2 Simple Ways To Re-Engage Alumni

Alumni engagement is a task all colleges struggle with, and you’ve likely felt the strain yourself. You have a network of adults all connected through a single institution, but it’s difficult to get them involved.

Struggle no longer – here are two simple ways to re-engage your alumni:

1. Invest in their success

To most alumni, every message from their alma mater feels like a request for something – a donation supporting a fundraiser, an appeal to mentor a current student or a request to use their likeness. Your former students may respond once in a while, but too many of these requests become tedious.

Other typical alumni re-engagement efforts simply tell your former students what’s new with the school. They come in the form of magazines and newsletters published by the institution. Unfortunately, your alumni’s interest in these types of details starts waning the minute they step off campus. Once they’ve secured a good job, they think about their school less and less (assuming they don’t care for college sports or happened to dot the i in marching band)

Essentially, your school doesn’t appear as relevant to your alumni as it was when they were students. Whether or not this feeling is true is beside the point. Your alumni think they don’t need you, so they start to ignore you.

It’s up to you to show alumni that you’re still important. Do this by reminding alumni why they chose your school in the first place: for the credentials. By giving them digital access to their transcripts, diplomas, and other such documents, you remind alumni that your institution is heavily invested in their success.

Ordinarily, alumni would have to contact the school’s registrar office to get copies of their diplomas, transcripts, licenses or other documents necessary for education verification. Without these papers, they have a hard time proving their background to employers. Help them out by making it easy for them to request this information and send it in the blink of an eye.

2. Meet them on relevant channels

When was the last time you checked your mailbox when you weren’t expecting a package from Amazon? If you’re the type who checks every day, chances are you’re often disappointed by the letters you find. Your alumni feel the same way, even when that letter is from their alma mater. Usually, missives from your school go right in the garbage.

Avoid the trap of the trash can by interacting with alumni on the channels they use in the here and now, not a decade (or even a year) ago. In 2018, that means extending your engagement efforts to social media. No doubt your school has general Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages already. It’s beneficial to incorporate alumni engagement posts onto these platforms or to create separate profiles specifically for interacting with former students.

In fact, your digital credential tool can help you in this area, assuming you choose the right one. With Parchment, alumni (and current students!) can share their credentials on their social media platforms. What better way to show school pride than posting a verified version of a diploma on Facebook?

To further engage former students, why not include some user-generated content or hold a social media contest? Have alumni share screenshots of their digital credentials and randomly select a winner for a prize. For a simpler approach, use Facebook, Twitter or Instagram Stories to conduct an informal poll. The more you can get alumni involved via the platforms they use the most, the greater chance you have of re-engaging them.

How To Turn A Field Trip With Ms. Frizzle Into A Credential

How amazing would it be to have had a teacher like Valerie Felicity Frizzle – aka Ms. Frizzle, aka The Frizz, from “The Magic School Bus?” The eccentric, intelligent educator is infamous for her wacky outfits and even wackier field trips, taking her students through space, circulatory systems, animal habitats and more.

No doubt Ms. Frizzle’s students got an unparalleled educational experience, learning facts and concepts they would never have understood otherwise. But when it comes time to apply for college, how will Frizzle’s students prove what they know? How will Janet, who collected proof of the class’s trip to the solar system, verify that the rocks she grabbed are indeed from each of the planets? How will Arnold prove his community service as part of the “Leave-The-Log-As-It-Is” club?

This metaphor applies to your own students who participate in nontraditional education experiences, such as internships, field trips, study abroad and community service. These experiences are great for enhancing a student’s college applications. Not only are the details sometimes hard to remember, but students need to be able to verify that they actually participated in these events. 

‘The Magic School Bus Gets Credit’

We all know this, but it bears repeating: Colleges want more from prospective students than good grades. Records that show a well-rounded academic and personal life are better for helping students get accepted – even if they have a few low grades affecting their GPAs. That’s partially why so many students participate in extracurricular activities like sports, internships and volunteer work.

Unfortunately, most of these activities aren’t included in official academic records, forcing students to remember the intricate details when it comes time to apply for college. This is problematic – how can a high school senior remember the exact number of hours she spent volunteering as a freshman? If the school she applies for discovers a discrepancy between her claims and those of the nonprofit she worked with, she could be accused of falsifying her application and have her offer revoked, regardless of whether or not she meant to lie.

K-12 schools can help students avoid this potential catastrophe by using Parchment’s credential management system. We do more than make digital versions of diplomas and report cards; our partnership with intelliVOL gives students and schools in our network access to x2VOL’s Official Service Transcript, which digitally tracks and verifies student community service hours. 

Your school can further support its students with Parchment Send, which gives them access to letters of recommendation (for a student’s bravery during a trip to Pluto, for example), immunization records (after traveling inside a sick friend and learning about white blood cells) and miscellaneous attachments (to account for the dozens of other science-bending field trips). 

‘The Magic School Bus Rides Forever’

One great thing about ‘The Magic School Bus” and its reboot is that the program shows how learning can be a lifelong process. Although the children of the series are still in school, their field trips aren’t part of the conventional curriculum. Far from it – these trips are extraordinary but still help students reinforce concepts they learn in the classroom. In this way, these stories show children and adults that the world around us can be more educational than any classroom.

Parchment believes in these experiences, and we think students should be able to refer to them to as they need. With Parchment Send and intelliVOL, we give students access to all the credentials that will help them succeed, not just their grades.

Learn more about how Parchment helps learners make the most of their education.

Dual Enrollment vs. AP Credits: Which Is Better For Your Learners?

The conversation surrounding college prep, dual enrollment, and AP coursework is heating up nationally.  You know that Advanced Placement courses and dual enrollment at community colleges can both give students the boost they need to succeed at a four-year university and beyond. But, when a student comes to ask you which is better, do you know what response to give?

Don’t worry if you’re unsure of the answer – parents, administrators, counselors and even researchers have debated this question since high school students could start receiving college credits. Both options have their benefits, but they each have drawbacks as well.

For instance, dual enrollment can give students a better taste of college life, but learners risk wasting their time if they’re not careful. According to the latest research from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, a significant number of students who try to transfer credits between schools are either prevented from doing so or face extreme difficulty. In fact, students who transferred between 2004 and 2009 lost an approximate 43 percent of their college credits, forcing them to take classes over again.

That said, AP courses have their own headaches. Students take these classes alongside their fellow high schoolers, which leaves them unprepared for a true college experience. What’s more, their ability to transfer credits depends not on the time spent in class but on the result of a single test: the AP exam. This means students run the risk of not scoring high enough, squandering their efforts to bypass a few entry-level college courses.

Making the choice: AP or dual enrollment?

So what’s the consensus? Which option is better for a student’s future? Despite their shortcomings, the opportunity for success is relatively equal for both. 

“It really depends on the individual student’s circumstances,” said Nicole Buesse, a high school counselor, to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Both are very good options.”

What’s most important is that students understand how their credits will be transferred to the four-year college of their choice. Essentially, the question isn’t one of AP versus dual enrollment but enrollment requirements versus enrollment requirements. If a student’s favored school is more likely to accept a lower AP score and less likely to accept community college credit – as is sometimes true of elite universities – that individual is better off taking AP classes instead of dual enrollment. On the other hand, if the student wants to attend a state school that has partnerships with local community colleges, he or she should probably choose dual enrollment.

Unfortunately, finding which choice is better for a student’s success can be difficult. As the GAO pointed out, many four-year schools leave students in the dark when it comes to transfer information. This means that high school juniors and seniors aren’t clear about which will have the most impact on their college career: dual enrollment or AP.

Still, there has to be something that you can do to support your students, right?

Helping students receive their credentials

Right! One essential thing you can do to help your students succeed when it comes to AP versus dual enrollment is to ensure your school can easily send and receive credits. Dual enrollment can reduce the expense of a four-year college, but students have to request their credits to be sent to the high school in order to complete their diploma. Likewise, four-year schools need more than a student’s AP exam scores; they need records of the students’ classroom grades. Parchment makes the process of sending and receiving credentials quick and painless, transferring secure information from sender to receiver in the blink of an eye.

As students decipher which educational option works best for them, you can support their future by making sure their credentials are right in their hands. See how Parchment can help.

Your 2018 Digital Strategy – Things To Consider

If you’re like most people, you probably can’t remember what the beginning of 2017 was like. So much happened last year, with 2018 already upon us bringing a “Bomb Cyclone” across the nation. As schools and businesses put the final touches on their digital strategies for the next 12 months, let’s take some time to look at how credentials can come into play. You may not realize it just yet, but digital credentials can be a driving force in achieving your goals this year:

Sending and receiving: How digital credentials play into a modern strategy

Think about how much of our lives are tied to the internet these days – you can order groceries, pay bills, send money to friends and find the nearest car wash all from your smartphone. In school settings, students are taking courses and earning degrees completely online, both at the high school and college levels. Businesses no longer post “Help wanted” ads in newspapers; now, they list open positions on job websites and accept resumes through digital applicant tracking systems. 

Yet for all this innovation, one thing that could be easily digitized has remained stubbornly in the paper past: credentials. Much to learners’ chagrin, many administrative offices don’t support digital credentials. This means, for example, students who want to access their high school diplomas online are unable to do so. Instead, they must complete the cumbersome, time-consuming process of getting their paper records. Similarly, college students are unable to order transcripts online and send them instantly to other schools or potential employers. The time delay associated with paper record delivery could be the difference between a college graduate getting the job of his or her dreams or being underemployed.

In many ways, digital credentials can improve learners’ success. Students can immediately access and send verified PDF copies of their transcripts, diplomas and other credentials to a large network of destinations, reducing the uncertainty and eliminating delivery delay.

What’s more, digital credentials are good for schools and businesses. They help high schools, colleges and universities expand their digital marketing reach, allowing students to share their successes on social media and putting the institutions in front of countless eyes. Meanwhile, they make businesses more competitive by making it easy for applicants to send proof of their education. With 40 percent of companies fighting against a shortage of talent, according to research from Manpower Group, businesses need every trick in the book to attract the most qualified candidates.

No matter what field you work in – education, recruiting, marketing or other – it’s important to understand that digital credentials can play a huge role in shaping 2018.

Want to learn how digital credentials make your job easier? Contact Parchment today.

 

3 New Year’s Eve Resolutions For Registrars’ Offices

2017 is quickly coming to a close, and 2018 preparations are well under way. As your office gets ready for a new semester and a new year, it’s good to set some concrete rules for how you’ll operate going forward. We always make New Year’s resolutions to improve our personal lives, so why not our professional lives as well? After all, don’t we all deserve to breathe a little easier in the office next year? Here are three resolutions to help you do just that:

1. ‘I will escape the trap of paper-only systems.’

Working in a registrar’s office, your weekdays are filled with request after request from students. With the class of 2018 spending the semester looking at post-graduation options – first-time jobs, graduate school, etc. – many of these requests will involve transcripts and diplomas. In a paper-only setting, your office can easily become overwhelmed by all the documents you need to send and receive, making it highly likely that someone’s request will fall through the cracks. 

Switching to a digital system alleviates a lot of that strain. No longer do you have to search through cabinets full of files and mail things by hand. Instead, the system does everything for you, automatically pulling student records and sending them to their destinations in an instant. Convenient, no?

2. ‘I will ensure my office puts learners first.’

Have you noticed that the standard process of sending transcripts makes students very nervous? There’s rarely any delivery tracking, so students anxiously await news from the recipient that their credentials made it to their destination. Since mail takes anywhere from a few days to a week or more, your students are left in the dark leading to more questions for your office.

With digital credentials, that worried feeling completely disappears. Their transcripts are immediately sent wherever they need to go, regardless of whether the recipient is within the school’s destination network or not.

In fact, it helps to have a third-party service with a large network of academic and professional institutions within reach, thereby completely relieving you of the burden of credentials. That said, be sure to choose a provider that also sends physical records with USPS or FedEx tracking, just in case students send their credentials to destinations that only want paper.

3. ‘I will make sure our transcripts are accurate and protect the authenticity of the school.’

Digital credentials like eTranscripts aren’t new, but schools have been very reluctant to adopt them. According to a survey from the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, one of the primary reasons for avoiding digital is integrity concerns. Many school officials are afraid that digital transcripts and diplomas can be altered more easily than paper ones.

In actuality, digital credentials are safer than their traditional counterparts. Parchment, for example, sends verified PDFs that alert recipients if and when the information inside has been altered.

Make your office run smoothly in 2018 by offering eTranscripts and other digital credentials. Take a load off your mind and learn how Parchment can successfully work with your school to improve your office and the lives of your students.

3 Simple Steps to End the Year for Parchment Receive Members

Fall semester is winding down, which means it’s a good time to reflect and reorganize. So that you are all set to enjoy the holiday season and start fresh next semester, we wanted to share three simple steps to help you end the year on a good note.

  • Get your year-end Parchment Receive report
    • Just contact Ray Santos (West Admissions) at rsantos@parchment.com or Lindsay Kleiss (East Admissions) at lkleiss@parchment.com to get your year-end receive report. It’s a great snapshot to share across your institution, including monthly volume, your top senders, year-over-year growth, and document volume by type. You even get recommendations customized for your institution.Contact us to get your end of year report.

 

  • Update your administrators 
    • Make sure you have the correct setup for your user:  Go to SETTINGS tab >> Choose USERS >>Delete administrators who have left >> Add new administrators
  • Sign up for training
    • Learn how Parchment can make your life just a little bit easier. Topics include: Mastering Administrator Settings, Downloading Tips & Tricks, Expert Filtering, Reports & Analytics to Make You Shine and more. Just sign in to Parchment, click Support, and then click Training to sign up for one of our weekly webinars.

College Application Deadlines Are Here

While the retail world is anticipating Black Friday, here in the EdTech world we are anticipating the two biggest days for admissions applications – November 1 and November 15. While it may not have a fancy name yet (did someone say #NameChallenge), we know the excitement level for students, parents, and your staff is just as high as a blue light special while you are next to those luxury 1,200 thread count sheets set you’ve been eyeing all summer.

Yes, the most common early action admissions days are upon us. It’s about to get real for many students and your document intake staff. Don’t fret, we have some great ideas to help you land on the other side of this admissions season unscathed. By letting your students know you prefer electronic credentials during this peak busy season, you can ensure your process will be streamlined and you can focus on fulfilling their holiday wishes of being admitted to your school.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

  • Parchment Member Directory
    Updated regularly, our member directory will show you which of your feeder schools are in the Parchment Network. Have your admissions staff reach out to the counselors and let them know you prefer electronic credentials for speedy and efficient decision making. Login to your Parchment account and click the “Directory” icon on the top right hand corner to access it.
  • Get Social
    To help students answer the questions of “When do I send my transcript” or “When will I hear a decision,” go to where they are – the social network! Post on your school’s Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts to share your admissions deadline information. Let your prospective students know you prefer electronic transcripts to help the decision arrive to them even faster.
  • Use Your Campus Channels
    High School students are in full college tour mode, so use your campus as your own message center. Bulletin boards, admissions packets, counselor blog, school website, email signatures, or even digital displays around campus can all be used to let future students know you prefer they send their transcripts to you electronically.

We’d love to hear from you on other great ideas you’ve had to spread the word about receiving electronically. Share below and let’s get this conversation started!

Find Out Your College Admissions Chances on Your College List

Remember when Amazon was just an online bookstore? Now, an entire day can be filled with Amazon products – just ask Alexa! She’ll send you dinner, put on your favorite show, and help you store a lifetime of memories. Simply put, technology is amazing.

At Parchment, we use the power of technology, our expanding network, and some pretty smart data wizards to go beyond just helping you send your credentials. We also let you explore what opportunities those credentials can lead to. Answering questions like “What colleges can I get into with my SAT scores” or “what are my chances of getting into my parents’ alma mater.” If you thought Parchment was just for sending your high school transcript to the college of your dreams, think again.

Use Parchment’s College Tools to think bigger and discover colleges you may not have even known should be on your top list. Just like the “You may also like” or “People also viewed” sections on your favorite streaming app showed you your new favorite show, Parchment College Tools will help you explore new colleges and find out your true potential.

Parchment College Tools

Complete your Parchment profile by answering a few quick questions at the top right-hand corner. Question include:

  • Where you went to high school
  • Unweighted and Weighted GPA
  • SAT and ACT scores
  • Class rank and class size
  • College majors interest
  • Extracurricular interests

Once your profile is complete, that’s when the data-magic happens. Quickly add colleges you are interested into your “College List” and gain an inside look* at the types of students who are also interested in that school. For example, you can see the average ACT and SAT scores, GPA, top states they are coming from and their top majors, so you know how you rank against your competition.

Better still, let the colleges you’ve added to your list know you are interested in them. Their admissions office will be happy to hear you are interested in learning more about their school. You can also keep track of important admissions deadline information or your application statuses, then export the list to share with your high school counselor or parents. They’ll be impressed that you are staying organized and taking the next steps towards your future goals – college, here you come!

Get started today by visiting My Chances.

*Our college predictions, ranking, and recommendations are powered by 765,689 college applications annually – the largest application database online. The Admissions Chances algorithm we’ve created should not be considered a guarantee that you’ll get into your top choice. But, it’s still a helpful guide to create a list of colleges where you have a good chance of admission.

Parchment’s 7th Annual Student Choice College Rankings

Which college should I attend? This question is one that plagues the minds of students their junior and senior year of high school and could very well be the biggest decision they’ve had to face till now. A calculated approach for the future, playing the game of odds: research many, apply to some, accepted by a few. Then, it’s decision time. But which school will they actually choose? Parchment’s Student Choice College Rankings analyzes tens of thousands of student decisions to help define the probable outcome in order to best predict this answer.

When it comes to that life-defining college decision, today’s savvy student ensures the odds are tipped in their favor with 80% of first-time freshmen applying to three or more colleges (NACAC, 2015). As College Connections explains, “Students apply to more colleges to make sure they gain acceptance to several colleges. In addition, both the Common and Universal applications make it easier for students to submit many applications.” Because of this trend, colleges are seeing an increased number of applications and students are having the opportunity to make their own decisions on where to go.

The increasing number of multiple applications in which students are submitting helps to fuel Parchment’s Student Choice College Rankings, now it’s 7th year. These rankings are calculated by aggregating and analyzing data shared by college bound students including where they applied to, where they were accepted, and ultimately, where they chose to go. This final enrollment decision is the big contender and drives the final point distribution, revealing the final ranking.

Parchment’s Student Choice College Rankings 2018

Top Five Student Choice Schools

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Cambridge, MA – 2,239 points
  2. Williams College
    Williamstown, MA – 2,161 points
  3. Stanford University
    Stanford, CA – 2,131 points
  4. Unites States Air Force Academy
    USAF Academy, CO – 2,116 points
  5. Claremont McKenna College
    Claremont, CA – 2,107 points

Read on to see the full list of this year’s results or learn more about how the ranking is calculated.

 

Connect & Win at NACAC 2017

The National Association for College Admission Counseling’s Annual conference (NACAC) is coming September 14-16 in Boston, MA.  Parchment will be there helping you connect with K12 counselors and admissions officers … and winning big while you do it!

Stop by the Parchment Booth (#655) to get your flair and then return with your match so you’ll both be entered to win.  Every visit back to our booth with someone you connect with enters you into our raffle for a $400 Amazon Gift Card.

Don’t miss our panel with K12 Counselor extraordinaire, Tessa Barbazon from Fulton County Schools in Georgia and Brad Hostetler, Asst Director of Admissions at Ball State University. They’ll talk about how working with your exchange partners makes the admissions process easier!

THE SECRET EDGE IN THE ADMISSIONS PROCESS: IN-CYCLE DATA AND DIGITAL RECORDS

Date: Thursday, September 14, 2017

Time: 10:30 AM – 11:15 AM

Location: Exhibit Hall C LEARN Booth

We’re so excited to see you! If you or anyone on your team is heading to Boston, make sure to stop by our booth for prizes, some bling, and an immediate improvement to how you handle all of your academic records.

We’ll see you in Boston!

Parchment Connect National 2018: Registration is Open!

The signature event for those interested in the future of academic credentials, Parchment Connect National 2018, is now open for registration. You will not want to miss this opportunity to connect with K12 counselors, Admissions Offices, Employers, and University Registrars and Records Managers. Each year, attendees rave about the networking opportunities, lessons learned, and information gathered.  You definitely do not want to miss it!

Register Today

Parchment Connect National 2018

March 24-25, 2018
Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld
Orlando, FL

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Time & Place

This year, we’ve realigned with AACRAO Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, to make it easier for people already planning on AACRAO to join us for Parchment Connect National.  Immediately preceding AACRAO, March 24 – noon March 25, you’ll be able to participate in all of the kick off events for AACRAO. We want you to arrive in style, so we’ll be providing a convenient shuttle to the Orlando World Center Marriott at the conclusion of the conference!

Parchment Connect National will be held at Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld. Learn more about the super-low room-rate and all of the other logistics on our Travel & Transportation page.

Share Your Story!

The best part of Parchment Connect National is hearing the real-world experiences of our members. We have so many people who are doing amazing things. Whether you are just starting out with digital credentials or you’re ready for new frontiers, having this conference opportunity to connect with more than 200 of your peers will help you get the information you need to effortlessly.

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Sharing the work you’re doing is a key part of Parchment Connect National. Members from across the country struggle with similar issues and will benefit from your expertise. Now is the time to share your challenges, successes, explorations, and interests. The conference needs you to be a success!

We’re seeking proposals that would support one of these topics:

  • Blockchain and the future of verified credentials
  • Analytics in the Registrar’s office
  • Gauging your learner’s satisfaction and annual reporting
  • Digital diplomas and creating a cohesive learner experience
  • Comprehensive student records
  • Digital Diplomas and the future of the apostille
  • International students and verifying their credentials
  • How your peers are perfecting credential exchange and empowering their learners!

Accepted proposals get free registration and hotel stay on March 24!

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Nominate Your Peers!

You guys are pretty awesome. Everyone should know about this!

This year, we’re celebrating the dreamers and the doers in our community with our first peer-nominated Award Ceremony.  
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Get your peer (or yourself, because you’re also pretty darn amazing) nominated today!

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We’re so excited to see you in Orlando in 2018!

Self-Reported vs Official Grades: Which Side Are You On?

With more than 80% of first-time freshmen applying to three or more colleges, it’s clear – students are shopping around now more than ever (NACAC, 2015). These smart consumers are creating a need for admissions offices to look at ways of making processes both more efficient and more user-friendly. One school of thought is to let the students self-report their grades. While this process can help with early-admit decisions and lends itself to showing how honest students are, considering the risk of admittance otherwise, self-reported grades don’t seem to be all they are cracked up to be.

We sat down with two experts to learn more about their stance on self-reported versus official grades and were excited to hear their answers.

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Crystal Garvey
Sr. Associate Director, Admissions Systems & Processing
Northern Illinois University
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Mary Wagner, Ph. D
Director of Undergraduate Admissions
University of South Carolina
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Tell me about the various application paths to apply for undergraduate admission at your college?

Crystal, NIU: Northern Illinois University (NIU)  accepts paper and online applications.

Mary, USC: Students can apply to University of South Carolina (USC) via our university application, on our website, or through the Coalition application.

What documents are required to be considered for admission at USC/NIU?

Crystal, NIU: Freshmen students are required to submit an official high school transcript and official ACT or SAT scores. Transfer students are required to submit official transcripts from all colleges attended. If they are transferring with fewer than 24 hours, we also require they submit an official high school transcript and official ACT or SAT scores.

Mary, USC: For students attending high school, we allow them to upload unofficial copies of the transcript directly within the application for admission. Prior to submission, the student certifies that it is a true and accurate representation of their current academic record to date. The document is used for a preliminary evaluation, admission, and merit scholarship review. If the student ultimately enrolls, the high school must send the final official transcript after the student graduates.

When it comes to self-reported grades vs. required transcripts for undergraduate admissions, what are your thoughts?

Crystal, NIU: >We used to accept self-reported grades for admissions purposes, however, we no longer engage in this practice. We found, that for our students, entering detailed course by course grade information was a barrier in that it was more time consuming than it was to request an official transcript (particularly in IL where so many of the high schools send transcripts electronically using Parchment). We also had a very low participation rate for self-reported transcripts and for those, and a variety of other reasons, we went away from accepting self-reported grades.

Mary, USC: We were an early adopter in this space. A few years ago, we explored the use of the truly self-reported transcript where students hand-key the course names, grades, and credits directly into the application. This did afford some efficiencies for us but there were still a lot of unintentional errors on the students’ part. The process also dragged out the time it took to complete an application. Since accuracy is the primary goal, our current process of uploading the image within the application works well for us. We can read it and understand it, and students have more control over the application process as a whole. It’s worth noting that we rescind very few, if any, decisions based on misrepresentation during the application process. Students understand that it is a high-stakes situation. They don’t want to risk having their decisions rescinded later.

As you think about your admission process five years ago, compared to today, what are the two most impactful changes that have been made?

Crystal, NIU: The two most impactful changes that we have made to our admissions process have both surrounded automation. As the use of electronic forms of data exchange has become more common, the number of paper documents we receive has dropped dramatically. Electronic receipt of transcripts means we receive the documents sooner (often the same day they are sent) and we are able to load them to our system automatically reducing scanning and storage costs. This also allows a shorter time to decision for complete applications.

The second most impactful changes have been more incremental changes to our business processes to more fully automate operation, remove barriers, and eliminate inefficiencies.  Examples of these efforts include: building a responsive online application that reduces student input errors; introduction of blanket fee waivers for school districts where all students qualify for free and reduced lunches, reducing the need for fee waiver forms (saving student, HS counselor & processing staff time and effort) as well as barriers for these student populations; and the creation of automated processes for routing of holistic review files along with better tracking, reporting and follow-up notifications to speed time to decision for these populations.

Mary, USC: The inclusion of an unofficial transcript at the time of application has been useful in prioritizing our application processing and review. We’ve also adopted a new CRM which affords more flexibility with handling incoming document images and indexing. We used to manually scan everything we received and now less than 20% of what ends up in our imaging system arrives on paper or by mail.

Looking ahead to the next two to three years of undergraduate admissions, what changes do you foresee?

Crystal, NIU: I see the continued need to do more with less. I believe there will continued reduction of paper credentials and continued growth in electronic transcripts. Also, in thinking about doing more with less, we hope there are more conversations about the data that accompanies transcripts. If more institutions sent data (GPA, rank, hours, etc) in the data files accompanying the transcripts, admissions offices would be able to reduce manual data entry and further speed the admissions process, among other time and cost saving benefits.

I also think there will be changes to the way schools grade students. Conversations are taking place all over about standards-based grading vs. competency-based grading and we, as admissions offices, will need to be responsive to these changes.

Mary, USC: Students will continue to apply to more schools to maximize their chances of admission as well as aid. Platforms that allow students more self-service and control over their college search and application process will become commonplace. People are busy and applying to college involves a lot of frenetic activity. Anything a college can do to remove barriers to applying will reap benefits. This includes using more preliminary information for the initial evaluation and strong back-end verification processes on the college’s end.

What advice do you have for your colleagues throughout the Undergraduate Admissions community when evaluating their undergraduate admissions processes?

Crystal, NIU: Look for the barriers, place yourself in the shoes of your students. For example, I spend time running application workshops in computer labs on campus during our Open House programs. Spending time in a room with students and parents as they navigate our application process has given us invaluable insight and allowed us to make changes to how we present things, how we ask things, and how our application works for students. All of which has significantly improved our application experience and reduced questions and phone calls.

Also, examine everything. It is easy to do things the way they have always been done, but you often find efficiencies in the most unexpected places. For example, we were drowning in application fee waiver forms. They are time-consuming for students, counselors, and our staff. So, we went looking for a way to reduce the paper or need to submit that form without getting rid of our application fee. We found that some of the largest districts in our area offer free/reduced lunch to all students in the district, which is a qualifying factor for an application fee waiver. We altered our application to grant fee waivers to students from those districts, eliminating the need for fee waiver forms from that population. You never know where you will find your solution.

Mary, USC: Be involved with testing your own application and enlist the help of friends with college-bound kids. The stuff we think is cool and easy may not be. We have to remember that for the vast majority of students, applying to college is very stressful. We also need to stop justifying our current processes with the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” defense. Technology constantly changes and students expect us to use it. If they can tell you’re not keeping up with them, they won’t stay behind for you.
A special thanks to Mary Wagner and Crystal Garvey for their input. Let us know where you stand on the discussion and what are the challenges you see when it comes to self-reported vs official grades.

 

Parchment Roadmap: A Digital Platform for Turning Credentials into Opportunities

To our members, employees and partners,

At Parchment, our mission is to help turn credentials into opportunities. The Parchment platform transforms credentials from paper to digital, and in doing so enables credential issuers to innovate the form and function of their credentials at a time of great need in our knowledge-based economy and society.

We use the term “platform” thoughtfully, reflecting how our technology connects the different stakeholders who participate in a credentialing ecosystem: issuers, receivers, and most importantly, learners. The term also reflects the ability of our technology to enable learners to access, collect and put to work the academic and professional credentials they earn throughout their lives.

Initially we developed the Parchment platform to support academic transcripts. The Parchment transcript network enables millions of enrollments at member high schools and universities to request, collect and deliver their digital transcripts to pursue admissions, licensing and employment opportunities. In 2016 we transacted more than 8.7 million credentials, representing a 40% annual growth rate (CAGR) since 2011.

The Next Step in Realizing Our Vision

Today, I’m proud to announce that we are taking another step towards realizing our vision by adding digital certificates and diplomas to the Parchment platform. We are bringing these academic credential types into the digital, portable and social world seamlessly, without introducing new terminology and concepts. We are excited that Parchment is now the first true multi-credential digital platform.

The addition of these new credential types is just part of the story. The launch of our new Parchment Award services for diplomas and certificates also puts the learner credential profile front and center. The credential profile allows students and alumni to manage and share their credentials securely, collected from across the Parchment network.

Put simply, our expanded digital credentialing platform enables learners and institutions to collect, verify and share any digital credential. It’s a milestone for us, so allow me to share more and put it into the context of our broader roadmap.

Three Enablers for Turning Credentials Into Opportunities

In a recent blog post, Parchment CEO Matthew Pittinsky described three key technology enablers that help make Parchment’s mission a reality. Our roadmap is laser focused on delivering those enablers for our institutional members and their individual learners:

  • First, credentials must be issued digitally with machine-readable data. Only digital credentials with data are truly actionable.
  • Second, institutions must leverage the inherent benefits of digitization to innovate the form and function of their credentials.
  • Third, digital credentials should be truly portable, collected and controlled by the learner through a unified interface across the places where they learned.

As a company, these are the north stars that guide our product development, and it is our privilege to bring them to life. The Parchment credential management platform is how we get there, serving three distinct stakeholders: the learner, the issuer and the receiver. Much like a three-legged stool, each stakeholder group has a role to play.  

What Learners Need and What We Will Provide

Our goal for learners is to provide a secure, unified experience for requesting, collecting, delivering and displaying their official academic credentials. We are investing in Parchment.com so that learners may create a comprehensive online portfolio of their verified credentials in one secure place. To that end, over the past 18 months we have:

  • Enhanced Parchment.com to include a credential profile, a personal vault of digital credentials, that supports not just digital transcripts but also digital diplomas and certificates. The credential profile expands on the credential request and delivery features that are the core of Parchment’s consumer services.
  • Developed new integrations to make it easy for learners to promote and verify their credentials on social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Improved the core tools that allow learners to order their credentials through a modern, mobile-optimized experience, and to track their requests, both electronic deliveries and those we print and mail.

Looking forward, our roadmap for the learner focuses on refining and extending the credential profile, especially with digital diplomas and certificates. As today’s mobile learners accumulate educational credentials from multiple sources, Parchment’s credential profile will be there for learners to collect, share and analyze their credentials across all those institutions.

Our institutional members using the Parchment 7 platform (all high schools and some higher education institutions) already have this entire experience available to their students and alumni. Our Parchment 6 members (most of our higher education institutions) will be able to offer this experience to their learners by the end of 2017.

What Issuers Need and What We Will Provide

Job number one for issuers is to securely automate the request and delivery of their credentials. Yes, our goal for issuers begins with  the movement of paper-based credential request and fulfillment to digital.  From there, we want digital credentials to support key innovations in the content and format of credentials, better serving learners in admissions and employment. Finally, we are excited to support our members as they experiment with new formats and credential types (e.g., competency and experiential transcripts). To that end, we have:

  • Transformed our transcript-centric credentials services into a true multi-credential management platform that allows members to issue all types of digital credentials. We now support many different kinds of transcripts (academic, co-curricular, experiential and competency based), as well as unique features for digital diplomas and certificates.
  • Created security mechanisms for embedding metadata in all issued credentials to make sure they’re 100 percent verifiable using Adobe blue-ribbon technology.  
  • Allowed delivery of credentials in standards-based, machine-readable data to increase operating efficiencies and allow receivers of credentials to act on them much faster.

Looking forward, our roadmap for the issuer focuses on a variety of initiatives. We will:

  • Support comprehensive student record initiatives by enabling many newer/standardized formats of experiential and competency-based credentials. These innovative credentials will allow attributes that make them much more useful for employers and allow learners to stack them to promote lifelong learning.
  • Expand Parchment 6 automation options to members using the Parchment 7 platform as we bring the best of both of these platforms to all of our members. We’ll also further enhance these automations to get machine readable data in standard formats such as PESC XML.
  • Support for all 36 of the Liaison International Common Application Services (CAS) including NursingCAS, PharmCAS, et. al.
  • Enable registrars working with continuing education, single schools, multiple schools and school districts to better customize and personalize their workflows.
  • Deliver easy ways for Parchment Send members to accept requests from third parties such as background-check companies and employers. (We already allow Parchment Receive members to request credentials from learners of Parchment 7 members.)
  • Lead the charge to enable vendor-independent electronic data exchange of credentials by supporting the development and adoption of open standards such as PESC EdExchange.
  • Expand the scale and scope of our analytics exponentially to include how credentials are being used, trends in where credentials are being delivered, which social media are being used to share credentials and the reach/impact of such social sharing.

What Parchment Award Will Provide for Issuers

Parchment Award enhances the Parchment credentials management platform and allows organizations to have a new workflow of “Award/Claim/Share.” This adds significant new capabilities to our platform, especially allowing us to mass issue certificates and diplomas to learners. They can then claim the credentials on Parchment.com and share them on social media such as facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to showcase their achievements.

What Receivers Need and What We Will Provide

Our goal for receivers is to allow admissions offices and employers to benefit from the efficiencies and insights that digital credentials provide. We want receivers spending time on candidate evaluation, not credential collection and processing. To that end, we have:

  • Provided a unified inbox to collect all incoming documents, whether sent using Parchment’s network or other services such as Naviance, SPEEDE, CHESSIC and BridgeU.
  • Enabled the electronic delivery and seamless processing of digital credentials as data, not just as a PDF image, eliminating paper documents, increasing operational efficiency and decreasing time to admissions or hiring decisions.

Looking forward, our roadmap for receivers will address a number of key issues. We will:

  • Expand the unified inbox with additional partners so that receivers can benefit from seamless electronic inbound processing regardless of the technology used by a credential issuer.
  • Improve integration with enrollment technologies and Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Systems such as Banner Document Management System (BDMS), Slate and Hyland OnBase.
  • Lead the charge for a vendor-independent exchange by supporting development of open standards, such as the PESC EdExchange.
  • Provide the ability to mine the data, enabling admissions offices to promote institutional brand and facilitate recruitment.

The Journey Continues

It’s a great responsibility to be the technology platform that helps facilitate such important transitions in the lives of learners, from high school to college and beyond. While we have come a long way from the days when we only digitized high school transcripts for college admissions, our roadmap makes it clear we have still have a long way to go.

We are adding support for secure, digital diplomas and certificates today, and in future releases, we will continue to expand to all types of academic credentials (and eventually professional credentials). The Parchment credential management platform connects the dots between learners, issuers, and receivers as they progress through every stage of education and career.  

Which brings us back to our mission. In it we say Parchment helps turn credentials into opportunities. We include this qualifier because technology is not the universal solvent for education. It is the network of school and university members, and their learners, that turn credentials into opportunities. We are proud and humbled of the role we play in this.

In the future, we’ll be publishing a series of blog posts that explain the technical underpinnings of the platform and how you can get started using it.

Rajeev Arora, Sr. Vice President of Product Parchment Inc.

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