While SlideRoom is mostly known for how it handles multi-media, application forms are also a large part of the application process. So I wanted to offer some tips on gathering data (that most data managers may already know).
Keep form sections separate: Breaking up long forms into easy sections will prevent applicants from “melting” away during the process. Further, each section is actually a separate form, meaning it can be reused for other programs. If you have a set of questions that are common to multiple programs, keep these separate from questions that are unique to a particular program. This has two management benefits.
On the front end, it becomes easier to reuse preexisting forms, rather than making a new form for each program. On the back end, the spreadsheets of data will be more organized across programs. Different programs with the same questions can now share columns of data. If you create a new form for each program, columns cannot be shared.
Make the title of each for semi-descriptive: If all your forms are named “Questions,” but they contain different questions, it becomes hard to stay organized over time. Which brings me to my third point, do you really need slightly different sets of questions?
Consolidate data needs across programs: This is the single biggest thing you can do to make administration easier. Often two different programs ask slightly different questions. See if you can get these to be the same. Not only will you generate benefits as mentioned above, but another huge benefit opens: moving applicants. We all know that applicants often apply to the wrong program, and so you need to move them into the correct program. This is no problem if they have the same form. But if the two programs have different requirements, problem.
Offer preselected answer options: When you give applicants a drop down, check box, etc … it not only makes it easier for them, but it gives your admins consistent data to work with. This data ends up in spreadsheets anyway, so why not have consistent data for sortable columns.
Don’t ask for data you don’t really need: This sounds obvious, but keeping things short can become difficult when there are many separate demands. For example, don’t ask for letters of reference from everyone, when only finalists need them. Perhaps you only need contact information? Another example, don’t ask applicants to answer questions that another system has already gathered for you. This is the wrong solution for your lack of database integration.
Hopefully these tips are helpful. As we give clients more control over form creation/management this year, we hope to promote good data practices.