Before we switched exclusively to the SAO, our office was fielding numerous calls from applicants still using our paper application. We were also challenged by the lack of standardization across the applications we received and by the time our staff had to spend manually entering the information from these applications into our database (increasing the possibility for error). The SAO delivered many benefits for our admission team and our families:
- A simplified process with less anxiety for families: Families like that they can go online to their account and immediately see which parts of the application have been submitted and which are outstanding without calling the office. We often hear from families that the SAO is easy to use, the application can't get “lost,” and collecting recommendations is less burdensome.
- An easier, more efficient process: We pride ourselves on running a lean and efficient office that embraces new technologies. The SAO allows us to spend more time evaluating applications without being consumed by the minutiae of the application process. And thanks to the SAO's API, the data integrates seamlessly with our database.
- Reclaiming time: We've gained back significant hours in our weeks. Now, we can go right to our Member Access Portal (MAP) and see exactly what's coming in, what's finished, and what's still outstanding. We can check our numbers and download instantly. We can read applications remotely or at the same time as our colleagues. Most importantly, the SAO has given us more time to spend connecting with students and families.
- Increasing volume: This is our second year using the SAO, our first year using it exclusively, and as of January, we were up 70% in applications. We believe that it should not be easy to get into Salisbury, but it should be easy to apply.
— Peter Gilbert, Director of Admissions & Financial Aid, Salisbury School (CT)
Thanks to partnerships with Peter Frew, Director of Admissions at Taft School (CT), and Tom Sheppard, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at The Lawrenceville School (NJ), SSATB's SAO team completed work on a web API (Application Programming Interface) designed to support the seamless integration of student inquiry, score, and application data into member databases.
For years I have dreamt of a paperless workflow, in which SSAT scores and writing samples, and all pieces of the application, including recommendations, land in our database automatically. Sunaina and the programmers at The Enrollment Management Association enabled Taft to achieve this dream. I can't say enough about the dedication of their team to make the API integrate seamlessly with our database, which has revolutionized our reading process.
— Peter A. Frew, Director of Admissions, The Taft School (CT)
The successful implementation of an API will significantly reduce staff hours spent processing applications. With abundant data about individual applicants at our disposal, it is critical that our marketing and recruitment processes focus on the use of this data instead of mundane data processing tasks that should be automated by databases.
— Tom Sheppard, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, The Lawrenceville School (Nj)
A 25% Increase in Applications the First Year… Plus an Efficient Admission Office and Happier Families
Prior to the 2008-2009 academic year, families downloaded and printed our application from our website. Once the paper applications were complete, families would mail them to us, which sometimes led to delivery delays. Our office would spend days opening mail and filing it. We answered many calls from families about the receipt and status of their application materials. We needed a solution, and implementing the SAO was the right one for us. Today, and with all the enhancements that have been made, it offers us a flexible and free solution that serves all of our grade levels. The benefits include:
Real Time Delivery: As soon as a family submits an application or a recommender submits an online recommendation form, we immediately have access to the information. Families can log in and see exactly where things stand with their application materials, and this has cut down significantly on the number of calls to our office.
Office Efficiency: The SAO has streamlined the process for the office in many ways. We can access all of the information that we need for our entire applicant pool on the Member Access Portal. We can easily see when an application is complete, and also when required items are missing. Having everything in one place has saved us time, and utilizing this free member service has saved us money.
Database Integration: We no longer need to print or scan documents—we pull the data we need into Excel, and then import it into our database. We are hopeful to one day take advantage of the SAO API vis-à-vis our database vendor.
Customization: Because the SAO allows for schools to add a supplemental form, we are still able to ask specific questions that are pertinent to Princeton Day School. In this regard, we have gained everything and lost nothing.
Service: Our families tell us that they love the SAO because it is easy to use, and the call and email response from The Enrollment Management Association's customer support center is fast and friendly. Whenever I hear a legitimate concern from a family, I share it with them. They've always been extremely responsive in terms of addressing the concerns to make sure our families are happy!
Besides the benefits of real time data, office efficiency, and database integration, we saw an increase of 25% in our applications in our first year using the SAO. We have happy families who are now asking us more questions about the school and less about the application. The SAO is the only application we accept, and 100% of our applicants use it (with the exception of New Jersey SEEDS Scholars and ABC candidates).
Using the SAO simplifies the application process in meaningful ways for the students and families we serve. It has definitely resulted in PDS being able to admit and enroll qualified students who may not otherwise have applied to our school. We had a 25% increase in applications our first year! Using the SAO has saved us time and resources. We now spend more time with our prospective families and less with our filing cabinets. Plus, the fact that it is a free service to members is a definite benefit.
— Julie Cucchi, Director of Admission and Financial Aid, Princeton Day School (NJ)
Using the SAO has been extremely helpful for both the applicants and for us at Blair. This application allows applicants (and recommenders) to select a variety of schools to which they can send their data without having to recreate it. It also allows us a simple and easy way to upload applications and supporting documents. Furthermore, the technical support for both applicants and schools is superb. I am very impressed by the SAO and all of its capabilities.
— Peter G. Curran, Assistant Head of School for Enrollment and Communications, Blair Academy (NJ)
We strongly recommend the use of the SAO whenever possible to our 80 or so applicants to secondary school each year. It is the most widely accepted and easily accessible of all common systems available to our students and their families.
The students appreciate schools' ability to customize the application through the supplement and very much appreciate and utilize the online dashboard to track their application materials, teacher recommendations, and school documents. The SAO portal is the easiest portal to manage and doesn't require that families set up additional accounts to manage testing and applications. Simply, it is the best solution available to students and families accessing our independent schools.
— Francis M. Ryan, Assistant Headmaster, Rumsey Hall School (CT)
Our transition to the SAO this year was seamless. Having used our own online application for the past several years, we were concerned about work flow, content collection, and how file review would work.
At the end of the day, we could not have been happier with the SAO. We were thrilled by the ease of integration into our system once the API was built, and many of our families, junior school, and educational consultant colleagues commented on how much they appreciated our implementation of the SAO. Given the success we found this year, we plan to use the SAO exclusively going forward.
— Brendon Welker, Dean for Enrollment and Institutional Advancement, Avon Old Farms School (CT)
Solebury School has always accepted the SAO, so the change for us was really to use it exclusively and abandon our own application. The main reason was for efficiency and a goal of being a paperless office—I was sick of being inundated with paper. Even though the applications and recs came through our system, some people still printed them out and gave them to teachers (or teachers printed them out) so a lot of things still came to us via mail, or fax, or email. I became convinced that the value of the school-specific questions on our application and recommendations was minimal at best, and possibly nonexistent. Once this was clear to me, there was no question about going exclusively to the SAO. I wanted it to streamline our process, to make my office run smoother, and provide better service to families.
The SAO has allowed us to become a paperless office. I love being able to just download one PDF and have it be the entire file that I then share with the committee—it’s easy for us in terms of file management and is easier for them to read. Additionally, rather than trying to make sure we have everything, scanning in parts of a file that came in via the mail, etc., we can focus our energies on following up with families and building our relationship with them. The SAO has eliminated duplication of materials in a file, and the occasional mishap that used to occur when a recommendation or a report card went missing, etc.
The feedback from families has been consistently positive. To be able to say to them, 'I value your time and your teachers’ time, and so we use this common application so that you can focus on continuing to do well in school and not filling out different applications' feels really good to me. The SAO family interface is intuitive and easy to use.
The biggest SAO savings for me are somewhat incalculable, but I know they are significant. We’ve saved reams of paper—I honestly don’t even know how much, but it’s a big number! And we’ve saved tons of time—probably 5-10 hours a week at our busiest points.
— Scott Eckstein, Director of Admission, Solebury School (PA)
Tabor still utilizes a paper-based reading system, though we accept the SAO exclusively. Although we have to print the applications, the SAO has made the collection process much easier. The Enrollment Management Association has done a tremendous job in making the process smoother each year. It was always very good; now it is excellent! The process is very user-friendly and intuitive. I know that The Enrollment Management Association has worked hard on that, and it is much appreciated.
— Nita Howland, Administrative Assistant, Admissions, Tabor Academy (MA)
Mercersburg has accepted the SAO application for over 10 years as an option for students applying to multiple schools, but we chose to use the SAO exclusively for 2015-16. Our primary reason for this was that we wanted the process to be more streamlined for families who were already completing the SAO for other schools. We didn’t want families to feel they needed to submit our Mercersburg online application in order to appear as a “better” candidate to our school. We also hoped the online application status and application support through The Enrollment Management Association would alleviate some of the demand on human resources internally.
Once we adopted the SAO exclusively, the admission staff noticed a significant decrease in calls from families with questions and issues. My favorite feature about the SAO is the real-time updates and online application status designations for families. The application process seemed more streamlined, and we think families benefited by having just one place and one login for accessing and submitting all of their information (i.e. testing, recs, and application materials).
100% of our applicants used the SAO, and we definitely saw a slight increase in our overall application numbers. Although we moved to a fully digitized approach three years ago, using the SAO certainly further reduced our need to print as much and lessened the amount of paper documents families submitted directly to us. We manage our applications though the API automated process. This has worked very well for our office this year.
We are strong supporters for the use of a common application such as the SAO. We chose to use it exclusively not because we hoped to see a drastic increase in our applicant pool, but instead because we believe it is important to make the process of applying to all of our schools less daunting and laborious for prospective families, particularly with the knowledge that students are now applying to more schools than ever. Our use of a short supplement still allows us to remain distinct, as well as to collect Mercersburg-specific information from our applicants.
— Quentin McDowell, Assistant Head of School for Enrollment, Mercersburg Academy (PA)
It is a priority for all schools to make the application process easier for families. Allowing families to register for the SSAT and complete an online application, all under one umbrella, one username, is only common sense. This is now the expectation of families applying to our schools.
The SAO supports our school’s goals in online application processing, and we appreciate the support The Enrollment Management Association provides; the support staff is very responsive when we or a family have questions. Additionally, the SAO makes tracking the application pieces quick and easy. Applicants are able to easily send us application materials, and we instantly see what they’ve submitted. Our favorite feature is the activity chart.
— Caroline LaVigne, Director of Admissions and Tuition Aid, John Burroughs School (MO)
While we have used the SAO for several years, the new API integration with Senior Systems is a game changer. The data and files now transfer into our database automatically, saving us a tremendous amount of time, giving us more information than we could enter manually, and making paper files obsolete (finally). The entire application, with recommendations and score reports, is there with all of our existing data and is accessible from anywhere for file reading, notes, and follow-up. The SAO was already preferred by many of our applicants, and with the integration, it instantly became our preferred application! This is an example of technology working as it should: saving time and effort for everyone involved.
— Bethanne Stish, Admission Systems Manager, Madeira School (VA)
Although we continue to use our paper and proprietary online applications, we accept the SAO as well, to make it more convenient for candidates to apply to our school, and apply concurrently to multiple schools. We found that the SAO has increased our volume of applications. Using the SAO has helped us manage a significant increase in the number of common applications we receive. It is a very helpful tool for storing, downloading, and referring to these applications during the peak of admission season.
Additionally, the new SAO interface through the inRESONANCE PWS system allows us to easily and cleanly input SAO data into our Filemaker database with minimal time-intensive manual data entry, thus reducing potential for input errors. It’s a simple process - we refer to our member access portal as a data storage resource, and we print the applications from the website. Then we use the inRESONANCE PWS function to input SAO data directly into our Filemaker database.
Our families really appreciate the convenience of using the SAO to streamline the method and timing for schools to receive their applications, and to be able to check on the release and processing time of their application materials.
— Melissa Schuette, Associate Director of Admission, Stevenson School (CA)