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Application processing pilot project: A US first

UQ Case Study - St Martin's

We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved with Saint Martin’s University, Washington, in less than one year of working together. Not only does it showcase how quickly the benefits of partnering with UniQuest are realised, it also saw us pilot a new service in the US that has proven to have a big impact in a short timeframe.

‘We always put students at the heart of everything we do and are committed to providing the best student experiences possible, but the pandemic made it harder to live up to this mission with new challenges placed on university teams.’

Dr. Roger Douglas, Dean of International Programs and Development, Saint Martin’s University

A private Catholic Benedictine university in the Pacific North West, Saint Martin’s international student population is diverse, with the majority of students coming from countries in Europe, South America and the Middle East. The university shared many challenges familiar to other institutions up and down the States, namely a resource-stretched admissions department struggling to juggle the many demands on its time.

We began working with Saint Martin’s in September 2022 to provide support for international undergraduate and graduate students from the first point of enquiry through to their enrolment on campus. Just six months later, we extended this to provide application processing support – making Saint Martin’s the first US institution to follow in the footsteps of many of our UK partners.

And they’re quickly reaping the benefits. In the first week of being live, we processed more applications than our initial monthly target, and in just a two-week period, we saw a 48% increase in total admissions for Fall 2023!

Why UniQuest?

Saint Martin’s international team had been scaled back in recent years to become a one-man department. The university had an existing fruitful partnership with our parent company Keystone Education Group to generate leads, but was struggling to keep up with the pace and nurture the larger volume of applicants.

The pandemic also acted as an impetus, with a need to convert international students at higher rates to return to, and grow, previous levels.

After speaking to some of our existing partners, Saint Martin’s began working with us to maximise that investment, ensuring students received effective communications from the moment they came into the funnel up to enrolment. As Dr. Roger Douglas, who heads up the international team at Saint Martin’s, puts it:

‘The amount of time UniQuest devotes to students wherever they are in the funnel is far greater than a staff member could contribute in-house. Quite simply, I could never match it.

And when it comes to the alleged ‘fear of outsourcing’, my experience with UniQuest shows this really is a myth. I’m in such constant communication with the team that I never lose sight of what’s going on.'

The initial focus: conversion support

For the short time we’ve been working together, the scale of our reach is significant. In an eight-month period, we’ve conducted over 2,300 phone calls, sent over 5,000 individual emails, had hundreds of WhatsApp and live chat conversations, and delivered 37,000 one-to-many email marketing messages.

We’re not just reducing the demands on the internal team by responding to inbound enquiries – with all phone calls and emails to the international admissions department now being handled by us – but we’re proactively introducing new initiatives to help give the best possible experience to those applying.

For example, we developed an airport pick-up request form where admitted students can submit flight information and arrange to have Saint Martin’s pick them up from the airport, providing wraparound support before they’ve even set foot on the plane. Feedback from students demonstrates the impact this has, with most astonished a university would go to such lengths to welcome them in this way.

We’ve also introduced webinars – something Saint Martin’s had previously trialled with a limited pool of applicants. We’ve delivered five webinars to date for students at various stages of the funnel, providing them with timely information and in turn helping to reduce the volume of inbound inquiries. We’ve also helped Saint Martin’s staff four chat-based virtual fairs that occurred outside their standard working hours.

A new problem: application processing

Six months into our partnership and Saint Martin’s approached us with a new challenge: could we support with processing applicants?

The problem was two-fold: 1) the volume of applications coming in was too much for one person to deal with on top of other demands, and 2) there was a lack of visibility into the status of applications, leading to inefficiencies and time spent chasing.

Time constraints meant it was difficult to run daily queries within the application platform to identify which applications were complete, or where applicants needed assistance to submit all the necessary information. Saint Martin’s had also previously used external international credential evaluators for their applicants, but they were quite expensive and there was still a bottleneck in the system.

Our solution: scrubbing, prepping and evaluating

Having already worked with several UK partners on admissions challenges, we were well placed to extend our support here too. This includes the day-to-day work of managing the status of applications, establishing whether outstanding information is required, and directly contacting applicants where necessary to speed up the process.

It extends to verifying test scores, assessing document validity, and supporting with decision-making. In the same way an in-house team would, we use NACES certified tools to evaluate the credentials of international applicants, and make recommendations on eligibility for admittance based on Saint Martin’s admission requirements. This service is entirely scalable too, so can be ramped up or down according to the peaks and troughs of the application cycle.

The ultimate power to admit or deny applicants still resides with Saint Martin’s. We simply do the leg-work and make suggestions, making the best use of the core decision-maker’s time.

'Within a week and a half of launching the applicant support service, UniQuest had pushed through way more admitted students, from the start of transcript evaluation through to admission, than we’d have been able to do with the old process.

I find the prepping of the applications incredibly valuable. UniQuest is able to identify people who may have failed to submit a document and chase that up. Before, I was just stumbling across these. I was wondering what was taking so long, and the applicants were probably thinking that too!'

Dr. Roger Douglas, Dean of International Programs and Development, Saint Martin’s University

In the first month of supporting Saint Martin’s with application processing, we’ve reviewed almost 250 applications, with 165 admitted students for Fall 2023 so far. This means 2023 has brought the largest volume of international students in the funnel in Saint Martin’s recent history. Not bad for a pilot project!

Contact us to find out how UniQuest can help your university to improve student engagement, conversion, and application processing.