You know the drill: to cover and increase your university’s budget, more tuition-paying students need to apply to your school to cover administration fees and, of course, your salary.

You’ve tried everything to attract applicants, but, application rates are low and you can’t figure out why.

Have you thought that, maybe, your website and application system is to blame?

An increasing amount of today’s potential students rely on the web for … well … everything. They want clear, focused web experiences that make performing tasks simple, and are easily frustrated by websites that do not respond in a fast, intuitive manner. And though your first reaction to this may be to scoff at fussy students unwilling to put up with an ornery application system, students may see your ancient website and application system as a reflection of you—that a university unwilling to update their web experience is one not looking towards the future, and not worthy of their time.

Simple improvements
Websites and application systems are expensive to build, and it’s for this very reason they linger long after they’re out of fashion. Even worse, some systems stick around because the original build is no longer updated; yet administrations and faculty are unwilling to lose a process they’ve become accustomed to.

However, slight improvements in your web portal will make it easier for both students and administrators to deal with incoming and outgoing information. Changing your application system to a current database system capable of handling online applications will also make updating your process easier in the future. Further, introducing a better web experience for applying students saves you time, and that means money.

Make the application process simple
Old systems frustrate many students because they make it impossible for the student to see the entire application process at a quick glance. First, application information should be simple to digest. Make sure to include a chart of the process somewhere on your website, as well as inside your application system. During the application process, give the applicant a guide, such as tabs that their mark progress along the way.

Improve your look
It may seem superficial, but looks are everything—and this is no different when it comes to your website and online application system. Creating easy to read graphics will help guide your applicants through the process. Use classy, easy to read modern fonts that are easy on the eye—students will quickly fatigue when pouring over the requirements of a lengthy application process.

Make uploading files easy
Check that your file uploading system is compatible with the most popular web browsers, such as Safari, Firefox, and Chrome. Updates to those browsers may make file uploading impossible—and nothing will frustrate an applicant more than being unable to move on. Make sure to regularly check your system, and to include which browsers are compatible on the file upload page to prevent user confusion.

Look around you and be inspired
Look at services such as Google and Facebook and see how easy they make it to sign up to their services and provide information. These are your benchmarks. Also, find other universities that are doing it right and copy what you love.

Students spend a lot of time working on their portfolio materials and obtaining those pesky recommendation letters. The last thing they want to do is fiddle with your ancient applications system. Join the rest of the world in the new digital age, and see results.

joshAbout the Author: For over a decade, I've built highly effective, business-growing websites for design and brand aware customers. I’m a web designer. But I’m also a business owner. I’ve built my company and reputation on trust, hard work, and results.

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