The process of enrolling in college is confusing and complex. Students complete paperwork for multiple college offices on varied timelines with varied delivery methods. Sometimes a college isn’t sure where to direct a student for help and they’re sent in a circle among admissions, financial aid, student housing, etc. For students without one consistent address it’s difficult to ensure they’re receiving everything. Rarely is there one spot to seek guidance or assistance with the process. Also, forms sometimes get lost, so diligent students resort to calling each office to confirm their paperwork was received and processed.
The enrollment process is among the systemic barriers that lead to summer melt. About 10-15% of students nationwide that intend to go to college in the fall after high school graduation melt away over the summer. In some urban districts it’s as high as 40% of students. Source: EdWeek.
Build an online portal for students to complete the college enrollment process. The portal would function similarly to an online home mortgage application, or other third party software.
I chose to focus on college enrollment because colleges may be more willing to put the time into using this tool and interacting with students on it knowing this is the select group that will be enrolling on their campus. Keeping those students is very important to colleges. If this tool were used for admissions, I worry that colleges wouldn’t be able to make their staff quite as accessible because of the volume of questions they would receive. The common app is already providing a clean online platform for applying to college, but perhaps this portal could be an option for colleges to add to their sites if they don’t accept the common app.
Execution of the idea:
The portal should be built with a responsive design, with both a mobile app and a desktop version. Some paperwork can’t be completed on a cell phone easily, such as entrance loan counseling, and some students do not have a smartphone.
Key elements of the portal:
- Checklist format with deadlines to guide students through the process
- Automatic reminder texts, push notifications or emails.
- Each document the applicant needs to complete could be filled out on the portal, or downloaded from the portal, printed, and uploaded back into the portal to submit
- Checklist includes a step that shows when the college has received and processed a document to keep students updated on the college’s actions. Students will be able to click on a confirmation letter from the college.
- A chat function that can be initiated by the student or the college staff member. Every office of a college would have access to this chat function to connect with incoming students.
- Each item on the checklist will directly connect to the department at the college to contact for additional support, and include a video tutorial (incorporating Laura Bartel’s idea)
- The portal will allow students to make payments so they can submit deposits or pay tuition.
- Password protection so students’ private information is kept secure.
Feedback from College Possible college students and College Possible staff who support students: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1L4K7YNgAMk1xEJ7WhvXfOMFttB0ZIfa4hCUEwxOgaH0/edit?usp=sharing
Add-ons to this idea:
- The portal prompts shareable posts to social media when completing milestones such as confirming enrollment at college, finishing first year of school, etc.
- Use chat function to interact with peers - find ride to campus, chat about dorm options.
- Developing connection to campus: student support services and student orgs are highlighted on the app and students can connect with them and form affinity groups before reaching campus.
- Family/parents could be given a log-in to view their student’s progress on the checklist items.
- Include an interactive map that helps new students get acquainted with campus
- Option to gameify the checklistand completing items on time earns student a gift card for campus store or Amazon.
- Dorm checklist with tips on sales on bedding or sites to find cheap textbooks
- Portal has same log-in info as student’s college email account and connect with a college’s existing portals for current students that house their financial aid, transcripts, etc.