Online enrollment has always offered convenience and efficiency, and today’s parents are busier than ever. They expect the convenience and ease of submitting their paperwork online, but the benefits of online enrollment systems are not limited to just parents. Administrators and students also benefit from these systems.
As we continue to navigate the pandemic in 2020, online enrollment also provides a way to minimize unnecessary contact and exposure to coronavirus. Though the pandemic has highlighted the benefits of such systems, online enrollment systems have numerous benefits that will last long after the pandemic has ended.
From the ease of marketing and monitoring to increased parent and student satisfaction, online enrollment systems reduce stress and frustration involved with enrolling students in a new school or facility.
Online Enrollment Definition
What is an online enrollment system? Online enrollment includes any system designed to collect information on students before they have enrolled in a facility or school.
These systems work by allowing administrators to send out forms to parents via email or a website portal instead of having to rely on mailing forms or having families stop by to pick them up.
Website portals or online enrollment management systems give parents and students access to a website where they fill out their personal information and submit the data directly to the school. Each parent can have a custom login, and many systems allow older students to have access to the system as well to monitor their enrollment status.
The information required for each person is predetermined by the school and a logical process for enrollment is defined by the administrator.
Depending on the particular needs of a facility, the process for collecting information can be in a predefined order or parents can be allowed to provide each piece of information in the order that is most convenient for them.
Online enrollment platforms feed information directly into the school’s management system, and enrollment decisions can be made through the system. Information from the enrollment system can be transferred directly into the student’s profile without the need for manual reentry.
During peak enrollment times, this ensures that all information is entered into the students’ profiles promptly before the start of the new school year.
Benefits of Online Enrollment
There are many benefits to online enrollment for administrators, parents, and students.
Benefits of Online Enrollment Systems for Administrators
Online enrollment systems offer many benefits for administrators from avoiding lost paperwork to preserving relationships with parents.
Avoiding lost paperwork: Online enrollment systems can prevent lost or misplaced paperwork. Each school is required to collect numerous forms from parents and despite the administration’s best efforts, paperwork can often be misfiled. Because online systems avoid the need for paperwork entirely, this issue is avoided.
Sharing the responsibility of scanning: For forms that need to be scanned, parents can scan paperwork and upload the necessary documents directly through web portals. This avoids potential liability for the school losing or misplacing vital documents such as birth certificates or immunization records.
Automating reminders: Online enrollment systems can send automated reminder emails to parents for any missing paperwork or forms required to complete the enrollment process. This saves the administration time and the hassle of nagging parents individually. As an added benefit, when the system is responsible for the emails, it preserves the relationship with the family.
Monitoring by staff: Multiple staff can log in to the system and check the status of applications and reach out to parents when necessary. This prevents a single person from being responsible for manually checking paper files.
Reducing redundant work: Information from online enrollment systems can be fed directly into student management systems avoiding the need to reenter the information. This ensures that parent and student information is entered correctly. This ensures that parents will receive all necessary future communication since they entered their contact information themselves.
Tracking deadlines: Many systems include the ability to set deadlines for enrollment paperwork submission and allow administrators to monitor the status of individual application completion. This reduces the time spent flipping through individual files to check for missing information as deadlines approach.
Making annual updates: Many schools require new paperwork to be completed annually before the start of the new school year. With the proper online enrollment system in place, parents can review the information they have already provided and then make any updates as necessary.
Benefits of Online Enrollment Systems for Parents
While a student enrollment system provides the most benefit to administrators, parents also receive many benefits from these systems.
Reducing time limitations: Online enrollment systems can be accessed on the parent’s schedule. While paper systems require parents to stop by during school hours to pick up paperwork, online systems avoid this hassle.
After filling out the forms, parents either had to make another stop by the school or mail the forms in time to meet enrollment deadlines. With the online system, the information is submitted to the school immediately and the timing is not limited to business hours.
Reducing duplicative information: Many of the forms required by schools include the same information on multiple forms. By having an online system, the parents can enter information once and the system can use the information to populate multiple forms removing the need for repetitive tasks.
Reducing missing forms: Paper systems require parents to keep track of multiple forms and, despite their best intentions, applications are often incomplete.
By having an online system that tracks the completeness of applications, parents can ensure that they have filled out all the necessary information and a missing form will not ruin their child’s chances for enrollment at their school of choice.
Completing information for multiple children: For parents with multiple children, enrollment usually means filling out multiple sets of forms with the same information. By filing using an online enrollment system, the parents can fill out their information a single time.
This means that for each additional child there is only minimal information specific to that child that needs to be entered into the system.
Giving multiple parents access to the enrollment system: Gone are the days when a single parent is always responsible for filling out all of the paperwork required for school applications. With an online enrollment system, multiple parents can have access to a child’s enrollment and add information and forms to the system.
Receiving a copy of forms: Parents can retain access to the forms they have submitted if they need to reference them later or review the information that they submitted. Unlike paper copies that exist only in the school’s files, electronic copies of documents can exist in multiple places.
Benefits of Online Enrollment Systems for Students
You may be asking how does online registration help students? Not every student will take advantage of the benefits of online systems, but for those that do, it can help minimize anxiety throughout the enrollment process.
Submitting information by students: While the majority of paperwork needs to be filled out by parents, students in later grades may need to submit information as well. This additional information can include academic records, extracurricular interests, and essays.
Managing information from multiple parents: Additionally, many students have to gather information from multiple parents which can be coordinated through an online enrollment system.
Monitoring their enrollment status: Students can monitor the status of their enrollment, determine what paperwork and information are still required, and follow up with their parents if necessary.
Automation in the Enrollment Process
Online enrollment systems automate several enrollment processes. This saves time and reduces errors throughout the enrollment cycle as you use your enrollment management software. After the implementation of an automated enrollment system school administration will have more time available for work that directly benefits the students.
Automating the transfer of information: Information logged into the enrollment system can be automatically transferred to a student’s file once they have enrolled in your program. This can happen either automatically once the documents are complete or once the administrator has marked the student’s enrollment as active depending on the system.
Dates can be added to track future enrollments or withdrawals from the program to help maintain accurate active student lists.
Sending automatic reminder emails for missing information: For information that requires periodic updates such as immunization records or physical forms, systems can send out automatic reminders to parents well in advance for the due date.
Reaching out to potential new students: Most schools collect some basic contact information from parents before providing a tour. This information can be entered into an online enrollment system that can send marketing emails reminding potential students about upcoming deadlines and additional information about the school.
Enrollment Management Systems Overview
The following are features generally found in various online enrollment systems.
Website portals: These portals are websites that give users custom logins and parents to access your site. They can be fully functioning web applications or hybrid systems that allow users to use either a website application or a phone-based application.
Phone-based applications: Smartphone applications usually are used in conjunction with web applications. Phone-based applications generally only provide a portion of the functionalities found in the web-application. They allow users to access the system from anywhere they have mobile data capabilities.
System-provided templates: Though some systems allow the administration to create custom forms and fields, all systems include standard templates to get you started with student enrollment forms. These standard templates will include inputs for student information and parent information.
Reporting: Enrollment management systems can include various levels of reporting that allows the administration to track figures such as enrollment, waitlists, and various student information. The level of detail provided varies significantly based on the program you are using.
Various levels of access: Most online enrollment systems allow the administrator to set up various levels of access to the modules contained within the system. This can restrict parents to only having information about their own child(ren) while the staff can access information on any of the children enrolled. This protected the family’s private information while allowing the staff to effectively and efficiently do their work.
Building an Online Application Form
There are several things you need to consider when designing your online enrollment form.
State requirements: The first item you must consider is state requirements. Various states have specific form requirements including proof of vaccinations, medical clearances, and family information.
Program requirements: Is there information specific to your program that you need to know upon enrollment? For example, do you need to know what courses a high schooler has already completed prior to enrolling the student? If so, you can add these fields to your enrollment forms so that you have all the necessary information at hand when completing the enrollment.
Data Storage: You should take into consideration how the data is going to be used by your program and ensure that you are asking for the information in the right format. For example, you should consider asking for a birthdate instead of an age if you are planning on the child being enrolled in your program for multiple years.
Do-it-yourself or out of the box system: You should consider what level of sophistication you need in your online enrollment system and whether you would be better of designing your own system or choosing an out of the box solution.
While you might be tempted to set up your own system that exactly meets all of your requirements, you should consider the time and effort involved in creating such a system.
Most out of the box solutions allow for custom fields to track items that may not be standard to all schools. Many enrollment management systems exist to assist schools with their online enrollment of students.
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Online enrollment has numerous benefits for administrators, parents, and students. If you have an enrollment process based on paper forms, you should consider switching to an online enrollment system. By switching to an online system, you will save time, avoid missing paperwork, and have greater access to the enrollment data.
It makes your life, and your applicants’ lives, simpler.