Written by Kevin Volz.
Lakewood, Ohio’s DecisionDesk is determined to make the college application process easier for both students and higher education institutions. The company’s web-based admissions system introduces a more user-friendly, interactive experience for students, breaking the application process down into smaller parts that incorporate pictures and checklists. For universities, DecisionDesk completely modernizes the application review process, which CEO and co-founder John Knific said is surprisingly archaic.
“One big misconception with the introduction of online applications a few years ago was that the information provided from every student was automatically entered into some university-wide database,” said Knific. “This just isn’t the case. More often each application is printed out and passed around an office for review. It’s very inefficient.”
According to Knific, universities feel pressure to sort through every application. They must make sure admitted students will be a good fit for their school and will not impact retention rates. DecisionDesk gives higher education institutes the time they need to have conversations with applicants and select the very best.
DecisionDesk keeps record of each student’s application and transcript electronically, creating an online folder where the materials live for faculty to review. Students are given access to a dashboard after applying that notifies them when the institution has received their transcript. This drastically reduces the thousands of calls universities receive from prospective students each year about transcript delivery.
125 schools across the country are currently using DecisionDesk, which saves them an average of one to two hours processing time per application. One of the company’s biggest clients is the University of Colorado, which will be processing more than 75,000 applications using DecisionDesk.
The company was awarded a $750,000 Innovation Ohio Loan in 2013. They’ve also worked with several Ohio Third Frontier partners in northeast Ohio, including the North Coast Angel Fund and JumpStart. The North Coast Angel Fund helped the company close its first round of funding within a year of launching in 2010, and JumpStart helped the company hire talent for its growing staff.
“JumpStart has a team of recruiters who are focused on identifying talent and bringing those individuals to northeast Ohio,” said Knific. “As we started to grow, we leaned on them to help identify and conduct initial interviews with potential staff.”
DecisionDesk currently has a team of 26, with the goal of growing to 30 by the end of 2015. The company just launched a new version of its platform that can support major state institutions and is focused on gaining more clients similar in size to the University of Colorado.
Knific is excited by the growth of the startup community in Cleveland, much of which he credits to the state-assisted programs that have been put in place in the region.
“Since starting DecisionDesk five years ago, it has been great to see the steady growth of jobs in startup companies, and the maturing of a strong system of Ohio Third Frontier resources that are in place to help new businesses thrive,” said Knific. “It’s amazing and exciting to see so many companies in the Cleveland area reach the $4 to 5 million revenue mark.”