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Colleges Increasingly Give News of Admissions Electronically

Thick envelope or thin one? That's so yesterday.

High school seniors are increasingly getting the word from colleges about their acceptance by phone, email, through the school's website—even by text message.

Ten years ago, 11 percent of colleges notified applicants of admissions decisions with an email message or though the school website. By 2010, a survey shows 37 percent notified by email, 43 percent via a Web portal, 46 percent by phone, and 3 percent with a text, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, based in Arlington, Va. The information will be released in the fall as part of NACAC's 10th anniversary "State of College Admissions" report, which is based on the annual Admission Trends Survey of about 500 four-year colleges and universities.

Colleges and universities are clearly responding to the changing modes of communication with today's students by offering information electronically, says David Hawkins, director of public policy and research for NACAC. Despite the occasional errors in electronic communication, postsecondary institutions have become more comfortable with allowing students running access to the application/admission process, and have found it to be useful in their marketing and communications strategies, he adds.

"As our data suggests, the practice of using electronic means to connect with students and inform them of admission decisions is an established process that seems likely to become more prevalent as personal-communications devices figure more prominently in our lives," says Hawkins.

While communication is trending toward electronics, 99 percent of institutions still mail a traditional letter to the applicant in conjunction with other notification, the NACAC survey found.

Tom Delahunt, vice president for admissions and student financial planning at Drake University in Des Moines and president of the Iowa chapter of NACAC, says he's one of those in the "old school" that only sends admission notification by mail.

"I want them to really be excited," he says. "We can give them so much more through a package." Having a physical piece sitting around the house to leaf through can be a powerful reminder to the student in the decision-making process, he adds. As the electronic options were becoming more popular, Delahunt convened a focus group and found students in the Midwest still preferred the mailed piece.

With teenagers so plugged in to computers and mobile phones, it's not surprising that schools are leaning toward immediate delivery of information. This week many seniors are feverishly swapping emails and checking out college websites for intelligence on the exact hour decisions will be posted.

For those waiting for word by snail mail, many can't wait for the end of the day. How to speed up the process: Text home during the day to see if the mail carrier has dropped off a thick envelope or thin one.

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