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How to Go Paperless at Your University in Time for the Fall Semester

Heather Mueller
June 30, 2020
Min Read

Many universities are still relying on paper to get things done. Despite numerous technology innovations and advancements in automation, lots of organizations are still struggling to go paperless.

But with more education occurring virtually than ever before, the paperless campus is fast becoming a necessity.

While outreach-focused departments such as marketing and alumni relations may have long ago gone digital, most colleges and universities have pockets of paper-based processes that need to be brought up to speed. In addition to providing a less-than-ideal experience for students, faculty, and alumni, these traditional methods are highly inefficient—and in some cases, may compromise security.

As you prepare for the fall semester, here are three quick questions to help you determine if your institution is truly on its way to becoming a paperless university.

Are you creating documents manually?

Whether it’s communicating with alumni or reaching out to prospective students, the days of typing, cutting, pasting, and manually entering data into documents are long gone.

Or, at least, they should be.

If your department isn’t already automating these and other tasks, now is the time to start. With today’s document generation technology, all you really need to do is collect data and then let your automation tools do the rest.

For instance, you can feed student data into paperless systems to have it automatically transformed into professionally designed applications, acceptance letters, loan documents, and more. This will not only help with the transition to a paperless campus, but save you time and resources, too. Departments will gain the peace of mind that students, staff, and alumni are receiving accurate documentation—without the need for extra work.

Even better: Going digital with documents opens the door to other time-saving advantages such as electronic signatures, customizable templates, third-party app integrations, and automated cloud storage.

Are you making the most of the data you capture?

From conducting student questionnaires to collecting enrollment information, most universities are capturing a lot of data. Unfortunately, once it’s collected, much of that information is then scattered across email inboxes, often in unusable formats.

Using a robust online form builder can help solve this challenge. Today’s students and alumni have become accustomed to instantaneous responses, and their expectations for college communications are no different. It’s important to not only build surveys and forms, but to create them in ways that make your job easier and automate away repetitive tasks.

For example, rather than extracting form submission data to update an email list, you should have the information entered automatically into your email marketing platform or CRM. Instead of processing each contribution manually, integrate your donation request form directly with your payment processor for instant collection—and then have the data routed to a document generator to send a same-day thank you.

Related: Put an End to Manual Data Entry

Do you still handle workflows manually?

Not all hands-on processes are paper-based; some involve an element of unnecessary manual work as well. If you frequently find yourself requesting approvals or sending followup emails, that’s a sure sign it’s time to make adjustments.

By automating operations with digital workflows, you can greatly reduce the amount of time and energy that otherwise go into routine tasks.

Instead of having to hunt down individuals and information, automated workflows let you route submissions, feedback, and approvals to the right individual at each step—whether it’s processing a financial aid application, responding to a student request, or accelerating admissions procedures.

Examples of paperless campus success in action

So, what do these solutions look like in practice? Here are a few of the many ways we’re seeing colleges and universities benefit from paperless processes.

Streamline the scholarship application process If your school is still using paper scholarship applications or clunky tools, this is one area where you can go digital quickly and easily.

Transforming this process can open the door for more prospective students to attend your university, and eliminate many tedious and time-consuming tasks for employees.

We’ve seen paperless universities increase the number of applicants, resolve administrative issues, and overcome processing challenges by taking steps to digitize scholarship applications.

Improve course evaluations

The results from these surveys have major implications for pay raises, tenure opportunities, award nominations, teaching options, and more. So if there’s anything you can do to increase submission rates, it’s important to take those steps.

After all, it’s not possible to get an accurate understanding of the overall student experience if less than half of your students provide feedback.

By creating easy-to-complete, mobile-friendly course evaluations, you can help ensure much higher submission rates in the fall.

Making the most of fundraising campaigns

Reaching recent graduates and new donors in the channels where they feel most comfortable is critical if you want to set the stage for lifelong giving.

Here again, paperless automation tools are the answer. Smart forms and digital documentation will make things easier on your university donors, prompting faster and more frequent contributions.

You can also use automation to personalize student relations, gain deeper insights, and even help ensure compliance. The sooner you make these moves toward becoming a paperless university, the better the results will be for all involved.

Looking for an easy way to get started with higher education automation? From data collection to digital documentation to hands-free workflows, Formstack has everything you need to create a paperless campus by the fall semester. See how Formstack higher education solutions can help you get ahead.


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Heather Mueller
Heather is a website copywriter and digital content strategist who loves helping brands generate leads through the power of the written word—especially when using Formstack. Connect with Heather on Twitter @heathermueller.
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