The Secret Weapon Higher Education is Using to Retain Students

Let’s face the obvious: higher education does not exist without students. And with all the academic, social, athletic, and financial responsibilities included in today’s college experience, keeping those students in school can be tricky. What’s the secret to student retention?

In this edition of AppointmentPlus Live, Scheduling Software Expert Aaron Barkman talks about how universities across the country are using online schedulers to manage the “commodity of time,” and in the process helping students manage valuable campus-wide resources with the click of a button.

Check out his talk via stream or in our complete transcript below. You’ll learn:

  • If appointment scheduling software is a good fit for your school, then nearly everything about the application is scalable and customizable, from the billing plan to features offered.
  • Adopting online scheduling software on a large-scale basis can be an intimidating prospect. Aaron assures higher education admins that “at AP we pride ourselves in is how high-nurture our process is.”
  • It’s no surprise that today’s college students aren’t leaving the house without a cell phone, which is why setting up your scheduling software to include SMS appointment reminders is such a user-friendly feature.




Kendall: Hi friends, it’s Kendall Matthews. I’m the Vice President of Global Marketing and Communications [at AppointmentPlus], and I have my good friend Aaron Barkman with us. He’s one of our scheduling software consultants.

Aaron: Thanks for having me.

Kendall: We’ve had a bunch of questions come in this week about education and teachers, and how Appointment Plus [online scheduling] software affects [the higher education] industry. So I asked Aaron if he was able to offer some of his knowledge, because you’ve been with AppointmentPlus how long?

Aaron: Almost four years, four years in September. It’s going by quick, too.

Kendall: So since you’ve been with us so long, what is appointment scheduling software? Is it one thing for one company or one person and what is it to you?

Aaron: [Appointment scheduling software] is unique within each vertical; everyone has their own zone requirements or processes they’re trying to support.

Scheduling software is adding structure to [your scheduling], adding efficiencies to it and taking the staff out of it (or a good percentage of it).

[Without an online scheduler], you spend so much time on the back and forth [of making appointments], getting everything into alignment, making sure it will fit with your availability, that it eats up the time you have to take care of all of those appointments, your job, everything you were hired to do.

Scheduling software gives you a more efficient way to put that into the public space, whatever your service population is. In this case [we’re talking about] education. We put these rules in place on the back end [of the software], and you’re just doing what you need to do to make sure that at the end of the day it was accomplished while saving time, giving you peace of mind.

You’re basically dealing with the commodity of time. That’s what we like to say, because in the end it’s the one thing you never get back and the most valuable resource you have.

[RELATED]: 3 Tips for Improving College Student Retention


Kendall: When you talk about rules, what is that specifically?

Aaron: [For example, in higher education], a good example is going to be the advising office. When it comes to dealing with your advisers, it’s the same thing I dealt with [as a student] in college: making sure you get in [to see your advisor] in a reasonable amount of time, so that you can work with them to better your experience, education, everything like that.

When it comes to advisers, the way [AppointmentPlus] helps them is that rather than deal with Outlook or emailing back and forth just to make sure the student can get in, we’re putting these [scheduling] rules in place.

[The scheduling rules work like this]: You have your calendar, and let’s say you have four different advisors. Everyone has their own unique availability, and maybe they work with different majors. Or different classes, freshman, sophomore, junior, etc.

Kendall: And any way they want to [set up their scheduling], we can do it?

Aaron: Exactly. We have ways to capture certain information so they can service these students: first name, last name, email, who they are, student ID, adding notes so we can track progress throughout the semester.

[As a result, the advisors] know exactly how to treat each individual with a tighter, more close knit relationship.

Kendall: So with these relationships you have with people in the education space, what are some of the best practices, or questions, that they should ask but don’t?

Aaron: Let’s see…how do they get [to a point of scheduling proficiency], that’s one of the main concerns.

Because [all their scheduling had been done manually] up to this point, and that’s where you become more deficient, because you have to handhold the process.

Going back to the rules, once we get that defined, we can [create] a student landing page, and it’s almost a set it and forget it scenario, whether we put it on a department website or we’re just emailing it out to the contacts that we know we need .

AppointmentPlus gives [our clients] a landing page to [handle scheduling] from start to finish, from Point A to Point B, in the most intuitive and simplistic way, so that way the advisors know that [appointments were] scheduled properly and know what to expect based on the information gathered.

Kendall: So if you put [the online scheduler] on a landing page, was does that typically look like for educators or universities?

Aaron: We generally like to brand it as the institution or the school’s department specifically, so that [students] know they are not in the wrong area. [On the landing page] there are a series of drop downs that allow the student to select whatever their unique identifier is. Maybe it’s the reason for the visit or it’s a subject focus.

[The student will] grab that from the drop down menu, and based off of that selection, [choose] a date that’s available for that individual or advisors who can handle that type of appointment.

The next step is to capture the necessary registration info for this appointment to take place. From there, we’re making sure the student doesn’t forget. They get a confirmation email and series of reminders to make sure we are eliminating no shows and everything is more likely to come to fruition.

Kendall: You talk about reminders and emails. Is there any other way they get them? Text reminders as well?

Aaron: There’s a series of notifications [available], and by default [the scheduler] is going to send email notifications. That’s where you get some of the more dynamic information.

But knowing how people [operate] now, [we know] the one thing they won’t leave the house without is a cell phone. So we give the students the opportunity to opt into an SMS text reminder as well. Within a couple hours of their appointment, they are reminded of the commitment they already made. That way they get there on time.


Kendall: Does the size of the college or university matter?

Aaron: We deal with all kinds of use cases. I’ve dealt with very small departments with a couple of advisors, to very large institutions like the University of Georgia. We’re very scalable. That’s what sets us apart. [The scheduling possibilities are] essentially limitless.

Kendall: One thing you talked about was the investment in scheduling software. I know universities go through their budgeting twice a year. What does that look like?

Aaron: Good question. A lot of the time, we like to plan around the semester. Because when the semester is in full stride, that’s when you don’t have a lot of time to research and make sure [the scheduling software] is going to be in alignment.

So [often we time setting up a school’s online scheduler] on July 1 or January 1, depending on the institution, to make sure it’s the right fit.

Kendall: [Are schools able to finance their subscription with] annual payments?

Aaron: Generally, we like to do annual billing with higher education because of how limited the budget is. We want to make sure it will last you through the full year.

That way, accounting is easy. We know that [online scheduling] is accounted for, there is no credit card to worry about, no month to month, we just set it in place and that commitment is for the full year so you can grow into it.

The greater your understanding, the more you know. You might want to adjust it further, and that’s where we can work with you as that use case develops.

[At AppointmentPlus] we pride ourselves in how high-nurture our process is, with qualifications, understanding the requirements, and making sure with confidence we’re telling you honestly that this is going to be a great fit for you.


Kendall: Outside of academic advisors, are any other use cases available at universities?

Aaron: Sure. It’s basically a good fit anywhere there is a service to be provided and time is a focus. So tutoring centers, RA exit interviews, it’s really one of those things where if it needs to be planned, more often than not [online scheduling] will be a great fit.

Kendall: Is it also available for the whole university, or just departments?

Aaron: It could be. If we want to make it campus-wide, we can string it up on the entire campus and focus on each unique use case or department [individually]. That way it functions and flows for each individual the way it needs to, while still being under the umbrella of the school.



AppointmentPlus Marketing Team

AppointmentPlus Marketing Team - 62 posts

The AppointmentPlus Marketing Team researches and writes about the latest scheduling best practices, time management tips, business productivity information, tech trend insights, customer experience news, and more.

Higher Education, Tech Trends