Applying to a graduate program is often the first official interaction a prospective student may have with a school. Western University had relied on other third-party digital service providers to collect and channel applicant information for more than a decade. Employing an outside agency service to collect and distribute applicant information presented some significant challenges:
Western sought to build an innovative digital admissions service from the ground up with the primary aim of facilitating how we, as a community, wanted to recruit and admit high-quality students. In April 2011, Western began the active engagement of the graduate community in order to determine how an admissions process could best meet our administrative needs and the interests of our applicants.
After a two and a half year process or consultation and development our new admissions system was released on October 7, 2013.
Western’s new graduate admissions system achieves the following goals put forward through our initial community interactions:
The new admissions model places all activity within our Student Center (PeopleSoft Campus Solutions) hub inside a customized admissions toolset. All users, from applicant to program admissions committee, connect with the application through the same portal. Users are presented with only the information their role requires in order to most effectively complete their required tasks. For the first time we are able to administer and manage the admissions cycle from the point at which a prospective student shows interest in one of our graduate programs up to when they are admitted. Information is collected, updated and accessed in a single location. Moreover Western maintains the service and is able to update and manage the entire process as required.
The new application framework presents all applicants with a comprehensive picture of what they are expected to complete while applying and requires an applicant to fulfill those expectations prior to submitting an application.
To assist applicants in meeting these expectations several key innovations were introduced:
Unlike previous models, when an application is submitted it can be instantly reviewed and assessed. The result is a faster and more intuitive process delivering an overall improved experience for the applicant.
Western has centralized the administrative work required to collect and complete a preliminary assessment for submitted applications. All applications pass through a central admissions center before being considered and processed by the various programs. This admissions team in the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies reviews each application to ensure its accuracy and determine an admission average, basis of admission and any conditions that should be placed on an applicant should they be admitted. This work, previously done by the graduate program, guarantees that the programs have more time to effectively recruit top applicants and that offers of admission can be sent out faster than ever before.
Program administrators can now direct their admission committees to access and review applications in an online secure environment accessible both onsite and offsite. Faculty assessors can view applications and comment on them as required. When an administrator wants to offer an applicant admission an email is instantly sent to the applicant informing them of this decision and in one click the applicant can respond to the offer.
While the application cycle is not yet complete Western is already seeing the benefits provided by the new graduate admissions system. While our domestic applications submitted have increased at an expected rate (~%10), our offer and accept rates to date have significantly increased from the previous year (see Figure 1).
We attribute the significant increases to three major factors: