Simplify, Simplify, Simplify with Collegewise Asia

Like so many fledgling businesses, Collegewise started in an apartment. Founded in California in 1999, Collegewise is now America’s largest college counselling organization — and they have even bigger plans for Asia.

As Managing Director of Collegewise Asia, there’s a lot on Justin’s plate. He’s responsible for ensuring everything goes smoothly, from student experience to sales quotas to counselor performance. As his team grows, so does his need for efficiency.

The old method was a nested system of spreadsheets on Google Sheets with a master spreadsheet of all students and counselors assigned to them. Each individual counselor then had a spreadsheet of all their students, plus a spreadsheet for each individual student with tabs for essays, CCAs, and grades.

The biggest problem with this system, however, wasn’t just that it was slow and inefficient — it was also how distracting it was. When you’re jumping from tab to tab, your brain releases dopamine receptors giving you the impression that you’re being more productive. Your brain, however, isn’t actually processing all of these things — it’s frantically jumping from focus point to focus point (called spotlights), desperately trying to dial in on one item at a time in rapid succession.

Multitasking makes you less productive, not more. #edtech #productivity Click To Tweet

Bouncing between tabs, checking phones, typing an email here and there… everyone does it, but it’s not a good method of getting things done. Doing several things at once is a trick we play on ourselves to pretend we’re being productive. In reality, our productivity goes down by as much as 40%. Nobody actually multi-tasks — we switch tasks.

When Collegewise Asia started using Cialfo, it put an end to the multi-tasking. Instead of the outdated web of spreadsheets, the team now uses Cialfo as a student management platform – reducing distractions as well as time spent hunting down a piece of information.  

“I had to have two spreadsheets open all the time,” Justin admits. “Someone on my team says she’s highlighted a particular student because his grades are bad and he hasn’t done his essays. Alright, now I’m gonna go open up this spreadsheet and look at his grades. Then I’m gonna open up Dropbox and look at his essays. That takes me — half an hour? Now it’d take me five minutes.”

Reducing scheduling woes

Finding a time that’s good for both counselors and students often turns into a bad game of email tag. It often takes more time to set up a meeting than the meeting itself.

  1. What days are good for you?
  2. How about Tuesday or Wednesdays?
  3. Okay, how about Tuesday at 6pm?
  4. Oh, sorry, I have something on Tuesday 6pm. How about Wednesday at 3pm?
  5. No, that won’t work — how does next week sound to you?
  6. Next week is fine.
  7. Okay, I’ll get back to you next week with my schedule.

And so on and so forth.

So Collegewise Asia moved to Cialfo’s Meetings and Tasks features, streamlining scheduling to two steps. “For emails, for scheduling — what would maybe take me two days to go back and forth on emails, I can do that now in two seconds,” Justin says. “You propose, I reject, you propose, I accept.”

Bring the rest of the team on board

But Justin wanted efficiency to extend to the entire team. At Collegewise Asia, everybody uses Cialfo — from the college counselors to the sales representatives — on every platform: web or mobile.

By the time a student approaches an education consultant, they have enough on their plate. To get to that first meeting faster, the sales team sets up an account for the student on Cialfo, triggering a welcome email and notifying counselors that they have a new student. The sales representative then imports information they’ve learnt about the student — grades, CCAs, and dream schools. This, alongside a tailored questionnaire, is used to prepare better for that important first meeting.

Another Cialfo feature used heavily by the counselling team is Essay Prompts. Instead of a spreadsheet listing all essay prompts or searching each college’s website for updated prompts, the Collegewise Asia counselors now use Essay Prompts on Cialfo. Not only is it much faster and convenient for the counselors, but easier for students to check as well.

Look ahead with data-driven growth

With a 40% growth target by the next year, Justin has to make sure the entire team is performing while balancing their workload. To measure team productivity, he uses Cialfo’s Status Tracker to see where counselors are at with their students. If a counselor has several students behind on their essays, it’s clearly marked on the Status Tracker and he can ask about it.

Cialfo Status Tracker

“I don’t have to micro-manage,” he says. “I can see a top-level view of how my students are doing, and how my counselors are performing.”

Remember your core values

Maintaining quality of service, ensuring students are getting into the schools that are best for them, making sure counselors have an appropriate workload so quality doesn’t suffer… these are all problems Collegewise Asia will face as they expand their presence in Asia.

Justin’s biggest challenge, however, is in overpromising. Many parents want hard-and-fast guarantees about their chances of getting into a particular college, and a fact of college admissions is that guarantees are impossible. How does he ease worries while maintaining expectations?

“It will never be 100%, but if you have enough statistical data, you can give as accurate of an answer as you possibly could.”

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