Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Back at AACRAO

April 14, 2009- Last week, to welcome clients into our Boston office like any good host, we tidied up to make a good impression. We filled the candy jar, dusted off the framed press clips, and asked our team to neaten their desks. Remarkable was how unremarkable the before and after appeared. Things looked just as good. Then it occurred to me that in just a few short years, our staff has moved from desks with heaping inboxes and outboxes and racks of file folders, to just a flat screen monitor and a keyboard. OK, maybe a coffee ring here or there, or a picture of the kids. But everything we need to do our job is on the computer. More often in business, we are finding that technology is making our lives more efficient – and more paperless. Great for keeping the office clean… and the environment!

Even in our personal lives, we’re more likely to grab a Blackberry or iPhone to make a note than a scrap of paper. And although they do make nifty gifts, I haven’t used a desk calendar in several years, despite my affinity for daily quotes and important dates in history… which I now get over my iPhone, custom to me and my interests. So much better!

Perhaps for a technology company, it’s easier to streamline operations. But even the most notorious paper-pushers in the business are making a difference. Have you filled out a form for the DMV lately – it’s all online. Have you used TurboTax® to file your taxes with the IRS… even if you went to your accountant they likely requested that you provide them with the ability to e-file on your behalf? Quick right?

How about college admissions? Have you or your kids applied to college lately? Maybe it felt cutting-edge to fill in some fields for an online application, but did you know the amount of paperwork on the back end of that process? Ever consider why it takes so long to get an admissions decision? Or why they lost your information? Ever focus on what likely happens when they re-key your transcript… or better yet, the entire application?

This past week, I visited an institution at the very highest rungs of innovation and intellectual development. Guess what? They broke their admissions office elevator lugging the crates of file folders up from the basement for admissions review… AMAZING!

You ever think about this stuff? We do. And that’s why we do what we do at ConnectEDU. To fix a broken system for the good people that are held hostage by it… counselors, students, parents, admission officers, pretty much everyone!

This week, ConnectEDU is exhibiting at AACRAO for the third consecutive year. If you don’t remember, we were the company who stacked up 600,000 sheets of paper, all piled high to represent the amount of paper processed in one admission cycle by a medium sized university. We even color coded some of the paper to represent those applications lost as well as those keyed incorrectly. Just prior to the greening of higher education, we wanted admission officers to take pause and realize not only the environmental waste generated, but the extra time and cost associated with the processing of each piece. Not to mention that 600,000 pieces of paper created a rather large wall between us and the folks we were there to talk to… almost sounds like the wall between admission officers and the students with whom they are interested in building relationships.

Since that first AACRAO conference, 300 colleges have not only taken notice, but have taken steps to reduce the amount of paper in their admissions office. By joining the ConnectEDU National Network, they are able to receive electronic admission documents from high schools and students. Over a million students in ConnectEDU schools are on their way to sending their data electronically when they apply to college. Right now over 5,000 sophomores and juniors are registering each week at ConnectEDU, so they can participate next year. From the 145 high schools in Ohio, to the 135 in Alabama, and the hundreds more in between, the ConnectEDU National Network of schools is helping to streamline the college admissions process for ALL involved. (And, saving colleges a lot of $$$ in the process!!!)

This year at AACRAO, (booth 426), we don’t have a wall of paper to get folks attention. Most of our informational messaging is digital, where our students live. And we didn’t produce a 24-page glossy brochure for colleges to take back to their office. So while we can’t contribute to the growing pile of paperwork on your desk, we are ready to show folks how to eliminate it.

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