Hampton School is an independent day school for boys in Greater London, UK, taking pupils aged 11 to 18. Founded in 1557, it had a long history of conducting admissions the old-fashioned way.
“We were literally drowning in paper,” remembers Dorothy Jones, Hampton’s Head of Admissions & Marketing. “There’s a high risk of human error when you’re using paper forms, and it was quite cumbersome, and time-consuming for parents. We were reliant on the post, and it felt quite archaic compared to what we were all doing in our everyday lives. It felt as though we came to work and took a backward step. Everything was very long-winded.”
A surge in applicant numbers made the process unmanageable. “Our registrations had grown from around 400 to 1,400 a year, scaling up massively in a short period”. The sheer volume made the process overwhelming. “With huge numbers of letters to write, copy, envelope, check off and post to extremely tight deadlines – it felt ridiculous and the need for a more efficient solution was really evident”.
In an effort to simplify life for both parents and the admissions team, Hampton started searching for the right platform to transition their admissions process online. “We went out into the market to find a solution that handled the whole admissions process, from the enquiry stage through to acceptance,” remembers Dorothy. “OpenApply came highly recommended by our IT team.”
Hampton School came on board with OpenApply in 2020, just as the first lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic hit. “I’m not sure how we’d have coped – it would have been much more difficult to work from home during that lockdown period if we hadn’t had OpenApply,” says Dorothy. “It enabled us to keep in contact with each other and our prospective community really easily, registrations continued online, and all the processing carried on without the need to come into the office.”
Despite the pressures of lockdown, Hampton wanted to be able to make the move from paper to digital in a gradual process. “We were looking for a system that could grow with us,” Dorothy remembers. “So rather than move everything entirely online in one go, we did it in steps so that we became confident and could sort out any issues. The way OpenApply works allowed us to do that – we added different tasks in a phased way. It grew with us, and we liked that.”
By necessity, lockdown did accelerate this process. “We moved forward five years in the space of about 18 months,” Dorothy estimates. “It’s been absolutely great for us, and I have to say your team were really supportive.”
The End Result
OpenApply has brought about a huge transformation in office life for the admissions team at Hampton School, improving well-being at work as well as productivity. “It’s totally changed our way of working and it’s totally changed the office environment,” says Dorothy. “We’re no longer surrounded by filing cabinets and piles of paper and now have a lovely environment in which to work.”
Importantly, the time saved by using OpenApply has opened up more possibilities for going the extra mile with customers. “People who are in the office have more time to focus on customer service and the nice things, the extras, rather than just purely processing, which we used to get totally bogged down in,” Dorothy explains. “You can spend more time talking to parents, talking to boys, arranging events and doing the really important stuff – we can spend more time explaining the benefits of the school and of an independent education to those who are on the margins of affordability.”
And it would appear that the parents appreciate it. “The biggest benefit for us is the feedback we’ve received from our prospective parents,” says Dorothy. “They like it, they find it really easy to use. They can complete forms while they’re commuting on the train or in a queue – it just goes with people’s lifestyles. It’s much quicker, more instant, so we’re not constantly chasing people for things. It’s sped up the whole process. For the end user as well as for ourselves, it’s had a huge impact.”
OpenApply’s messaging feature has also transformed Hampton’s ability to build relationships with applicants. “One of the other huge benefits for us is that it’s improved our communications with our prospective parents enormously,” says Dorothy. “They find it easy to fill in the forms and we consistently get told that our communications are very good. If something happens in the school and it’s hot news, we can get a message out instantly, rather than hard-copy newsletters by post or on the website. We develop much more of a rapport and a relationship with our customers than we did before, because it’s so easy for them to contact us through the message system, or for us to contact them.”
This makes a big difference to parents at what can be a stressful and anxious time – a time when they feel out of control. “They know exactly what’s happening when, and they know where to find things, so they do have that bit of control over the process,” Dorothy explains.
Going forward, Hampton School plans to utilise more of OpenApply’s features, particularly when it comes to tracking who’s engaging with their communications so that they can tailor future messages to what people are interested in.
“It has absolutely changed the way we work, it’s amazing,” Dorothy concludes. “Clearing headspace in the office, creating a much more efficient process and a better customer experience, would be the key benefits.”
Finally, does Dorothy have any advice for other schools on implementing OpenApply? “Just go for it. It’s not until you’ve done it that you realise that it just makes life so much easier.”