Admissions and Affordability websites

 
CLIENT: Admissions and Financial Aid & Scholarships
PROJECT TITLE: Admissions and Affordability websites

TEAM:
Marketing Communications Team
Copywriter: Melody Alexander
Editorial Services/Associate Director: Deb Graber
Art Director/Associate Director: David Duncil
Web Design: Corey Stone and Justin Henning

Admissions and Financial Aid & Scholarships Team
Lauren Erickson
Brenda Maiggard
Stephanie Covington

BACKGROUND
Client Overview
The Office of Undergraduate Admissions and the Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships (FAS) both target prospective students, but their Web presence and approach were very different and disjointed. Admissions had a mostly nuts-and-bolts website that focused on the logistics of the application process, plus a separate "Why KU" website for recruitment. FAS had a fairly cumbersome text-heavy site. Although all three sites were in the KU Web template, they all had a different look and feel, writing style, and messaging.

The Objectives
The objective was to create two user-friendly “sister” sites that would:

  1. Persuade prospective undergraduate students to attend KU
  2. Simplify the application and aid process, and 
  3. Reinforce and complement the messaging and look of the clients’ extensive print materials

 

The FAS site had the additional objective of serving current KU students’ financial aid needs.

Target Audience
The primary target audience was prospective undergraduate students plus their parents and counselors.

THE SOLUTION
Strategy
The primary navigation was designed categorically (not by audience segmentation) to make it easy for everyone to find the commonly requested content. The appearance and text (intentionally kept brief) followed that of the viewbooks and postcards to reinforce what the audience was already receiving in the mail. To simplify the application and aid processes, we provided simple checklists that automatically saved users’ checkbox state without any login process by using the modern HTML5’s "local storage" functionality.

CHALLENGES
Challenge #1
For the FAS site, the main challenge was to serve the needs of both prospective and current students without duplicating content. The categorical main navigation helped, with the audience-segmented “launcher” on the front page providing a secondary path to navigate the site. 

Challenge #2
Another challenge was deciding how much of the FAS content to present in the admissions site, since ideally, a prospective student wouldn’t need to bounce around to different sites to find that information. We ended up using server-side includes to pull in the interactive cost and scholarship charts from the FAS site (thus no duplicate maintenance), plus brief financial aid info which then linked to the FAS site for full details. 

Challenge #3
Finally, the biggest challenge is how to do all this better than all the other colleges and universities who are also working very hard to solve the same problems.

RESULTS & OUTCOMES
The year after the site launched (which coincided with our print and email campaigns), applications for admission to KU increased 6%. The admissions website also received a regional CASE Gold award for best website.

Listed below is some recent site feedback from the anonymous randomized iPerceptions pop-up survey that has been running on the sites:

 

  • "I like the check boxes thing you have — it really helped me remain organized when I did apply."
  • "I like the easy navigation. Many college sites are very complicated and hard to navigate through."
  • "Bright colorful, engaging and has the info I needed."
  • "Everything is right there and easy to get to."
  • "The thing I have found best about KU’s website, compared to almost any other college website, is how easy it is to navigate from page to page. Everything is organized and I feel like I don’t have to do a lot of “hard searching” to find the information that I am looking for, which is a problem that I have often found to be the case with other websites."


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