We are struggling with a returning issue for a webpage I am designing. I work on a university’s admissions portal for upcoming students. It is difficult to explain the exact criteria for why students come on this page and what they need to do, so I will do my best to keep it briefly.

Students come on this page when they apply at our uni. They either need to do nothing at all and wait for their diploma’s to automatically be verified by our system (some are still completing their studies so they have to wait several months) The other possibility is that, their previous studies do not grant direct admission, and they have to apply for admission.

The issue we were facing was that a lot of students applied for admission while they did not need to, this caused a lot of extra work for our admissions office. We explained via text if they had to apply for admission or not, this was not clear enough. We are creating a flow chart to help with their decision.

Our initial design was a checkbox: “I want to apply for admission”, which led to a “confirm” button and then to a pop-up with a warning, which finally led them to the “apply for admission” page. I think the fact that students could click on something was more appealing than doing nothing, what probably felt that they didn’t complete anything.

My question to you is; how should I design the option selection on this page? I want to design the page so, that students, who don’t have to apply for admission and just need to wait, also have the feeling that they have done something. The tricky part is that these students have to stay on this page, because they need to keep the possibility of applying for admission (they might fail to complete their studies, or will receive their diploma too late).

Thanks for reading! I hope I supplied sufficient information and not over-explained the situation. Any feedback or comments are greatly appreciated.

Current design:

  • 1
    This sounds more like a problem with your data handling. Your system should be able to tell when it needs to send something to the admissions office or not. No matter what design you make for the UI, a percentage of student will still apply for admission because they don't want to leave it to chance - The best thing you can do is fix it so that the system is intelligent enough to figure out went to pass the data to the admissions office and when not. Sep 20 '18 at 12:20
  • This is very true, unfortunately this is something that will be hard to change. The data of the students we receive is from a nationwide system and the educational system in my country is kind of complicated. This causes some errors on what diploma students will apply with. Combine this with unclear instructions of our faculties and we have this reoccurring issue of unjust applications for admissions.
    – Pieter H
    Sep 20 '18 at 13:38
  • 2
    A system pretending that the user did something with it while he did not, is misleading and causes even more problems. The wizard proposal looks suitable to show that the student already did the right thing and now just has to wait. Sep 20 '18 at 13:59
  • 1
    I do not want to mislead the students. I just want to make sure they don't put them self into a situation where they should not be in. If they apply for admission when they are directly admissible, we have to manually put them back. This is a waste of the students time and of our admissions office. The problem is that some students do have to apply and therefore we provide this option. I think providing this option, presents a call to action for students who didn’t need to do anything and just wait.
    – Pieter H
    Sep 20 '18 at 14:14
  • You can think of renaming question to; How to properly communicate admission form on website? I think question is not actual representation on the problem.
    – xul
    Sep 21 '18 at 10:27

It’s easy: make an application (admission) wizard.

The first question should be: do you have this diploma which grants you direct admission?

If yes, congratulate them, they are done, “the admission is already in progress”; but this should be a success, not a warning. Also if they will have it soon tell them that it’s ok, they just need to wait.

If not, continue with the rest of the questions needed for admission.

UPDATE: for the flowchart part (comments are hard to edit on iPad):

You shouldn’t make them travel to the flowchart. The flowchart is the basic Information Architecture (IA) of your wizard.

What do students have? They have some knowledge of their current situation (eg. that they are undergrads). They also have a goal: they want to apply to higher ed (perhaps Masters, I don’t know). It seems they don’t have (neither they should have if they don’t already) knowledge of the admission process (also that they are automatically applied it seems).

So the flowchart should be something like:

1) are you or were you ever a graduate student of us?

If yes, go to 2), if not, go to 100)

2) did you finish your stuff yet?

2a) yes - OK, just wait. You’ll get notification soon. If not, write to dean at ouruni dot edu to make sure you are in or alternatively type in your student ID number here to query it online

2b) no - finish them first.

100) ok, you need to have to fill out this form. Thanks.

  • Thanks, I think that's a good idea. Congratulating them and telling its ok to wait. We want to firstly direct them to a flowchart on another website (in time we will integrate this), when they come back to this page we want to offer them two options (via the flow chart they should have figured out if they are directly admissible). Would you recommend presenting two buttons? One they can select if they are directly admissible, with a pop-up congratulating them and stating its ok to wait and the other button stating that they are not directly admissible, forwarding them to application page?
    – Pieter H
    Sep 20 '18 at 12:59
  • Why don’t you move the flowchart to the wizard? See, the way it goes, the student has a goal: to apply. They have some basic knowledge. It seems that the process of internal admission isn’t part of it. So, instead of making them remember, making them figuring out the flowchart, why don’t you ask them directly?
    – Aadaam
    Sep 20 '18 at 14:26
  • That would be ideal, the problem is that it is a long and a complicated flow chart. I have asked the administrator if I could implement a flowchart on the page. They said that it would take some time and effort of our developers (outsourced). We are past our development stage, so we have limited resources. Maybe I can create a flowchart myself, with my limited HTML knowledge. The screen text is modified in HTML, so maybe I can implement it via the screen text. The buttons, however, need to be created by our developers.
    – Pieter H
    Sep 20 '18 at 14:46
  • ... or you can use any e-learning authoring tool like adobe captivate or articulate 360, perhaps even google forms (or typeform, but that has a monthly fee) to create this branching form. Of course it can be authored as a single HTML file using anchor links, or created in powerpoint, perhaps even in slid.es, there are many-many options, you don’t need developers for that I guess.
    – Aadaam
    Sep 20 '18 at 17:18

You've mentioned that there's a time limit. Is this something you'd know at this point and could show to the student? If you could, then having them add that to their calendar or get a reminder would be a valuable action.

As for preventing unnecessary admission requests, I think you need to focus on the steps leading to the admission form submit, a pre-selection step or link that makes it obvious to students that this path doesn't apply to their situation.

The language used can influence this, so maybe instead of "I want to apply for admission." which they might want to do anyway, you need to be more clear as in what requisites or specific situations need to be true for the path to be taken (e.g., "My diploma doesn't grant direct admission").

  • Unfortunately we can’t show anything to the student. Very difficult to determine what affects the admission progress (can be the student self or our admissions office or the faculties) I think you are right about the sentence I want to apply for admission, which is unclear. Thanks!
    – Pieter H
    Sep 20 '18 at 13:24

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