College admissions is changing all the time. From women finally taking over Oxford’s historically male-dominated population, to top schools making efforts to filter out the wealthy and privileged, to year-to-year variations in the student body – it’s a different world every year.
While that often means progress for America’s students, it can also mean a lot of hassle for America’s admissions officers. Keeping track of changes to the system, candidate requirements and the candidates themselves – well, that’s a lot of paper to shuffle and a lot of digital documents to organize.
There’s got to be an easier way to do your job … and find the best candidates by creating clear admission criteria.
Chances are, in an effort to keep your ducks in a row, you’ve already turned to some type of college admissions software. Good job. Chances are equally good, though, that you bought an out of the box solution that promised plug-and-play ability and has instead caused department-wide hair-tearing for weeks, months or even years.
Many recruitment and admissions programs, orientation teams, readmission staff and ancillary offices fail to realize that there’s a better way. While out of the box marketing teams spend major money trying to convince you that out of the box is the fastest, easiest way, you could be missing a huge opportunity with custom college admissions software.
Let’s discuss the differences between the two today, as well as the potential benefits of each, so that you can make the right decision for your organization.
What Is Out of the Box CRM Software?
A lot of the admission software on the market is of the “out of the box” variety. That means you, the customer, receives a CD with templates you can configure any way you want for use in your admissions process. Sounds pretty good, right? Endless customization and all that?
Out of the box software companies neglect to mention, however, that your IT department will then need to configure the software to match your needs. This takes time and manpower and means your system won’t be ready to use for months or even years.
So, you’re simultaneously using a cookie-cutter product – not inherently configured to meet the needs of your admissions team – yet spending tons of resources customizing it after all. It’s the worst of both worlds.
Don’t take our word for it, though. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly has to happen before you can put out of the box software to work for you.
What Happens When I Use Out of the Box College Admission Software?
When you buy out of the box CRM (customer relationship management) systems, you do get a lot of powerful solutions. You can track applicants, personal information, transcripts, essays and much more, all in one place. You can flag applications for review, send them to members of the team, update them in real time and more.
You’ll notice, however, that we didn’t say you get those solutions now. Instead, the process looks a little something like this:
- Buy your out of the box software at full cost upfront
- Install it on the system and build it yourself
- Spend the next year implementing the system
- Take all your questions to your organization’s IT staff, which has no inherent admissions experience
- Wait impatiently for the company to release new updates that will allow you to customize the system further
- Make those adjustments yourself
- Suffer through limited functionality as a result of cookie-cutter software
- Sort through available templates looking for a better solution; find none
So sure, you can track applicants and their information, but at what cost? How out of the box is “out of the box,” really?
Out of the Box: A Misleading Title
As Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado-Boulder IT Director David Kohnke pointed out, the burden of customization and configuration rests completely with the institution.
It’s not like you get to put off the cost of the software until you configure it, either. You pay immediately, even if you end up having to spend a year getting the system to match your needs. If you can’t get staff up to speed, don’t have the right IT personnel to handle the challenge or are simply too busy to deal with it right away, you’re paying for nothing.
That means when you weigh the costs of out of the box versus custom-built college admissions software, you’re often fooled. The price of custom solutions are listed upfront, while the costs of out of the box software are well-hidden under a seemingly awesome layer of low prices.
That’s probably not the best approach. When you have to focus on your process rather than your prospective students, you’re not serving them well. Your university’s student body likewise suffers, as you miss potentially enriching candidates – the future innovators, designers, artists and mathematicians of the world.
So, is there a solution that allows you to do that and skip the unappealing requirements and limitations we just described?
The Fully Customized College Admissions Software Difference
It’s a common misconception that if you don’t buy a plug-and-play option then you will have to wait for weeks or months for your own customized version.
That’s not true at all. In fact, in many ways, a custom college admission software is available to your staff sooner, at least in a form that will be useful. Here’s how it works:
- You tell the software developer what kind of system you want
- You explain your needed customizations
- The software team (not your IT staff) makes those customizations for you
- You pay no upfront design or development fees
- You get free implementation
- Your contract doesn’t begin until your system is live and fully functional
- You have a complete solution from the beginning
- You can request customizations as time goes on from a fully trained staff that knows how to handle them
In other words, you don’t have to spend months or years hoping for a solution that works, all while trying to manage your admissions process without the tools you need to do so effectively. You get productivity and efficiency in much less time, without having to train a team to do it. Your solution is engineered to perform from the very first.