User Guide: Graduate Admissions
For this project, my goal was to help prospective students at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) with one of the most intensive tasks they face: applying to a master’s programs. The result is this Admissions Guide, an instructional document and user guide that supports them through each step of the application process.
Following CMUiii’s brand style guidelines, I wrote and designed this piece using Adobe InDesign.
Though similar to other processes, admissions at CMU’s Integrated Innovation Institute is not like any other: It has unique instructions, timelines, and requirements. Despite direct access to information through our website and emails, I noticed that applicants continued to face roadblocks in their admissions journey. Quickly it became clear to me that we needed to reorganize the information within a schema that followed the mindset of the reader: to understand applicants’ pain points and fears while instructing them in the sequence in which they needed the information.
As a first step, I identified ways that an instructional document could address the needs of applicants. By conducting research, I identified the user journey: from learning about our program offerings, to scheduling entrance exams, to checking the status of our final admissions decisions.
For some of these steps, III was the topic expert, serving as the sole source of this information. In others, the information came from several external (and sometimes unknown) sources (For example: requesting university transcripts or establishing a funding plan). Regardless of content sources, I aimed to address the needs of our applicants holistically, laying out the foundation and serving as a go-to resource for every aspect of the process.
I established the applicant schema by employing various techniques of professional and technical writing. Abiding by the scenario principle, I framed the guide to speak directly to applicants in short, action-based prose. By mixing modes, I broke away from traditional text-heavy instruction with visual cues, cutting down on superfluous wording and allowing readers to quickly identify key takeaways for each step. I also added language that reassured prospective students. By giving reassuring signals after certain steps, I was able to affirm their progress and give them confidence that they were on the right track.
To finish the document, I summarized the step-by-step guide with a checklist that can be accessed at any point throughout their application process, enabling multiple pathways to information and giving them a way to use the document as a reading-to-do.
In this project, I wanted to rethink how we support applicants at the Integrated Innovation Institute. Through the iii admissions guide, I hope that this important audience can successfully meet their goals and improve how they interact with our team throughout their admissions journey.