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How can universities improve the admissions process

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The Global Student Satisfaction awards are the only student-powered global university overview capturing feedback on life inside and outside the classroom. Students have spoken – in over 108 000 reviews, across 4000 institutions. Now it’s time for the Higher Education Sector to listen, and to discuss the best-practice approaches for a leading student experience. 

The University of Bonn was given the highest ratings by students for its Admissions Process – one of the eight criteria Studyportals measured in the Global Student Satisfaction Awards. We spoke to rector Michael Hoch to gain some insight into their approach to this dimension of the student experience. 

 

Is there anything you are doing differently to support the admissions process?

We provide our prospective students with a clearly structured web portalStudying”, including a portfolio database of our degree programs, an application portal and an easy‐to‐use application guide. The application guide has been designed to follow a low threshold approach in that it, for instance, does not expect prospective (international) students to possess prior knowledge regarding the German higher education system. Instead, while guiding users towards the right application procedure, it provides essential information. 

International applicants are provided with a specific web portal specifically tailored to their requirements and needs. If students have a university entrance qualification from a country other than Germany, there are some important aspects to consider regarding their application and future studies (such as entrance qualifications, language skills etc.). Here, we tell our applicants what exactly they need to bear in mind and also point out central contact points within our extensive advising and service network which applicants may approach for personal support.  

Highly visible integration of special application matters into our application web portal, such as applicants with disabilities, senior applicants, high‐level athlete applicants, applicants with vocational qualifications etc. 

 

What are the biggest mistakes universities make when it comes to understanding student experience in admissions? 

When it comes to developing online solutions such as admission/application portals, landing pages and such like, universities sometimes tend to focus more on the institutional perspective than on the applicant’s perspective and needs. 

Other misunderstandings may include universities expecting international applicants to possess too much prior knowledge regarding the German higher education system. This may lead to irritation, problems, frustration, and, ultimately, the cancelation of the application process. Besides, online admission/application portals are sometimes not accessible for everyone. 

 

What can universities do to listen to students and engage more authentically? 

  • Structure information on admission in a student‐focused way
  • Cultivate a feedback culture: Universities should take the feedback of applicants as well as students regarding the admission process into account when developing and/or enhancing application/admission portals. 

 

What are some practical steps universities can take to increase student satisfaction around the admissions process? 

The University of Bonn offers a wide range of advising opportunities and services for (prospective) students to use at all stages of university studies. The University’s advising and service network aims to specifically help prospective students with all questions on application and enrollment. These services are supplemented by various student‐run advisory bodies and the services of Studierendenwerk Bonn in the areas of funding, housing, and social affairs. All (international) students may benefit from a variety of advice and support opportunities from the very beginning. 

An increase in availability and flexibility of student services as well as in clear communication with potential (international) students can be achieved through a stronger implementation of personal support – for example through consultation offers or the use of social media (e. g. live online support or a chat function prospective students may use). 

Since winter semester 2020/21 we use an app for our welcome days to support students before and during their first steps at the University of Bonn. 

During the pandemic we have also moved application deadlines and extended admission periods, giving students room to take the necessary time to make their decision during this crisis. This is highly valuable for many applicants dealing with uncertainty during the pandemic. In addition, universities may add corona‐related sections to their websites to make sure central information is quickly passed on to applicants and students. 

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