College admissions officials turn to iPad to streamline applications

The ratio of applicants to enrollments has dropped every year since 2003.

What once took a week to collect, organize, and collate has been reduced to a few clicks on an Apple iPad in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s admissions office.

Matchbox, a startup company launched by former and current college admissions officials, announced Dec. 19 that MIT’s Sloan School of Management and the MBA program at the UCLA Anderson School of Management are among the first schools to use an Apple iPad application that stores reams of student information usually kept on paper in filing cabinets.

Using the cloud-based Matchbox iPad app could save admissions offices up to 75 percent of the time it takes to collect, review, and process student application forms, which are often more than 30 pages.

Stephen Marcus, founder and CEO of Matchbox, said higher-education admissions departments ”live by the 70-30 rules,” with 70 percent of the office’s time spent on the onerous logistics of application reviews, and 30 percent spent on recruiting prospective students.

“One of the hopes is definitely that we’ll recruit more students,” said Jennifer Barba, associate director of admissions at MIT, where 35 admissions officers have used the Matchbox iPad app since last year. “If we’re able to see an increase, we’ll know that it worked.”

The Matchbox app has allowed MIT’s admissions office employees store student information electronically that could only be kept on paper before iPads were distributed in a 2010 pilot program.

Barba said summary notes of applicants’ information were jotted on paper and stored away in filing cabinets. Only numeric scores assigned to prospective students were kept online.

“The idea was to create an app that completely mimicked the handwritten process,” Barba said. “It’s really streamlined the process.”

The dramatic move from paper to a cloud-based iPad app made for the UCLA School of Management’s largest-ever pre-Christmas admittance batch. The school sent out 125 acceptance letters this month, about 50 more than usual.

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