The way we make significant decisions has been transformed in many aspects of our lives thanks to advancements in technology and innovation. For instance, I can secure pre-approval for a mortgage within days, book a trip halfway around the world on my lunch break and effortlessly buy a car entirely online.
However, when it comes to applying to and enrolling in college, one of the biggest decisions someone can make, the process has remained more or less the same. Even with the best of intentions, today’s college admissions experience creates so much friction and anxiety for students, when the truth is, it doesn’t have to.
Students are savvier and more capable than ever, so naturally they’ve recognized this dynamic. Their expectations about the admissions process have evolved in favor of one that builds trust, not erodes it. When students encounter barriers in higher education, they don’t move forward – they give up. And with college closures and financial struggles making headlines daily, it begs the question: does higher education have an enrollment problem or an enrollment experience problem?
Fortunately, our industry possesses the tools required to change and it’s encouraging to see forward-thinking institutions across the country doing just that by embracing direct admission programs. But what does direct admissions really mean? How do these programs enhance the enrollment experience and create winning scenarios? And, what does the future hold?
An enrollment process that works for today’s challenges and opportunities
When we talk to students, there are three primary barriers holding them back from applying to (or even considering) college: cost, effort and fear of the unknown, including whether they’d get in anywhere or not. In fact, of the thousands of current high school seniors that we surveyed, a whopping 96% reported facing barriers in the application process.
What does that tell us? We need to remove friction, not add to it or ignore it. When we make the process easier, more affordable, transparent and efficient, students can engage in the admissions process with confidence, opening up a world of possibilities for them.
Over 60% of colleges have an 80%+ acceptance rate. Those admissions teams already know they’ll welcome students with certain qualifications. Why not remove the steps that add time, costs and frustrations through direct admissions?
Not a concept — a reality
Direct admissions programs, whether offered by a state, colleges themselves or platforms like Niche, are growing fast and having a significant impact. Students are discovering that direct admissions will simplify their admissions journey and provide a clearer picture of affordability. Colleges are making the shift as a cost-effective way to connect with qualified students outside of their typical reach and further diversify their campuses.
Last year, colleges who partnered with us before January averaged 37 incremental enrollments, which, for some institutions, represented as high as 9% of their freshman class. As of today, Niche Direct Admissions has partnered with 73 colleges, leading to over 500,000 students receiving offers, and we expect to have 100 colleges nationwide participating by the start of the new year.
Future of direct admissions
The admissions landscape is evolving for the better. We’re going to see greater personalization and “matchmaking” capabilities. Direct admissions will also play a larger role in affordability with transparent scholarship and financial aid information, as well as providing families with a better understanding of the “true cost” earlier in the process.
It’s extremely exciting to think about what can be accomplished in the next few years with the majority of colleges offering some form of direct admissions, as we believe will be the case. Students and families embarking on the college admissions process are trusting all of us to help them make the right choices. I’m encouraged by the positive changes we’re seeing within our industry, and if we continue on this path, I know we’ll create a modernized admissions process that works for everyone.