Since 2019, the International College of Liberal Arts (iCLA) at Yamanashi Gakuin University (Japanese: 山梨学院大学) developed a new international admissions strategy, focused on working with more advisors while sophisticating its online marketing efforts and investing in automation. DreamApply was the solution to streamline the recruitment and admissions workflow, from marketing to student applications, admissions management, and enhancing internal collaborations.
Currently, 80 to 90% of their international students are admitted via DreamApply, which includes between 10-20% of Japanese students, since domestic students also have the traditional application medium at their disposal.
To understand how DreamApply enables iCLA to be more efficient and productive with its operations to the benefit of students, administrative staff, faculty, and agents, we spoke with their admissions and marketing team
Home a diverse and multicultural student body
Founded in 1946, Yamanashi Gakuin University is a comprehensive Japanese educational institution that has, for the past 75 years, been catering to the educational innovation, knowledge-impacting, creativity, and practical skill needs of students.
Founders Shinichi Furuya and Kiyoko Furuya, established the university with an essential mission to educate the youth about rebuilding Japan following World War 2. Today, the university is home to over 4,000 students, comprised of more than 40 nationalities, and has seen over 36,000 students go on to graduate. Being a well-rounded university, there are five undergraduate faculties, of which the International College of Liberal Arts (iCLA) is one.
Existing structure and system pre-DreamApply
Like other Japanese universities, Yamanashi Gakuin University and its departments within it manually managed their recruitment and admissions operations using traditional mediums, such as paper-based Word documents, spreadsheets, and databases. This is Japan’s standard admission and application structure, primarily due to in-person and paper-based document submissions and physical entrance exam methods.
One of the unique features of being in Japan or a Japanese university is that all systems are primarily built for Japanese students applying to Japanese-taught degree programs. However, these systems are not necessarily best suited for international applicants as they are primarily based on the application process being paper-based or in-person. Moreover, most applicants for domestic Japanese-taught programs sit for physical entrance exams, with a written piece of paper, which obviously, is not very practical for our students overseas.
Given this situation, iCLA sought a solution to its challenges. They realized that the existing mode of operation was not as efficient and convenient as it could be for the staff or the potential students.
When needs call for a switch
Before implementing DreamApply, the International College of Liberal Arts used an online admissions management system. The decision to switch to DreamApply was because of the system’s innovative features. “The change was not necessarily because of any major issue with the existing system. It was more about the incremental upgrades with DreamApply. We thought, ‘well yeah, this looks like a reasonable upgrade to how we’re currently doing things with the potential for more automation to save staff time and be more efficient.”
Particularly, they noted that one of the main reasons why DreamApply stood out to them was the marketing features. Aside from the features which simplify the administrative tasks of admission officers and enhance the students’ experience throughout the admission process, DreamApply’s in-platform marketing tools have been frequently cited by numerous clients for enhancing recruitment strategies and increasing student enrollment numbers.
Reaping the rewards
Over the past two years, iCLA has witnessed a steady increase in its student applications, and at the same time, the administrative team has been more efficient than ever. While this is connected with DreamApply, iCLA’s international marketing and admissions team notes that it has been due to a holistic strategy in which DreamApply is one integral element.
We’ve seen applications increase dramatically in the last two years or so, but it has been a holistic combination, and everything is connected. DreamApply is definitely an important piece of the overall puzzle. Some of the things we’ve built around and outside of using some of DreamApply’s features have definitely led to a year-on-year increase in applications and enrollments.
Making everybody’s life easy and enhancing the student experience
In the past, some aspects of iCLA’s admissions process were handled manually using paper and pen, including student interviews. With the built-in scoring feature, interviewers can input their scores directly onto the platform, saving time and energy. This is possible once the faculty members are assigned roles in the system, which is simple to do.
The switch to DreamApply also meant convenience for the students
It has made applying for visas much easier. For the visa section, before, we used to email different forms to students to fill out after they gained admission, and now, everything takes place through DreamApply. Students use DreamApply from filling out their admission application to applying for their visa to Japan.
Interestingly, this was a feature built upon iCLA’s request. Nowadays, 80% of incremental innovation projects at DreamApply come from clients’ inputs.
Unite teams with total integration
Another thing that we use every single day, without even really thinking or being aware of it, is the API. We actually built two integrations: one to fill out the initial visa application form based on the data that students put into DreamApply and the other for our CRM, so all of the applicant registration data is updated between DreamApply and the CRM.
Scaling up processes with structured data
Marketing departments are interested in many types of data. How structured these data are individually and separately plays a crucial role in the department’s operational strategies and decision-making processes.
It helps us create contact lists for where people are in the funnel, in terms of their applications. It’s been very easy for us to make tables and see who is closer to completing an application than someone else. We are able to segment applicants by seeing how many tasks they’ve done when the account was created versus the last activity made. And with these, we are able to prioritise checking which applications or who to contact first. We don’t have a large team, so being able to prioritise has been really helpful for us.
Connecting advisors lead to a more efficient marketing
The advisors’ accounts feature is probably the most valuable feature from the marketing perspective, considering that a decent number of applicants come from advisors. DreamApply made their work easy and subsequently they are more satisfied and likely to recommend students”. With the portal, iCLA is able to onboard its agents and assign them ROIs.
At the same time, the team also noted that they find the entry points and dynamic redirect features useful because they’ve been able to assign ROIs to different services they use and track their spending. For instance, they use it to track online marketing performance against their ROIs since they can identify the entry points of each student.
Building strong foundations
We had a lot of ongoing support with the setup. It was really great for us that DreamApply’s team was accommodating and able to think of some workarounds within the current limitations and then make improvements to the system and develop the requested features. That kind of listening and understanding is a really positive part of our partnership, and we can see the product continue to develop and become more useful as we go.
Changing the game
With streamlined operations and workflow, marketing productivity, efficient internal collaborations, and, most importantly, an improved student admission experience, iCLA’s staff overcame important roadblocks to its growth in the last three years.
We’re very happy with DreamApply because it frees up our time to do activities we didn’t have time to do before. We can certainly say that other universities with international programs could benefit massively from using DreamApply.