Skip to Content

Applicants Gone Mobile: Optimizing the Application Experience

By March 23, 2016

By: Brian Wm. Niles, Founder & Chief Evangelist, TargetX

This post is part of our series leading up to Higher Ed Summit 2016. If you’re attending, make sure to visit TargetX at their booth in the Grand Foyer.

StudentGone are the days of applying to just a couple of colleges by sitting at a computer (or in my case, a typewriter), filling out page after page of questions, crafting creative essays, and sending along a fee by check to each institution. Students today are applying to many more colleges, and with services like the Common Application and so-called “fast apps,” students have the ability to apply to many institutions with limited effort. Perhaps most challenging for colleges is that the days of doing this all on a desktop PC are waning. Students are applying in droves via mobile devices with relatively smaller screens navigating it with their finger instead of a computer mouse.

According to Eduventures, and further supported by others such as Ruffalo Noel Levitz, two-thirds of students last year completed some portion of their application using a mobile device (most commonly their smart phone). Yet, until July 2015, there was not a single application that was designed to be completed on a tablet or smartphone. Students had to pinch and zoom around the relatively small screen to find the field to click and carefully tap the small and cumbersome buttons designed for a mouse and keyboard. Many became frustrated and decided to delay (or abandon) their admissions application.

TargetXThe days of searching for and applying to college have been altered swiftly by the mobile revolution of today’s college-bound students. According to this year’s annual Chegg-TargetX Social Admissions Report, 37% of current high school students used their smartphone primarily to research colleges. And while there have been significant advancements in college websites following this trend, the experience is merely “satisfactory” or even downright frustrating. 78% of those students said the experience on their mobile device was “okay” or “challenging.” What’s worse, once they get past the website experience and onto the application for admission on such a small device, their satisfaction drops even further.

Today, higher education is a buyer’s market. While students and families are concerned about getting into college, even more terrified are the enrollment professionals at those very same institutions. According to research conducted by Inside Higher Ed, 79% of college admissions directors are either moderately or very concerned about not meeting their enrollment goals. Now is not the time to provide a bad experience to the student or place a roadblock in their way to submitting an application for consideration.

Thankfully, with innovations from Salesforce and the introduction of Community Cloud, students can now benefit from a much-improved experience ― one that is fully mobile-optimized (not just responsive) and meets the need for data integration between the application and the CRM. Colleges can now offer an application for admission that applicants can complete on a traditional computer or laptop just as easily as they can on a tablet or even a smartphone.

HE Summit 16If you’re attending the Higher Ed Summit in New Orleans in a few weeks, we’re hosting a workshop called “Not Your Mamma’s Admissions: Creating a Better Experience for Applicants and Your Admissions Staff,” where we will discuss and demo a new experience of applying to college and making the admission decision — all built on Salesforce Communities. I invite everyone to visit TargetX at our booth in the expo area during the Summit if you’re interested in discussing the future of admissions and the applicant experience.

Let’s work together to make the process of applying to colleges and universities a much better experience for students and your admissions staff.

Higher Ed Summit 2016

About the Author
Brian Wm NilesBrian is the Founder & Chief Evangelist of TargetX, a well-respected voice of change in an industry at its tipping point, struggling to be more effective and efficient. Regularly appearing as a keynote speaker and workshop leader at conferences, Brian is also the author of the higher education book, “Overthrowing Dead Culture: A Vision to Change the World of College Recruiting.” Prior to starting TargetX in 1998, Brian spent his career in college admissions, enrollment management and marketing and a consultant to a variety of nonprofit organizations. Brian is a graduate of Albright College and holds a masters degree from the University of Pennsylvania.