Student Information System Tip of the Month: Creating a “One-Click” Experience with Pre-filling Forms
By: Brian Karcinski, Salesforce Solution Architect, University of Florida
Part of creating a great experience for students at your college or university is by respecting students’ time. One way to do this is by not asking them for the same information over and over again. Imagine if you had to fill out your complete address, phone number, and credit card info whenever you wanted to buy something online… well, your student information system should be as easy to use as one-click ordering. Here are some tips on how you can make your campus technology experience more seamless and maybe even fun to use. And…. this can save you time matching up data, too.
1. Improving the Student Recruiting Experience with Pre-filling Form Data Through The URL
The most basic way to include data in your form is to pass it through the URL. Each form builder may be slightly different, but you start with your form URL as the foundation and build on that to identify the field(s) and values to pass to specific fields in the form. These fields either can be hidden fields on the form or exposed. If you do expose the fields, you would likely want to make them read-only to preserve the data you passed in via the URL. An example of a hidden field would be if you had a recruiting event where you wanted to tie all form submissions to the event. You could have https://recruiting.edu/[Lead_Source]/[ConferenceName], which passes the conference name to a hidden lead source field. Every submission from that URL would now be easily tied to the specific conference.
- Most form builders can accommodate this at no extra cost
- Does not require someone with a technical skill set
- Using the Salesforce templates and merge fields is even more efficient (see option 3 below)
- The URL can get very long if you need to pre-fill many values, and therefore is not scalable
- Depending on the data you want to pre-fill, you will need to consider security
Tools & Guides
Qualtrics URL Pre-filling
Form Assembly URL Pre-filling
Gravity Forms URL Pre-filling
2. Pre-filling Through a Form Connector
When you run into some limitations with pre-filling the URL, it might be time to consider the next level of pre-filling. Using form connectors are a bit more complex and often comes with an extra cost. You can use this to help manage event registrations and cancellations. This can vary from building a custom Visualforce front end to placing a registration button on your website. Each uses a URL that is unique to the event but only requires one form. In the event example, the URL would contain a parameter (campaign ID) that identifies which Salesforce campaign they are signing up for. A pre-filling connector like Form Assembly can then be leveraged to retrieve any fields on the campaign record to display on the form while the attendee signs up. The example of the UF Admissions Events is a Visualforce page displaying two tours (Salesforce Campaigns) per day and all 60 unique URLs push to one form.
- Can tackle more complex projects
- Reduces the number of forms needed for each use case
- Faster for the user: Significantly reduces fields and clicks to complete an action
- Creates a parameter in the form builder and brings back any field on the related object into your form
- Extra cost and complexity to build out
- Needs to coincide with Salesforce data and setup to maximize use
Tools & Guides
3. Improving Campus Tours: Leveraging Salesforce Merge Fields to Pre-fill Forms
Using Salesforce templates and emails in conjunction with the examples above can provide additional functionality and efficiency. A great example of this is cancelling a tour that you have registered for. In the example above the University of Florida receives about 5,000 campus tour cancellations annually, which used to be a manual process for staff. Within the tour confirmation email is a cancellation URL that pre-fills the Salesforce Campaign ID and Campaign Member ID. A Campaign Member Status field is prepopulated so when they click on the cancel URL all they need to do is check the Cancel My Tour box and hit submit. The Form Assembly connector updates their status to cancelled. That’s it!
- Automates processes by leveraging Salesforce to populate a unique URL
- Personalizes notifications using your Salesforce data
- Takes coordination and knowledge of Salesforce merge fields
Tools & Guides
Form Assembly Pre-fill Connector
2 minute video on using pre-fill for admission letters
Colleges and universities today have a lot to manage, from international student demographics, demand for specific skills, retention challenges, and at the same time, and rising student expectations. Fortunately, technology can help create a seamless, personalized experience and drive student success across the life cycle from prospect to alum. For the latest higher ed tech tips, dive in to these handy resources:
- Read more about Integrating WordPress and Salesforce
- Attend the Denver Community Sprint and meet your peers
- If you’re a Salesforce customer, keep the conversation going in the Power of Us Hub groups for System Administrators, HEDA, or Data Quality and Management
About the Author
Brian Karcinski is a Salesforce Solution Architect at the University of Florida (UF) working on the enterprise CRM team. Prior to joining the enterprise org, he spent five years at UF’s College of Pharmacy working to consolidate twelve siloed academic programs onto Salesforce. Brian oversaw the College of Pharmacy’s enrollment management unit which is the first attempt by a college at the University of Florida to run all of their academic programs (Master, Ph.D., Pharm.D.) under a cohesive unit. By leveraging the Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud, the College of Pharmacy is not only improving the student experience, but also streamlining business processes on the backend by eliminating competing technologies.
Prior to working in higher education Brian worked at Fidelity Investments on defined benefit and defined contribution plan administration. He received his undergraduate degree in Business Administration from the University of Florida and is currently working towards is M.Ed. in educational technology. Brian is a Salesforce.com certified administrator, certified platform app builder, and Trailhead Ranger.
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