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The turnaround advantage: How better credential evaluations can boost international admissions conversions

This special feature is sponsored by Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE)

Enrolments are surging in most major study destinations this year, and forecasts have it that there will be up to nine million students in higher education abroad by 2030. That long-term outlook is already being felt today as many institutions are dealing with rising volumes of inquiries and international admissions applications.

“Not only are there more prospective students asking questions, but they are also asking multiple questions and expecting quicker and quicker responses,” explains a recent white paper from QS. “In the most recent QS International Student Survey, 84% of prospective students expect to receive a complete and personal response to an enquiry within a week, with 18% anticipating this level of response in just 24 hours.”

“After submitting an application, 45% of prospective students want to be informed of the result of their application within a week, with a further 39% expecting the outcome within a month. It’s clear that already-stretched admissions teams often cannot deliver to these challenging timescales, leaving applicants feeling ignored and frustrated.”

The situation is being exacerbated by the current push to diversify foreign enrolments at many institutions. The shape and scale of that diversification effort varies by institution, but it means that many are now handling more applicant files from a wider variety of countries — and this is in turn placing further demands on already-overstretched admissions teams.

Kim Hajec is the client solutions manager for Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE), and she brings to the role 15 years of international admissions experience at three different US universities. “A decade ago, it was a lot of students from China, India, and Saudi Arabia, and you would get very used to looking at credentials from those three countries,” she explains. “In the last few years, universities are seeing applicants from countries that I certainly hadn’t seen before.”

How do you evaluate credentials?

With all of those factors in mind, timely and thorough credential assessments remain a challenge for many admissions teams. And this means that credential evaluators like ECE have an important role to play not only in improving applicant assessments, but also in shaving days or even weeks off of the admissions process.

“Each institution has its own admissions policies, and processing times fluctuate with that,” says Ms Hajec. “Most advise international students to apply early because it can take several weeks to get through the admissions process. But I do think there is a desire there to make it a more efficient and timely process.”

“We understand that credential assessments can play an important part in reducing turnaround time on an admissions file,” she adds. “The faster a university can process applications, the better. And the faster we get credential assessments to admissions officers, the better. Our average turnaround time is five business days. That can fluctuate during peak times, but we’re still one of the fastest credential evaluation providers in the market.”

Aside from speed of processing, the credential evaluation process at ECE is backed by considerable expertise in assessing academic records from education systems the world over. “If you are less familiar with records from a given country, credential evaluation can be extremely difficult and time consuming,” says Ms Hajec. “Using a skilled credential evaluator can make that all so much easier and alleviate those concerns or processing delays.”

The company also provides ongoing professional development and support for international admissions teams, in order to share new insights and build capacity within universities. Through a dedicated online support forum (ECE Connection), for example, admissions staff can ask questions and access an expanding knowledge base to build their understanding of the fine points of assessment for records from a specific country. “This helps to build up everyone’s background knowledge and allows the admissions staff to better understand credential assessments when they come back,” explains Ms Hajec.

University staff can also access regular free webinars, which are often very targeted to fine points of credentials from abroad. One recent session, for example, explained the 10-point grading scale used in the Indian school system.

The bottom line is that those institutions that are consistently more responsive to applicants, and that can provide an admissions decision more quickly, have a distinct advantage in today’s marketplace. Simply put, they can expect to convert more of those qualified applicants into enrolments.

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