One way to make application and enrollment season easier for yourself and your team is by streamlining your checklists and forms for your school’s online application.
Spending some time planning and organizing your application and enrollment process at the beginning of the school year will pay off when you are in the thick of the admission season.
Make Processes Easier With Online Checklists
One thing I love about electronic forms and online checklists is the way they set expectations for parents.
With an online checklist, parents know exactly what is required at each stage of application and enrollment. And when parents log in to their parent portal account, they can see exactly what they need to complete when.
If parents understand what they need to do, they become more self-sufficient; reducing the number of phone calls and emails to the school.
Schools can also take advantage of parent portal customization to show school pride. This is a great place to tell parents how excited you are to welcome their child to your school.
Additionally, by adding custom welcome messages, videos, and images you can show parents they are special and valued. A little enthusiasm from your school will lead to more parent and student engagement.
Checklist Expectations and Guidelines
There is an expectation from parents that their checklists are accurate. If an item is marked as required – parents believe it is required. If an item is marked as optional, they may or may not complete it.
Administrators must ensure that the checklists are 100% accurate before publishing them. This includes reviewing all dynamic fields that may show or hide checklist items based on a response from the application.
For instance, if the application shows that a student is international, the application checklist should display all required items for international students. In contrast, a domestic student should not see any “international only” checklist items.
Schools have an opportunity to build trust with parents through the application and enrollment process. If the information the school is requesting seems reasonable, the parent views the school as competent (eg. emergency contact information, school history, relevant medical information…).
In contrast, if a domestic student has international requirements on their checklist, parents might question the validity of the school. This might plant a seed of doubt.
Is This Everything?
Parents take for granted that everything the school needs from them is on the checklist and available via online forms. They view their student’s checklist as the one-and-only place to complete forms. It is unexpected for schools to send an email outside of the checklist requesting an additional form. And, parents especially do not expect to complete a paper form when they return to your school.
This is where school planning and inter-department communication is necessary to enhance the parent experience.
The finance team needs to make sure their forms are included on the checklist – in addition to the medical forms for the nurse. There are many instances where different departments may be requesting duplicate information on different forms. For instance, does the field trip permission slip ask about food allergies? Is this information already provided by the parents on the medical history form? Perhaps you could combine forms to make the application or enrollment process more efficient for parents.
It does take time for schools to be proactive in organizing information across departments. But, one thing parents hate is getting paper forms at back-to-school events and then filling out a paper form with duplicate information (which the parent has already provided on a separate online form).
You want every step of the application and enrollment process to leave families feeling confident that the school leadership is organized and competent.
Best Practices For Online Checklists and Forms
Follow these best practices to keep your school organized and your parents happy.
- Ensure only relevant checklist items appear for each student
- Use welcoming language in the parent portal to develop community
- Check spelling and grammar
- Include all required forms and documents the parents need to provide
- Auto-populate as much information on electronic forms as possible
- Use positive phrasing for your call to action (Ex: Complete your applications by March 1st!)
- Have one generic checklist for all students
- Use vague or unenthusiastic language in the parent portal
- Misspell words or include confusing information
- Request some documents and forms via the parent portal and later require them to complete a paper-packet
- Request parents manually provide the same information repeatedly
- Use negative phrasing (Ex: Your application will be late if you submit it after March 1st!)
By following the do’s above and avoiding the don’ts, you can meet parent expectations, improve your school’s efficiency, and you’ll be more likely to convert applicants to enrolled students. Schools can capitalize on opportunities to build trust and community through every step of the application and enrollment process, and become more efficient while they do it.
Parents are smart. They’ve seen electronic forms and checklists before, and they know that schools need information for every child.
It can be frustrating to be given a paper-packet to complete. Nobody wants to write their child’s name, grade, date of birth, and gender on the top of 15 pages. In fact, there are families who might decline to apply or enroll at your school if you’re using paper forms in the 21st century.
The last thing you want is for parents to doubt your credentials based on a paper-based and repetitive application and enrollment process.
Help Me Help You
While some schools are very comfortable switching to online records and data collection, others may struggle to make the change.
Maybe your school is ready to abandon a very manual, repetitive process to dive into technology. Whether you are a technical pro or a novice, efficient checklists and online forms help both parents and schools.
Parents value the common sense and ease of online forms, and schools benefit from having all records in one (online) location that is easily viewable for school staff. With online forms and checklists, you can meet parent needs for clear expectations, build community, and keep your school organized.
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