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Specialized vs All in One Software for Admissions, Enrollment & Registration
Sarah Rude

In my role with Finalsite, I work with online admissions, enrollment, and registration forms, and I often find myself judging forms and registration processes, especially in the education and medical fields.

I recently switched to a new doctor’s office and had to create a portal account with my contact and insurance information. Getting started with the new doctor’s office was a mess... I was not impressed with the doctor’s office online portal: it was plain and simple, minimally branded, and I was double-checking to ensure I was even on a legitimate website.

After filling out my information electronically, I also had to download two PDF documents from the doctor’s website to complete before my first appointment. Both forms asked me to re-enter my contact and insurance information. I kept thinking to myself, “This is so inefficient. Why must I provide the same information to the office multiple times?” It was not a good first impression, making me doubt the capacity of the doctor’s office and, by extension, the doctor herself.

I’m aware different departments within the office need the data, yet they don’t share a system that easily allows the data to be available to all departments. This experience got me thinking about the similar data efficiency vs. user experience shared by the schools I work with nationwide.

For years, I’ve worked with hundreds of schools looking for the “unicorn” software to provide an efficient and user-friendly admissions process, and the challenge is the same for everyone: How do we get the data we need for creating schedules, attendance, and grading into the student information system (SIS)?

Making the Most of Your School’s First Digital Impression

In the past, software for school admissions, enrollment, and registration was cold and transactional. A step beyond paper forms and downloadable PDFs, online software for admissions and enrollment started as a digital representation of the paper forms they replaced — not very pretty or engaging.

As we become more comfortable with technology, this old style of digital forms is no longer desirable to parents. Instead, parents expect to see branding, customization, and messaging throughout the admissions and enrollment process that make the parents feel valued.

Free ebook: The Enrollment Daily Planner

Complex software like student information systems (SIS) may offer an all-in-one solution that provides admissions, enrollment, and registration as part of their software bundle. However, they need more customization, branding, and messaging that parents now expect when they are school shopping.

While there’s an appeal to streamlining data for parents that flows from the first interaction directly to the SIS, the downside is missing out on showcasing the school’s value proposition at the first point of contact.

The first form a parent fills out is equivalent to the first impression from the admissions office — it’s a sign of commitment and the start of a relationship between the parent and the school.

Can schools afford to leave this vital first step as a cold and transactional request for data from the SIS?

Admissions and Enrollment Management Software “Must Haves”

This brings us to the tug-of-war between needing data for essential functions like attendance and still offering a user-friendly admissions experience for families. The good news is that there are options for specialized student enrollment management software.

When evaluating specialized and integrated school software, look for these features:

  • Customization
  • Messaging
  • Clear parent expectations and steps
  • Internal prompts for staff with follow-up tasks
  • Online review
  • Pipeline to track movement from first outreach to enrolled
  • Search and reporting
  • Online payment processor
  • Tuition management option
  • Integrations or plug-ins with student information systems
  • Custom data export options
  • Open external API
  • Scheduled data transfer (SFTP) options
  • Integration with website

Students and parents feel valued and confident in the school when the information provided is relevant and timely. They form a positive first impression of the school and the staff, opening the door for mission-fit families to find the right school.

The Learning Choice inquiry page

With Finalsite Enrollment, The Learning Choice Academy uses customized email templates, branded parent portal content, and dynamic checklists to keep families engaged and organized throughout the parent journey.

At the inquiry stage, parents receive an automated email welcoming them to the TLC community and encouraging parents to watch a short introduction video to make sure TLC is the right fit for their student. Later, parents select a tour time from their preferred campus via automated email. As parents enter the enrollment and registration process, the school sends checklist reminders by email with a quick link to the parent portal.

Additionally, TCA uses Finalsite Enrollment to keep their team on track using internal reminders and automated emails to internal team members for prompts to review or follow up. With Finalsite Enrollment, students don’t fall through the cracks, and parents and staff know their next steps.

The Best of Both Worlds

One of my favorite things to talk to schools about is how to harness the specialization of Finalsite’s enrollment management system with their SIS.

Chaminade College Prep mobile mockup

For Chaminade College Preparatory School in Los Angeles, Finalsite Enrollment offers the personal touch, clear processes, and the internal data needed to send information to their SIS, Blackbaud. With multiple campuses and more than 1,500 students, Chaminade’s dataflow from Finalsite Enrollment to Blackbaud needs to be efficient. With the API, new records can be created in Blackbaud from the Finalsite Enrollment platform with the click of a button.

Using an API, plugin, or a custom export, Finalsite Enrollment allows schools to have the best parent experience and move parent and student data to the SIS — the best of both worlds.

Key Takeaway

At a time when digital processes are compared for competence, customization, and personalization, schools need to make the right impression. When it comes to where to send their children to school, you don’t want any seeds of doubt creeping into a parent’s mind about efficiency or capability.

An intentionally created parent journey requires specialized software so parents can say “yes” to the school without sacrificing the data needed to feed the SIS.

Finalsite Enrollment Tour

Sarah Rude Headshot


Sarah Rude is a Client Success Manager and Team Lead for Finalsite Enrollment. She joined Finalsite in 2019 as an onboarding specialist. Previously, she was a teacher and IEP coordinator in Austin, Texas. Based in Omaha, Nebraska, Sarah, along with her husband, two children, and two dogs, brings a unique blend of education and client success expertise to her role.

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