Graduate Admissions System

SGS Slate Implementation – Frequently Asked Questions

About Slate, Project Management and Leadership

Slate is a customer relationship management (CRM) system built specifically for higher education. Slate offers a single platform for recruitment (e.g. email campaigns and events), admissions (e.g. application form, interview process, application decisions) and other general functionality such as reporting.

The School of Graduate Studies (SGS) at the University of Toronto is implementing a single instance of Slate to be shared by all graduate units. Because of the decentralized nature of graduate admissions at the University of Toronto, much of the functionality within Slate will be customized for each unit. However, there will be an overarching, SGS-wide data structure to ensure the integrity of the system.

SGS has partnered with a higher education consulting firm, Kennedy & Company, for the implementation of Slate. Kennedy & Co. is leading the design and configuration of the Slate CRM system. As part of the implementation project, Kennedy & Co. will be training SGS administrators and users from all graduate units on how to use the system.

SGS’s priority is to implement the Slate-hosted admissions application and Slate’s application review tool, Reader.

If you are interested in using Slate beyond the graduate admissions functionality, please contact Brian Desrosiers-Tam.

Slate is replacing the SGS online admissions application system (OAA). Slate will also allow graduate units to retire supplemental application forms or documents that they were collecting via PDF, email, or Word document. Supplemental application forms can now be collected in Slate. Slate is not replacing ROSI, which will continue to be the system of record for enrolled students.

Early in 2020, SGS completed a Graduate Admissions Process (GAP) Review project. This project collected the requirements from graduate divisions for a central admissions CRM system to replace the current OAA system. As a result of this review, two pathways were identified as possible next steps: enhance the existing system with in-house development or implement an off-the-shelf solution for the School of Graduate Studies. SGS elected to implement an off-the-shelf solution and selected the Slate CRM, leveraging the University’s own experience at deploying the CRM at the undergraduate level. 

Slate will benefit individual graduate units in various ways. First, all existing OAA data will continue to be collected in the Slate application. But within Slate, all units can also add a custom application page with specific, supplemental questions they would like to ask applicants directly within the application form. The system will also require less maintenance from admins in terms of uploading, updating, or tracking application documents and materials. Applicants can upload these themselves and view a checklist of their outstanding items.

For application reviewers, the process is drastically improved, as all application data and documents are available in a single interface and grad admins do not need to download and manually handoff files to reviewers. Instead, reviewers can be assigned directly within the system and then will login to access those applications.In future enhancements to the CRM, units can also build out further customization that they need, such as email communications.

Slate will benefit applicants in multiple ways. First and foremost it is a tool that is accessible and is mobile friendly. The application process will be more streamlined for applicants, as fewer units will need to host separate, supplemental applications since those can now be built directly into the Slate online application. Applicants will also benefit from a robust decision release process: Once decisions are ultimately released, applicants are instructed to visit their applicant status portal in order to authenticate themselves prior to viewing their decision letter.

Implementation Process and Timelines

The planned implementation timeline will have all units opening their Fall 2022 application within Slate starting in September 2021. All subsequent application terms will open in Slate, and all application reviews for the 2022-23 academic year will occur in the new system.

SGS will ensure that there is clear messaging on the SGS website and the OAA to redirect applicants to Slate as part of the transition to this new system. We will continue to communicate with graduate units so that you can update your own communications as needed.

Yes. The Slate application will include all of the same fields that were previously asked on the OAA as a base application for all units. Beyond this, Kennedy & Co. will work with each graduate unit to build additional customized application page(s) with unit-specific questions that previously would have been collected outside of the OAA.

Yes. Kennedy & Co. will work with each graduate unit to compile a checklist of required application materials (above and beyond the standard SGS required materials) and will build these requirements into the Slate application process.

Kennedy & Co. will meet with each graduate unit individually to map out the unit’s existing application review processes for all programs. From there, the current processes will be reviewed for any process improvements and minor adjustments may be made in order to leverage Slate functionality.

Admission Application Functionality

Yes. Slate is integrated with Moneris, UofT’s existing payment processing tool. Therefore the application fee payment will be initiated from within Slate, and the payment status will be visible on the applicant’s Slate application portal.

Similar to the OAA process, once the applicant selects “Submit Application,” they will not be able to edit their application responses. They will be able to edit their referee information, send their referee a reminder email, or exclude them from consideration. If the student excludes a referee, they will need to add another referee to satisfy the number of required referees.

On an applicant’s record, there is a field that graduate unit administrators can toggle to “Yes” to allow a student to bypass the application deadline they have set within the system. This is done on a per-application basis.

Application open dates and deadlines will be set up at the beginning of each admission cycle in a collaborative process between graduate administrators and the SGS Slate Administrator. If graduate units need to change the deadlines mid-cycle, they will work with the SGS Slate Administrator to make these updates.

Once an applicant enters their referees’ information, an email will be sent directly to the referee with a unique system-generated link to access the referee page. Within this page, referees will see either the unit’s customized referee form or a simple option to upload a reference letter if the unit does not use a form. 

Applicants will be able to upload required materials directly into their Slate application status page in order to check the requirements off of the application checklist. Applicants will be able to submit unofficial transcripts within the application itself as well as on the Slate application status page. If official transcripts are required for an application to be reviewed, the graduate unit’s admissions team will need to upload the official transcript into the student’s file. Once the system sees that an official transcript has been received, the file will move to the appropriate status for review.

Slate’s application review tool is called Reader. Within the Reader interface, graduate administrators will be able to track which application files are complete, check them for completion and assign them to reviewers or make the files available for reviewers to browse.

If applications are assigned directly to a reviewer, the reviewer will receive a daily email notification that they have application files in their queue. The reviewer will access Reader to view the files in their queue. From within an application file, reviewers can see all application materials (including supplemental checklist requirements) and can complete their review form and move the file to the next step of the review workflow.

Each review process is customized with the graduate units to ensure the reviewers have access to the appropriate files and that the files route to the next step of the review process correctly after each review.

Other Functionality

Yes, application files can be downloaded as a PDF from within Reader.

The Reader does have some filtering capabilities that reviewers will be able to use.

Yes. As part of the current review process mapping sessions, Kennedy & Co. will document which files are assigned to which reviewers and, where possible, will build rules to automate these assignments in Slate. 

Once an application has moved through the complete review process and received a decision, graduate administrators will place the decision letters created in ROSI and saved in ROSI Files within the decision in Slate. Then, the graduate administrators will release the decision (in batch or individually) to the applicant. This will trigger an email notification to the applicant that they have a decision on their application which can be viewed in their applicant status page. They will login to their Slate application page to view the decision letter.

Until the ROSI integration is fully implemented, application decisions will be recorded manually in ROSI as they are currently. Decision letters will still be generated from ROSI and will need to be placed within the applicant’s files/decisions to release them to their application status page for secure online viewing by the student.

Along with the decision letter, applicants will see a reply form in their Slate applicant status page with the options to accept or decline the offer of admission. Graduate administrators will then have access to the post-decision workflow within Slate to view these reply forms and take the appropriate steps for decision placement and candidacy status code updates in ROSI. Once the ROSI integration is fully implemented, applicant responses will be automatically imported from Slate into ROSI.

No, applicants will continue to pay their admission deposits in ACORN. 

Certain application updates can be done in batch using the query functionality in Slate.

Integration with other Systems

Yes. As part of the implementation phase of the project, Kennedy & Co. is working with SGS and EASI to configure an automated integration between Slate and ROSI so that application data is automatically imported from Slate into ROSI on a daily schedule.

Slate does have integration capabilities with other tools, and these may be configured as part of the implementation depending on units’ requirements for application review. Additional integrations may be set up later on a case by case basis, as determined by SGS.

Reporting

As part of the implementation and related training, Kennedy & Co. will build a series of standard queries for each unit, including a funnel report and specific application status queries. Additional queries and reports may be built by users within each unit who have completed Slate training on the query tool.

Post-implementation Training and Support

Kennedy & Co. will provide initial training prior to go-live at the end of Summer 2021. There will be separate training sessions for administrators/other power users and the application reviewers. These trainings will cover the specific processes for collecting, processing, reviewing, and releasing decisions on applications, as well as related functionality such as running an application query.

As SGS forms a Slate administrator team, Kennedy & Co. will work with those individuals to provide additional focused training sessions to the units to further expand their knowledge of the tool.

If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact Maggie Murphy, Manager, Kennedy & Company at mmurphy@kennedyandcompany.com or Brian Desrosiers-Tam, Assistant Dean, School of Graduate Studies at brian.desrosierstam@utoronto.ca.