Interview with Augustana University: Using SlideRoom for Admissions

Augustana University is a liberal arts college with a significant focus on ensuring applicants attain the professional skills needed to succeed in the job market. Located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Augustana serves more than 1,800 students from 30 states and 38 countries.

We’re spotlighting them here because they represent a segment of smaller schools that don’t get enough attention. The majority of schools in the United States are small and they find the legacy choices for enterprise software are neither affordable enought nor nimble enough to meet their needs.

Last year, Augustana University chose SlideRoom to replace their homegrown network of systems for both Undergraduate and Graduate admissions. This involves streamlining the process for applicants, reviewers, administrators, and integrating with a range of campus systems. We sat down with Augustana’s Pete Roberts to discuss their challenges and their use of SlideRoom to address past challenges.

What is your role at Augustana University?

I work in the admissions office as the Assistant Director for Admission Data and Technology. I manage much of our database information systems. We use many technology tools that are outside of the scope normally used by smaller organizations with smaller budgets. Because of this, it’s much more cost-effective to reach out to an organization like Learning Machine to solve for the technology issues we have. I’m the person that helps manage those things.

What does the current admissions process look like from a technology standpoint?

We have a portal for them to fill out an application directly on Augustana’s SlideRoom account. We’re also a CommonApp school, so prospective students have that as an option. And we still have a paper application, but 90% of our applications now come electronically. While we still manage many applications with folders and hand-entry, we realize we are coming to a point where we have to re-analyze our process. As we transition to more automation, we will look to SlideRoom for help with that.

Prior to using SlideRoom, was the application process outside of CommonApp all paper-based?

In addition to collecting applications via paper, we built a home-grown form that applicants would complete online. This required applicants to complete everything at one time because the form could not be saved. We wanted an internal application option for applicants that did not use CommonApp and SlideRoom was able to fill that role.

What originally led you to SlideRoom?

About two or three years ago, we had conversations about how dissatisfied students and staff were with our own online application form. We were also offering performing and visual arts scholarships. It used to be a paper-intensive process for evaluating and awarding the scholarships based on the material the applicants provided. We wanted a more streamlined way of managing those scholarships as well as a better process in general. After seeing SlideRoom, we found that the system could meet all our requirements and fit well into our budget. Other solutions we had been entertaining were significantly more expensive and far more complicated than they needed to be. Both from a student’s perspective and from our perspective at the university, everyone feels like SlideRoom is straightforward, easy to edit, and provides the tools we need to do more than simply collect applications.

How did Augustana’s graduate program decide to use SlideRoom?

We wanted to continue to increase the graduate education from a program perspective and by the number of admitted students. I was brought in to help determine the best way to do this. I explained what SlideRoom had been able to help us achieve from the undergraduate side of things. When the graduate education department saw SlideRoom, they were impressed with the entire system and the cost. Prior to SlideRoom, the graduate application was only available on paper.

What is the one feature in SlideRoom you’ve found to be most beneficial?

I’ve been really impressed with the form builder. The editing is quite simple with drag and drop. You also provide some nice options in terms of question type. The whole piecing together of the application where you can use any form as many times as you’d like across multiple programs is very helpful. To be able to say “OK, I don’t have to build a separate form for each program and instead reuse existing forms” makes things incredibly easy to maintain.

What services are you connecting to using SlideRoom?

We have a Hobsons integration tied to our internal system. Our data from the SlideRoom applications and the CommonApp applications get entered into our Student Information System and that data is passed through to Hobsons. This setup is in addition to the direct integration SlideRoom has with CommonApp.

If you’re a school interested in using SlideRoom for your application process or portfolio submission, let’s talk.

If you’re a student interested in Augustana University, you can check out their open programs here.

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