Forging connections with prospective students

High-tech tools help UND connect

Within a matter of minutes, prospective students were using UND’s newly-launched admissions application to complete applications to the University. Paired with new customer relationship management software, UND hopes to connect with an increasing amount of tech-savvy students. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

With a rocket ship countdown, confetti cannons and treats, UND launched a new era of connecting with prospective students.

This was the scene to celebrate the collaboration across many teams and months of hard work to allow UND to communicate more effectively with that vital audience.

“Forty students completed their applications to UND in the first 90 minutes after the launch,” said Janelle Kilgore. “In the first weekend, more than 200 prospective students started the application process for fall 2020.”

Kilgore, vice provost for enrollment management, was speaking about UND’s new admissions application and customer relationship management (CRM) software. It’s meant to help the University better connect with prospective students — who are digitally savvy and expect personalized communications — and encourage them to apply to UND.

“The new admissions application is so much more user friendly and visually appealing,” said Jenn Aamodt, director of university admissions. “It looks like UND, and it’s more mobile friendly. I’m really pleased by the overwhelming response from students. It’s a testament to user friendliness.”

The CRM is designed to “think” like a prospective student. Part of an arsenal of new tools to improve the application process and increase the numbers of students who enroll at UND, the CRM includes an updated web site, a program finder, and the Common Application.

Screenshot of the Common Application’s landing page.

Common Application

The Common Application is a nationwide web site which allows prospective students to apply to multiple colleges and universities by filling out just one form. “The Common Application helps us appeal to students who may not have known about or considered UND,” said Aamodt. “Students can search for UND or find us by program or state. UND appears where it didn’t before, and that raises awareness about us.”

“This is an historic time for us,” Aamodt said. “We are the first institution in the state to use the Common Application, and this will help us attract students to UND and North Dakota.”

As the number of high school students dwindles nationwide and institutions of higher education are facing enrollment challenges, every tool helps.

“It’s a very competitive market,” Kilgore said. “Higher education is getting savvier with recruiting technology. These tools help us keep the playing field level and step it up against larger competitors. Our Strategic Plan has a goal of attracting the best students.  This is another way to communicate with students and reach a wider audience.”

“We’re hoping that students find the new application easier to complete and more intuitive,” said Aamodt. “They can apply to UND from their phone.”

Janelle Kilgore, vice provost for strategic enrollment management, said the ability to reach a wider audience with new admissions tools is key in a competitive higher education market. Photo by Dima Williams/UND Today.

The personal touch

The CRM also helps UND Admissions staff connect with prospective students.

“We can personalize our communication with each student,” said Aamodt. “A new events system makes it easier to sign up for campus visits or open houses. We can partner with academic departments who communicate with students, and current students can tell their UND story to prospective students.”

“Students are used to targeted communication from companies like Apple and Amazon,” said Kilgore. “They grew up in the world of tech, and they expect to find information tailored to them. This helps us reach those students and stand out. It’s not a blanket approach.”

One UND

Launched in just five months (most CRM implementations take a year or two), the CRM is a testament to the One UND attitude.

“It was a priority to help attract prospective students,” said Madhavi Marasinghe, chief information officer, whose team was heavily involved in the implementation. “This was probably one of the largest enterprise projects we’ve done that involved many different teams. We want to help students feel they belong at UND. This will give prospective students a better, personalized experience.”

It was a huge step, agreed Jacob Chaput, project manager with University IT, who managed the project.

“It took a large amount of work to get us here,” Chaput said. “It was a huge team lift with an aggressive timeline. The teams have been amazing, and worked nights and weekends over the summer. As a former programmer, I like to get in and see how we can give students a great experience and see how students want to interact with UND. There’s something pretty special about that.”

“The new tools are all about the student experience,” said Aamodt.  University IT, the North Dakota University System Core Technology Services, UND Admissions, UND Marketing & Communications, the Office of Data & Analytics, the School of Graduate Studies, and the provost’s office all worked together to ensure the success of the project, Aamodt added.

Said Provost Tom DiLorenzo., “This was a significant implementation in a short about of time. Our success is a testament to the great people we have at UND.

“I’m proud of their commitment to the OneUND Strategic Plan, ability to collaborate, and forward-thinking perspective.  Their can-do, One UND attitude is a great thing for UND and for the state of North Dakota.”