22 September 2020
Can a chatbot help our college admissions?

It’s 2020 – and the chatbot has taken over the web. But should you get a chatbot for college admissions?

It’s a good question- should your institution be looking to get a chatbot for college admissions? As an inquiry management tool, or as a tool to help boost yield and enrollment? 

Think about your own experiences with chatbots. Sometimes they know the answer or provide us with the link to some tucked away part of the company’s website where you can find a step by step solution to your problem. Sometimes they repeatedly tell you they don’t quite understand – and eventually prompt you to enter your email address.

But for a student, the questions they really want the answers to are ones that robots – no matter how artificially intelligent – can truly answer. 

The questions a chatbot can’t answer

A chatbot will never be able to tell a prospect how it felt to move from India to Oregon to attend college. 

It won’t be able to talk about how difficult it is to balance academics and athletics in the basketball team. 

It can’t talk about the differences between the Business Administration major and the Management major.

A current student, on the other hand, can relate to that prospect and ease their concerns

These are the questions that really impact our decision making, and whether you use chatbots or not you need to make sure your prospective students can reach the people that can provide answers. 

What’s the benefit of chabots for college admissions? 

Chatbots are enquiry management tools, so they help manage the questions that land in your inbox. But they aren’t tools for admissions, enrollment or yield. 

Chatbots are great for providing certain bits of information. Like the dates of application deadlines, links to register for open house, where to submit your FAFSA or even how to apply for housing on campus. 

When it comes to the questions that truly matter in the decision-making process, the questions about how your life will change by attending a specific college, something more is needed. 

Can machines and humans peacefully co-exist?

AI is evolving fast and it’s no wonder that chatbots are all the rage. They are a low-effort, effective way to provide answers quickly. But your website still needs a layer of authenticity: and only a real human voice can provide that. 

If you’ve already got a chatbot – there’s no need to get rid of it! You can add peer-to-peer to your university website in just a couple of clicks. Leave the technical information and the digital wayfinding to your chatbot. Let your students tell their authentic stories. 

St John’s University launched Unibuddy in September 2018. With a high number of enquiries, they complement their use of the platform with a chatbot. The chatbot helps prospective students with those fact based questions like ‘how much is the tuition?’

But it can’t help with the information that drives decision-making. The questions like:

What’s it like transitioning from a small town to New York?

What part of the course do you enjoy most?

Is the program difficult? 

How did you get your internship?

That’s where St John’s team of student ambassadors come in – to answer personal questions and provide authentic information via Unibuddy. 

Corinne Gentile, Director of Enrollment Management Events, emphasised the fact that – while their chatbot is a huge help for enquiry management – it can’t provide the emotive information that drives decision making.”

Corinne said: “Unibuddy provides unparalleled person-to-person connections that an AI bot isn’t capable of performing.”

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