How Yamanashi Gakuin University uses digital innovation to enhance the work experience for advisors and staff 

Since 2019, the 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 chosen to streamline the recruitment and admissions workflow, from marketing to student applications, admissions management and in enhancing internal collaborations.

Currently, 80 to 90% of their international students are admitted via DreamApply, which includes between 10-20% 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 to 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 in 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 departments within it, manually managed their recruitment and admissions operations using traditional mediums, such as paper-based, Word documents, spreadsheets and databases. This is the standard admission and application structure in Japan primarily due to in-person and paper-based document submission and physical entrance exam methods.

“One of the unique features of being in Japan or in a Japanese university, obviously, is that all of the 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 geared towards their particular set of challenges. They realised that the existing mode of operation was not as efficient and convenient as it could be neither for the staff nor the potential students.

When needs call for a switch

Prior to implementing DreamApply, the International College of Liberal Arts had been using 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 we had 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 were 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 note 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

Enhancing the student experience

In the past, some aspects of iCLA’s admissions process were handled manually using paper and pen, including the interview with students. Now, with the built-in scoring feature, interviewers are able to 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 extra forms to students to fill out after they gained admission, and now, everything just takes place through DreamApply. Students use DreamApply all the way from filling 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 this 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 helpful for us.”

Connecting advisors leads 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 can onboard its agents and assign them ROIs.

At the same time, the team also noted that they find the entry points and dynamic redirects 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.

Building strong foundations

“We had a lot of ongoing support with the setup. It was 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 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 admission experience for students, 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 that we didn’t have time to do before. We can certainly say that other universities we know that have international programs could benefit massively from using DreamApply.” 

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