Online Inquiry forms… a special place for brevity

Online Inquiry Forms… Long Forms = Fewer Completions

Visiting several higher education websites the last few days inspired this mini-rant.

In the “stealth age” when potential students of all ages explore college and university websites as the first step in picking a school, concern has grown about how to get people to reveal their identities as early as possible. After all, if we don’t know who a potential student is how can we put our carefully crafted recruitment commuications plan into action?

Not enough time is spent on removing barriers to getting an online inquiry. That remedial works starts with using the shortest possible online inquiry form. The evidence is clear: few schools pay attention to that, especially in the not-for-profit sector.

Direct Marketing Maxim: Shorter Forms = More Completions

One marketing maxim known to direct marketers for decades is still true today: the longer you make the form you want people to complete, the fewer people will complete it. Period.

With that in mind, visit your online inquiry page for potential new students now. Look at all the information that is “nice” for the organization to have, but not needed to respond to a simple request for more information about your school. Remove it. 

Here are a few of my special favorites to consider eliminating:

  • High school attended or attending
  • High school code (maybe my all-time favorite)
  • “Where did you hear about us” lists (another favorite)
  • GPA
  • SAT or ACT score
  • Phone number unless it is an integral part of your follow-up plan
  • Athletics interest
  • Other student activity interest areas
  • Year of graduation
  • Ethnic identity, however optional 

All of this information might be nice or necessary for your data files between the time of inquiry and enrollment, but you have plenty of time to collect it later. Don’t put anything on the inquiry form that isn’t needed to respond to the inquiry. Usually, that’s name, email and street address, and program area of interest (if you’re going to address that in the first response.)

Make it Fit “Above the Fold”

This last note: design your form so that a visitor can see the entire form when they first arrive at your web page. That sends the important initial message: “This won’t take long to complete.”

Creighton University Gets It Right

Creighton University knows how to do this right. Visit the Creighton online inquiry form and see a form that would make direct marketers proud.

If you have an online inquiry form as good or better than Creighton’s, let me know with an email to

That’s all for now 


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