Brooke Jackson
Experience Designer

Student Onboarding Applications

Reimagining how new students interact with
and transition to the university

Problem: A disjointed student experience

As a consequence of bureaucratic decisions and excessive IT spend, universities can have multiple, outdated systems and applications that fail to speak to one another.

These systems create a clunky and confusing experience for students, who have to log in to multiple portals with little direction. 

Solution: A single place that guides students in their transition to the university

Our team was created to reimagine the way students experience our university's online applications. 

I was responsible for leading research, brand and style creation, and experience design of two web applications intended for a pilot audience of incoming freshman and transfer students.

Synthesizing data points into an affinity diagram helped us gain visibility to patterns within our qualitative data

Synthesizing data points into an affinity diagram helped us gain visibility to patterns within our qualitative data

Research and Initial Discovery

With limited time, budget, and resources, we conducted focused contextual inquiries with student services employees and current students. 

We identified:

  • Resources students needed in their transition to the university

  • The systems and core processes that occur during a student's transition

  • Opportunities to solve front-end and back-end issues during the student experience

Student Onboarding Applications

Provisional Personas

Our interviews with students made up the bulk of our research. To focus our interviews, we targeted two personas that we needed to design for: freshman and transfer students.

  • Both had similar goals, but differing priorities
  • Freshmen needed a one-stop shop for taking care of logistical things like housing
  • Transfers were more experienced with the processes, but still needed help adjusting


For our minimally viable product, we decided to focus on two opportunities to improve university applicants' experiences:

  1. Provide a way for students to see the status of their application and submitted materials
  2. Improve and refine the ID activation process 

New experience: wireframes and user flow for the ID activation process

New experience: wireframes and user flow for the ID activation process

Student Onboarding Applications

Design Decisions


We wanted our product to have its own brand that wouldn't overtake the brands of the multiple campuses we served. I designed a logo and developed a simple style guide to achieve this.

Design System: Material Design

We used Google's Material Design for its already-built design system in Sketch and ease-of-use for our front-end developers that were using Material-UI React components. 

Validation Testing

We conducted validation testing with over 15 freshmen and transfer students and gathered insights on their experience as a new student.

Student Onboarding Applications

Guided Experience

Students are always directed on where to go and what to do next. Our two applications work together to make sure students understand where they are in their onboarding process.

Student Onboarding Applications

Streamlined ID Activation

Individualized links sent in a welcome email serve as a form of authentication, eliminating unnecessary steps in the activation process such as temporary PINs and social security numbers.

Student Onboarding Applications

Application Tracker

Students can view their checklist to submit the correct materials. Their status changes once their application moves into review and again once the university has made a decision.


Our minimally viable product was presented to university executives to be launched to a pilot group of students in Fall 2019.

While the university did not proceed with immediately funding the project, the team we established continues to advocate and improve digital experiences.