Mobile Apps Revamp the College Admissions Process

Prospective college students are using their smartphones for more than just checking their Facebook news feeds and playing Candy Crush Saga. Colleges have created mobile apps that give students access to a wide range of campus services, such as class schedules, bookstore purchases, campus tours and shuttle route times (why wait in the rain if you don't have to?). And some schools are taking it a step further by creating apps that let students begin the admissions process from their handheld devices.


Trends in mobile admissions

More than two-thirds of prospective college students have used mobile devices to check out college websites, according to a recent study by higher education consultancy firm Noel-Levitz. The firm's 2013 E-Expectations study [PDF] queried 2,000 students about how they use their mobile devices. Among the key findings:

  • Nearly half say they had submitted requests for more information from colleges through their smartphones.
  • Half say they would fill out and submit college applications from mobile devices.

Noel-Levitz recommends that colleges develop standard and mobile versions of their websites with clear, concise and well-organized content to use as a key tool for e-recruitment, as well as develop mobile apps that allow students access to the enrollment process as part of the institution's best-practices strategies.

Forward-thinking colleges and educational technology companies are moving quickly to adopt these strategies, particularly for mobile admissions.

Colleges and edu-tech firms develop mobile admissions apps

John Marshall Law School in Atlanta was among the first colleges to offer access to its admissions department via a mobile app. Created in 2011, the school's iApply mobile app form takes about five minutes to complete. Students still must follow traditional college application procedures, such as sending in hard copies of transcripts, letters of recommendation and other crucial documentation. In its first semester, more than 100 students used iApply to begin the application process at John Marshall.

Messiah College, a small Christian college in Mechanicsburg, Penn., introduced its iMessiah app that allows students to tour the college, schedule visits and contact the admissions department. Students can speak with someone from the department or fill out an online application form all on their smartphone or tablet.

Harvard University has a suite of university-wide mobile apps designed for the iOS and Android devices. The university's admissions app allows students to access a mobile version of the admissions and financial aid website, where they can learn more about student life, schedule a tour and gather crucial admissions information.

In March, educational software development firm Hobsons launched Naviance Student, a mobile application for iPhone and iPod touch that helps incoming college freshmen navigate the admissions process. Through use of the app, students can research colleges, get in touch with counselors and plan visits, though students still have to complete the admissions process through traditional methods.

What's next for mobile admissions?

Mobile apps that allow students to complete the college admissions process may be the future, but they haven't quite reached their full potential yet. Many of today's apps only allow limited access to a university's admissions department and are for informational purposes only -- students still have to follow traditional paths to complete the applications process. As use of handheld devices for communications continue to rise, colleges can capitalize on this trend by developing more integrated apps that allow students to complete the time-consuming admissions and financial aid process exclusively from their smartphones or other handheld devices. This would not only save students time but also potentially reduce college expenditures in these departments and expedite enrollment.

"New College Research Tool Helps Students Organize Admissions Planning," The Journal, Sharleen Nelson, March 6, 2013
"Report Students Turn to Mobile for College Research," Campus Technology, July 7, 2013