January 23, 2023 Lauri Stone

Lost in the Admissions Shuffle: Tracking Down Missing Higher Ed Applicants

Sometimes we just can’t finish what we started, and this is especially true for college applicants. But what if admission officers had technology in place to capture and reach out to potential candidates who may have had an interest but did not submit an application? They do. Using tracking software on their school website, or cookies, colleges are collecting more data about prospective students than ever before — part of an effort, administrators say, to make better predictions about which students are the most likely to apply, accept an offer and enroll.

In fact, before many schools even look at an application, they comb through prospective students’ personal data, such as web-browsing habits and financial history. (Washington Post, October 2019.) Case in point: When one student visited the site last year, the software automatically recognized who she was based on a piece of code (cookie) which it had placed on her computer during a prior visit. The software sent an alert to the school’s assistant director of admissions containing the student’s name, contact information and details about her life and activities on the site, according to internal university records reviewed by The Washington Post. The email said she was a graduating high school senior in Little Chute, Wis., of Mexican descent who had applied to UW-Stout.

The admissions officer also received a link to a private profile of the student, listing all 27 pages she had viewed on the school’s website and how long she spent on each one. A map on this page showed her geographical location, and an “affinity index” estimated her level of interest in attending the school. Her score of 91 out of 100 predicted she was highly likely to accept an admission offer from UW-Stout, the records showed.

At the time of the Washington Post article, records showed that at least 44 public and private universities in the United States work with outside consulting companies to collect and analyze data on prospective students, by tracking their web activity or formulating predictive scores to measure each student’s likelihood of enrolling.

“Data Mining” and “Demonstrated Interest”

Data mining and analytics is not a new concept in the college admissions process. Many schools have been using analytics to identify and target prospective students that, on paper, seem to be a good fit for the school. Collecting data on interested students takes the analytics process a step closer to Big Brother territory by capturing data without the student’s knowledge.

The “demonstrated interest” is now calculated by collecting data from electronic interactions between a university and a prospective student. The data that colleges collect from digital interactions includes:

  • How quickly an applicant opens an email communication sent by a school
  • Whether the student clicks any of the embedded links inside the email
  • How much time the student spends on the website
  • Whether a student RSVP’d for an event and didn’t show

It seems strange that a few mouse clicks could potentially determine college acceptance, but if your teen wants to get into a top-ranked school, they need to play along and open those emails and peruse the college websites of interest.

Regardless of the college admissions process becoming more of a digital game, universities across the country haven’t done away with traditional interactions. Covid permitting, face-to-face, in-person contact still reigns supreme, so teens should be attending open houses, campus tours and other live events their prospective college hosts for prospective and incoming students. After those visits, handwritten or emailed thank you notes still make an impact.

Technology exists that captures pre-application data, automates recruiting and admissions, uses demographic filters, and has many other features that admissions offices love.

Software was developed specifically for higher education that streamlines the recruitment and applications processes with automated modules that are designed for each of the user groups, faculty, staff, applicants and reviewers. Through its advanced technology, the platform captures student data before they submit an application. Having all of these features bundled in one place not only saves time and money, but the data is captured at the start and is securely stored.

The Sanmita Admissions has many features such as diversity and inclusion filters, tickler/reminder systems, templates, rating systems, and ways to share information- or not – among other participating admissions staff.

Since its launch, the Sanmita Admissions has been very well received as it continues to add more features. The ease of use, no need for IT, no software to download nor licensing fees or contracts makes this application the only real automated option that exists for admissions teams.

If you manage admissions and would like to find all these features to capture student data and automate applications process, schedule a quick demo and access the calendar here.

Sanmita is an award-winning strategy, design and technology firm with over 15 years’ experience in working with higher education. Check out our projects, great testimonials from major universities, and our exceptional leadership team.

Lauri Stone

Lauri Stone is Director of Client Relations at Sanmita, Inc., a web design and development firm offering strategy, design, and technology services to higher education, government, and nonprofit entities. She comes to Sanmita with over 25 years of experience in media marketing and advertising and is located in Los Angeles, California.