Applications up, processing time down

Liaison’s UniCAS™ streamlines procedures, allowing staff to do more with less

When Weill Cornell Medicine’s Matt Cipriano partnered with Liaison almost five years ago, he could not have anticipated how—and how quickly—the application process would be transformed at the New York City institution.

It had been maddeningly time-consuming and inefficient, says Cipriano—now the associate director of enrollment and education operations—until the implementation of UniCAS, Liaison’s university-wide admissions management and analytics solution. The program streamlines the application process while identifying enrollment trends and offering a better applicant experience. The results were quick and measurable at Weill Cornell Medicine, which enrolls about 800 students in its doctoral and master’s degree programs.

Less work for staff

“Initially we were only looking for an application,” Cipriano says. “Our previous process took literally weeks, with people working 80 hours a week to prepare applications for review. With UniCAS, we didn’t have to spend that time processing applications or requesting letters of recommendation. They were all handled by the software itself or by Liaison’s services team.”

The new service also freed staff from compiling and distributing applications and collecting feedback from reviewers. “By creating users and user groups, we could parcel out applications within WebAdMIT™, Liaison’s robust admissions management software that serves as the CAS administrative backend, to our reviewers,” Cipriano says. “They could provide their commentary online. We had everything in hand immediately.”

‘Simpler’ and ‘cleaner’

UniCAS works for applicant reviews, interviews and interview evaluations. It decreases the number of duplicate records even while the number of applications increases.

Faculty reviewers have found the new service easy to use, particularly after Cipriano’s team created a one-page PDF on UniCAS.
“We’re hearing how much simpler this makes things and how much cleaner everything is in terms of the process and even the application itself,” Cipriano says.

“We were looking to UniCAS to be a solution for the application, but it ended up being a solution for everything.”

Implementation went so smoothly that the school used UniCAS to process applications for four Health Policy and Research master’s programs as well. It later switched to BioMedCAS™, the CAS for biomedical sciences programs, for its doctoral programs and also expanded its use of UniCAS to encompass seven master’s programs, three summer programs and a certificate program.

Impressive results

Using Liaison’s UniCAS and BioMedCAS, Weill Cornell Medicine has:

  • Seen steady 10% to 12% growth in the number of applications for graduate programs.
  • Increased the number of completed applications, with an incomplete application pool of just 1% for one admissions cycle.
  • Reduced application review time from eight days to one or two days.

“We were looking to UniCAS to be a solution for the application, but it ended up being a solution for everything,” Cipriano says.

Blended systems benefit schools and applicants

Using one application for multiple programs streamlines process for all

Q&A with Judy Chappelear (bottom), Director of Association Partnerships, and Deb Erdner (top), Vice President of Operations, Liaison International

Deb, when you were a director of admissions, what obstacles hindered successful application cycles?

Storage was our biggest issue. We received about 8,000 applications per year, and there were insurmountable bottlenecks around deadlines. We could not track down missing documents such as letters of recommendation. If a file wasn’t complete, the applicant didn’t move on, which was a detriment to many prospective students.

Why have higher ed institutions seen budgets decrease in recent years, and where do you see this trend going?

Judy Chappelear: One reason for decreased or stagnant budgets is a drop in applications, particularly at the graduate level. If a school is used to receiving 8,000 applications per year and budgets for those fees, they’re going to have a smaller budget if fewer people apply.

Deb Erdner: Budgets are also decreasing due to state and federal cuts to education, and that trend shows no signs of stopping.

Judy, how can colleges adapt by doing more with less?

Graduate schools tend to be decentralized, with one person per department responsible for processing that department’s applications. Schools can do more with less by using a centralized system or even a blended model, which allows certain decisions to be made at the department or college level with oversight by a centralized graduate admissions office. This broadens the reach to applicants, who can apply to multiple programs or institutions with a single application. Improvements in technology can help with reading and evaluating applications or scheduling interviews, and automating communications eliminates individual emails or phone calls confirming receipt of an application or requesting letters of recommendation.

“We provide a technical solution that we adapt to the needs and workflow of the college or university.”

How can Liaison help colleges generate more benefits?

Judy Chappelear: Our Centralized Application Services (CASs™) are modular; we provide a technical solution that we adapt to the needs and workflow of the college or university, so they can process applications the way they want. We can handle daily administrative tasks to free institutions’ staff to be more strategic and focus on admissions goals. We help with recruiting and providing back-office support. We collect documents and electronically attach them to applications so the school can then send a complete packet to faculty for review.

Deb Erdner: We simplify the admissions process not only for admissions offices, but for applicants. Prospective students only need to submit a single set of transcripts and references for all applications, saving them time and effort.

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