How UNE admissions is thriving amidst a rapidly changing higher ed landscape

As some traditional processes fall behind in the world of higher ed admissions, UNE is taking the best of pandemic-era practices and delivering a dynamic virtual interview that’s attracting more applicants and winning over program faculty.

The University of New England (UNE) is known amongst applicants for its tight-knit campus community, and known amongst healthcare professionals for the collaborative, cross-disciplinary teaching style that makes it a national leader in interprofessional healthcare education. 

With several top-ranked programs, including Northern New England’s only dental college and a ‘Best College’ ranking in the 2022 U.S. News & World Report, UNE is setting a new standard for healthcare education.

Rika Judd, the Director of Graduate Admissions at UNE, joined the university in 2019 with a unique personal mission. Transitioning from her previous role at Liaison International, Judd used her knowledge of the technologies available to higher ed admissions teams to help transform UNE’s admissions process.

“When I first got to UNE, all of the graduate programs were conducting on-campus interviews, and there was no option for a virtual interview whatsoever,” she shared. “I knew that if we were going to continue attracting top applicants to our programs, we needed to evolve.”

“We’re competing for applicants who have more options for where and how to pursue their education than ever before. On top of that, people are questioning the value of a college education at all.” 

“I approached my new role at UNE with the awareness that changes to the admissions process should be guided by how they meet the needs and expectations of prospective applicants, not by how they suit the comfort level of administrators and faculty.”

“In our current admissions landscape, that has meant a transition to virtual admissions,” Judd continued. 

“With Kira, we’ve been able to build an applicant-first admissions process that actually also makes it more convenient and efficient for administrators and faculty.”

Choosing Kira over Zoom

“I was first introduced to Kira several years ago when I was working for Liaison,” shared Judd. “Kira had just partnered with Liaison to integrate with the Centralized Application Service (CAS) platform.”

Learn more about how Kira integrates with your Liaison CAS application

“So when I started planning out how to make the interviewing process at UNE virtual, Kira was top of mind.”

But while Judd knew how much more efficient and accessible Kira could make UNE’s recruitment and admissions process, not all administrators and faculty members were immediately convinced they could use a virtual interviewing platform to recruit an entire class. 

A common suggestion was to use a video conferencing tool like Zoom instead, but logistical burdens and clunky technology led to a poor experience for UNE’s admissions interviews.

“While Zoom has some of the same functionality, there are significant and problematic gaps when it comes to admissions interviews,” she explained. 

From a recruitment standpoint, Zoom couldn’t provide the professional interviewing experience that applicants expect from a top-tier school like UNE.

Using a video conferencing platform is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole for schools,” she continued. “The end result is disjointed and clunky.” 

“That isn’t the impression of UNE that we want our applicants to walk away with,” Judd explained.

From a logistical standpoint, Zoom was also far from ideal.

“The amount of resources required to manage interviews in Zoom is immense,” Judd explained. 

“Once the program faculty actually sat down and looked at all the work, and workarounds, required, they quickly abandoned the notion of interviewing in Zoom.”

Outlining the logistical and recruitment challenges they would face with Zoom helped Judd secure the all-important buy-in from the program faculty.

“Once programs understood those challenges, it really helped them see the true value of a platform built for higher education like Kira.”

Engaging more applicants by separating campus visits from interview days

The School of Dental Medicine was the first to start conducting virtual interviews with Kira Talent, quickly followed by the Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy programs, and the College of Osteopathic Medicine. 

“I would love to expand the use of Kira to every program.” 

A goal that Judd is on her way to achieving. 

“We’re in the process of bringing other programs onboard,” she shared. “These programs were initially hesitant because they didn’t want to lose the impact of an on-campus experience.”

However, by separating the campus visit from the admissions interview, schools are not only reaching more applicants but they’re actually seeing greater engagement from visiting students.

Discover how the University of Waterloo increased their yield by separating the interview from the campus visit

“At UNE, we’re hosting open houses for accepted students instead of requiring every applicant to come on campus for an interview,” Judd explained. 

“From an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) standpoint, this means that UNE is removing the cost of travel as a barrier to application.” 

From flights or gas to hotels, time off work or family obligations, the costs of on-campus interviews quickly add up.

“Applicants from underrepresented backgrounds are typically more affected by these kinds of cost barriers, which means on-campus interviews disproportionately disadvantage those candidates,” Judd added. 

Even for those who can afford it, the stress surrounding interview days makes them less than ideal for selling the on-campus experience.

A campus day provides a much more conducive environment for applicants to meet one another as potential classmates, instead of as interview competition.

With the stress of the interview behind them and an offer letter in their pocket, applicants are not only more likely to actively engage in activities and information sessions, but can use the visit as an opportunity to start building relationships with faculty and peers, which often holds the biggest sway in their enrollment decision.

Learn why schools like Purdue and Colorado State chose to separate their campus visits from interview days 

Setting a new standard for admissions accessibility

“Conducting interviews with Kira is so much easier in the long run, it’s just the initial hesitation to make a change that can be hard.” 

“It’s very similar to when schools were moving from paper applications to online systems like Liaison’s CAS,” Judd added. “It took time for some to get on board, but then all of a sudden it would click that a CAS meant they no longer had to manage all these paper files.”

“Now that we’re coming out on the other end of the pandemic, I want to make sure that the lessons we learned are being used to build smarter and more effective admissions processes,” she continued. 

“Over the last few years, we’ve set new expectations for admissions accessibility. We need to continue meeting those expectations.”

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