.
How The Virtual Admissions Assistant Integrates with HEM’s Student Application Portal
Because the Virtual Admissions Assistant is built on the same software platform as HEM’s online Student Application Portal, prospects who use it can be transitioned seamlessly to the Portal in order to complete their application.
Within the Portal, they will be provided all the tools they need to apply, arrange payments, and complete the enrollment process. Like the Virtual Admissions Assistant, the Portal uses a step-by-step process for its application forms. However, because they will have created an account at this point, applicants can save their progress at any time and return to the form later.
This can be especially useful if your school requires them to submit any supporting documentation, such as grade transcripts, copies of passports or identification, visas, or resumes, as they may not have these to hand immediately.
Once they have everything they need ready, the Portal can support the upload of an unlimited amount of files of different types, so that all the documentation your school needs to process an application can be received remotely.
You can also integrate a number of popular payment gateways with the Portal in order to facilitate the receipt of tuition fees, and track the status of payments once an applicant has been submitted within the system, making it easier for your team to keep track of what payments are due.
You can align this with the information they selected regarding financing in the Virtual Admissions Assistant so that you know exactly what method of payment to expect from a student. What’s more, the information from both the Portal and the Assistant can be integrated with your CRM to ensure it imports automatically to your contact profiles.
Example: Here, a school is using HEM’s customized Mautic CRM system integrated with the Student Application Portal to track the status of payments received through both Flywire and Stripe.
The Portal also solves any issue that might arise due to an applicant being unable to physically sign documents at your campus. The platform is e-signature enabled, meaning you can display their final application agreement and have them sign electronically.
In addition, there are a number of other features of the Portal that could be useful for online student recruitment once your campuses are open again, such as the facility to allow students to book accommodation, activities, and even airport transfers.
When combined, the Student Application Portal and the Virtual Admissions Assistant can give your team all the tools to make your admissions process entirely remote, helping you better navigate the current crisis and continue to keep your enrollment numbers healthy over the coming months. While it doesn’t provide quite the same experience as a student would get from visiting your campus, it’s definitely the next best thing.