The 8 Parts of A Student Registration System

Chapter 1

Registering students might sound simple, but it’s actually a complex process with multiple moving parts. You need a way to collect and organize student information as well as process payments. But that’s only a small part of what a student registration system should do. 

Before students can register, they need to know your classes exist. After they register, you need to provide useful information and hopefully convince them to take even more classes. 

To do all this, you need a student registration system. Whether you assemble one yourself using free tools or invest in a time-saving all-in-one solution, your system will need eight parts to meet the needs of your students and your program. 

8 Essential Parts of a Student Registration System

  1. Course Catalog
  2. Registration Forms
  3. Payment Processing
  4. Communication Tools
  5. Student Portal
  6. Security and Data Protection
  7. Tech Support
  8. Reports

Leave out even one of these parts and your system won’t work well and either students or staff will end up frustrated. By contrast, when all these parts work together, you have a robust system that efficiently registers students and supports their satisfaction.

Key TakeAway
An effective student registration system includes 8 essential parts. Make sure yours has all of them.

What is a Student Registration System?

Chapter 2

A student registration system is a software solution that helps you tackle every part of the discovery, enrollment, and engagement process. At its best, this system makes registration simple for students while freeing your staff to focus on other parts of their jobs. It automates as much of the process as possible while capturing all of the information you need to provide a positive experience to students.

Why Use a Student Registration System: 

  • It’s efficient
    Data moves through the system on its own. Nobody has to waste time on the phone, organizing paper files, or changing class rosters by hand. Your student and class data is stored in one centralized location and can easily be updated. So is payment status and all the forms that students need to fill out before taking a class. You can export data into reports to make informed choices about your classes and program.
  • It comes with support
    The best student registration software comes with built-in tech support. You or your students can call on an expert to help solve issues and make sure the software runs as expected. You can’t do that with an Excel spreadsheet. Plus, upgrades and enhancements roll out without you having to lift a finger.
  • Data is cloud-based and centralized
    No more storing student data on a spreadsheet tied to one person’s computer. A student registration system gives you multiple secure log-ons so that everyone who needs access to the data can view and edit it. That includes administrators, office staff, and instructors whether they’re working in the office or remotely.
  • No. Data. Entry.
    This might fall under the efficiency category, but it’s worth highlighting. With student registration software your students input their own information. You won’t need staff members to enter the same data in multiple places. The best systems include user profiles so students can register for more classes with the click of a button, which means even they don’t have to double-enter data.
  • Students can serve themselves
    Cloud based registration software is available 24-hours a day and seven days a week. If your student wakes up at 3 a.m. on Christmas day and wants to register for a class, they can!

Where is the room for improvement?

To find, or build, the right student registration system for your program, start by figuring out where there’s room to improve. Consider the bottlenecks in your current system. 

Ask yourself: 

  • What are the most time-intensive parts of our current process? 
  • How long does it take you to register each student? 
  • When does communication tend to break down? 
  • What do students complain about? 
  • Where do you have to enter data more than once?

Understanding where your current system isn’t serving you or your students can help you compare your options to find one that does.

Key TakeAway
Start your search for an integrated student registration system by getting clear on where there’s room for improvement.

Your Course Catalog - Discovery

Chapter 3

You might not think of your course catalog as part of your marketing efforts, but students can’t sign up for classes they don’t know about. Think of your course catalog as the display window of your program. If students see something they like, they’ll come in and take a closer look.

Organize your offerings

Some students will have a print version of your catalog and know exactly what class they’re looking for. Others will have an idea of what they want to learn, but may need more information before they’re ready to register. Organize your offerings in ways that appeal to both types of learners.

For students who know what they want: Make your courses searchable

Include a search button on the homepage of your website and anywhere else you talk about courses. This will allow students to directly search for the course or subject they’re looking for.

For students who are browsing: Group similar courses

Organize your courses into categories and subcategories so they can easily find the subjects they might be interested in.

  • Example Categories: business & skills training, computers & technology, enrichment, arts and performance
  • Example Subcategories: cooking, photography, painting

You can also add categories or subcategories that filter classes by time of day, age group, format, and more. Tagging a class with these categories and subcategories can help students find options that best meet their needs.

Show off your best courses

Think about how you’ll feature new or unique classes. You might want a customizable “featured classes” or spotlight section that you can display prominently to help students discover these courses.

Optimize Course Listings

Optimize every listing on your course catalog to make sure it’s interesting, descriptive, and helps the student envision the result of taking your course. It should include all the details of when and where the class will take place, who is teaching, and what students will learn. 

Make sure to include a call to action. Your call to action tells students what you want them to do next. You can use one of these to point students in the right direction:

  • Register here
  • Sign up now
  • Save your seat
  • Get tickets

Every class description should include a registration button. It should take students directly to the registration form that they can fill out online. This is where your course catalog integrates with the rest of your student registration system.

Registration Forms - Enrollment

Chapter 4

Registration forms are the core of any successful student registration system. This is where you gather all the information you need to register a student. It’s also an opportunity to share information about class requirements, refund policy, or expectations. 

At a minimum, your registration forms should collect: 

  • First and last name of the student
  • Email address
  • Phone number

And they should share: 

  • Terms of service

But those details are just the beginning. With custom forms, you can collect and share even more information.

What to Include on Custom Forms

Custom forms help you go beyond the basics to gather or share information relevant to a specific class. Yours might: 

  • Ask students to acknowledge that they’ve read the terms and conditions
  • Share general program expectations
  • Outline safety instructions
  • Detail cancellation and refund policies
  • Tell students which supplies are included
  • Allow students to modify class options
  • Collect sensitive information like date of birth or health-related details

With CourseStorm, it’s easy to customize registration forms for individual classes or class categories.

You can use registration forms to list pricing information, get consent and share terms of use, or even give students opportunities to provide feedback on their experience so far.

Save Time for Staff and Students

Ideally, when a first-time student registers for one of your courses, the system will create a user profile for them. With a well-integrated student registration system, the data entered into the registration form is automatically stored in the student’s profile. You’ll be able to use it for payment processing, student communication, and support. More on that a little later.

Key TakeAway
Registration forms gather student information and share essential details about your program. Students and staff should save time by having to enter data only once.

Payment Processing - Transaction

Chapter 5

For many programs, payment processing is where the registration system breaks down. Even if they can take payments online, the payment processor doesn’t interact with their record keeping software. Someone has to manually apply payments to each student’s account. Or, if the initial payment is recorded, events like refunds, cancelations, and discounts might need to be managed separately. 

This doesn’t just take time, it also creates opportunities for errors to creep in. Using a built-in online payment processor makes your system more efficient. 

Look for one that: 

  • Integrates seamlessly with your student registration system
  • Is likely to be recognized and trusted by students
  • Encrypts both transactions and stored data

Popular payment processors include Stripe,, and Paypal. Processors typically charge both a percentage fee as well as a flat fee on each transaction. Taken together, these fees typically amount to 3-3.5% of every credit card charge. Check for setup fees and contracts, too, so you know exactly how much it will cost you. 

Secure Payment Processing

Many people worry about security online, but an encrypted online transaction is likely to be much more secure than a paper-based one. Storing unsecured credit card numbers on paper is risky and discouraged by payment processing security standards.

Online transactions: 

  • Are encrypted to protect identity and payment information
  • Make it easy to restrict access to authorized users
  • Require no paper files that need to be locked away

Letting students pay online doesn’t just streamline your process. It also offers an extra layer of security. 

Offering Payment Plans

Payment plans help you make big-ticket courses more accessible for students. Unfortunately, managing payment plans can be a challenge. Keeping track of who paid what, when payments are due, and which ones are overdue can be a logistical nightmare—unless you automate it. 

The best student registration systems include automated payment plans that can adjust based on the needs of the student. Data we’ve collected from more than 1 million registrations shows that 31% of students will take advantage of a payment plan when it’s offered.

If your system offers payment plans, you should be able to: 

  • Turn them on or off on a class-by-class basis
  • Giving students the option to pay in full or over time
  • Automatically calculate the amount of each payment
  • Charge the student’s credit card on the due date

If you need to know who has paid and who hasn’t, you can tell with a glance at the student’s profile.

Other Payment Options

What if you still want to take checks and cash payments? Students might want to register now online and pay later in person. 

A robust student registration system can help you with that as well. Whether students mail a check, bring cash to the office, or give you their credit card over the phone, you can enter the payment into your student registration system so all payment records are in one place. 

Key TakeAway
Built-in payment software is more efficient and secure than other ways of handling student transactions.

Communication Tools - Engagement

Chapter 6

Communication tools for engagement are an often-overlooked part of your student registration system. To offer students a five-star experience, you need to keep engaging after the registration is complete. 

A quality student registration system should offer built-in communication tools or integrate with an email marketing service like MailChimp or Constant Contact. Ideally, the system should automatically send emails to students that: 

  • Confirm that the student is registered
  • Let them know if any further action should be taken
  • Share additional info about safety/materials/release forms, etc.
  • Send reminders about upcoming classes
  • Send info about new classes customized to student interests

Personalized recommendations keep students engaged, without adding any additional work for you. If you have access to this technology, use it! If you don’t, you can still send students class recommendations, it might just take a little extra work to plan who gets which emails.

Key TakeAway
Automate as many email communications as possible by using an email service that fully integrates with your registration software.

Student Portal - Interaction

Chapter 7

Your communication tools help you share information with students, but a student portal allows them to access the information themselves. When a student registers, your student registration system should automatically create a profile for them. That way, when they return to register for another course, their information is already loaded.

Portals enable students to:  

  • See the classes they’ve signed up for
  • Request refunds or scheduling changes
  • Keep track of payments and payment plans
  • Securely store credit card or banking information
  • Sign up for more classes
  • Update their contact information
Key TakeAway
A student portal gives students control over their own information to minimize support calls and improve their experience.

Security and Data Protection - Trust

Chapter 8

Although your security and data protection measures work mostly in the background, they’re still an essential part of your student registration system. In fact, students are becoming more aware and concerned about how their data is used and stored.

Security isn’t something you can handle on your own. You need the help of trusted partners including your webhost, registration software provider, and payment processor. A few website security best practices can help steer things in the right direction. Remember, your student registration system is only as secure as the weakest link in that chain. 

Before partnering with any service provider that handles data, ask about:

  • How they encrypt data
  • Whether their sites have security certificates (SSL)
  • Who handles backups
  • What type of security they have in place
  • How long they’ve been in business

Anyone who handles credit card payments should be PCI compliant. That means they follow the guidelines of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. 

If possible, look around for reviews and recommendations. Try to talk to a few of their other partners to learn about their experience. 

Key TakeAway
Your system is only as secure as your weakest partner. Make sure everyone you work with is following strong security guidelines.

Tech Support - Help

Chapter 9

A good student registration system is intuitive, but students and staff may still need help. That’s why tech support is an essential part of your student registration system. 

Ask your registration software provider: 

  • Do they offer tech support?
  • Does it cost extra?
  • What kind of support do they offer? (phone, email, chat)
  • Who can access tech support? (students, admins, instructors)
  • What kinds of tech support issues are most common?
  • During what hours is tech support offered?
  • Where is their support team located?

Staff and instructors should be able to reach out to tech support for help with anything related to the software. When they do so, they shouldn’t get a bot or someone reading from a script. They should get real help from a real person who knows the software. 

Seek Out the Help Library

Just as many students prefer self-service when registering for classes, they may also prefer self-service tech support. Take a look at the Help Library or FAQ section of your registration system. You should find useful guidance on relevant topics. Make sure the answers are clear and easy to understand.  

If you’re building your own registration system from multiple tools, you should write your own support guide for students and staff. The up-front time investment will pay off when you don’t have to answer the same question dozens of times every week.

Key TakeAway
Ask questions to make sure you’re getting useful tech support from real people.

Reports - Decision Making

Chapter 10

Every time a student registers for a class, you’re also gathering data about what students want and need. You should use the information to make your program better. 

Each registration is a vote in favor of a class being interesting, valuable, and well-timed. If a class regularly sells out, or better yet, has a waiting list, you might consider offering it more often. Courses that tend to be under attended may need a low enrollment intervention. Reports help you figure out which courses fit these categories and reveal other insights about your program.

4 Types of Reports from a Student Registration System and How to Use Them

  • Student rosters - this everyday user report helps instructors keep track of who is enrolled in each class. You can also tell whether students have paid or not.
  • Class performance - Take a look at registration numbers for different classes to find out which ones fill up fast, and whether any have been canceled due to low interest. This helps you decide what courses to add to your catalog and which might need to be removed.
  • Demographics - Take a look at who is signing up for your classes. Depending on what info you’re collecting on your custom registration forms, you may have age, location, or other demographic information about students. You can use this to determine where and how to promote classes.
  • Payments - Who has paid and who hasn’t? When will the money hit your account? Payment reports can answer those questions and more.

Ideally, reports should export in a format that’s easy to work with. A PDF may look nice, but it’s hard to edit. Exports into Excel or other database programs are more versatile. 

Key TakeAway
Consider which reports you need and in what format they can be exported.

What about integrations?

Chapter 11

Some programs struggle along by cobbling together multiple free tools to build a system that includes most of these parts. The trade-off is time. Because free tools are rarely designed to talk to each other, someone has to spend time reentering the same data in several places. That’s time that would be better spent building relationships with learners and promoting your program. 

Most programs find that an all-in-one class registration and payment software solution makes registration easier for students and staff. That’s not to say that you can’t use integrations to your advantage. For example, arts programs often want to integrate their student registration and patron management systems. 

Similarly, many student registration systems integrate with email marketing tools like MailChimp or ConstantContact. Using these integrations, programs can build an email list and send out marketing messages.

The point is that registration is most efficient when the eight essential parts are handled by one robust piece of software. Integrations should provide a way to enhance your system, not attempt to create one from disconnected parts.


Chapter 12

The right student registration system can make a big difference for your program and its students. It should include all eight essential elements: 

  1. Course catalog for discovery
  2. Registration forms for enrollment
  3. Payment processing for transaction management
  4. Communication tools for engagement
  5. Student portal for interaction
  6. Security and data protection for trust building
  7. Tech support for helping
  8. Reports for decision making

All of these elements should integrate easily to maximize student satisfaction and save time for your staff. If you’re looking for an alternative to your current student registration system, we invite you to try CourseStorm. Start your free trial today.

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