Colleges Turn To E-Acceptance Letters
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Tomorrow is a big day for many high school seniors. At 5 p.m. Eastern, a bunch of colleges and universities will be sending students their admission decisions over the Web. Students will also be getting those thick - or in some cases, thin - envelops in the mail. But school officials say that email and the Internet have become the best way to notify this class of tech-savvy Millennials.
We wanted to know how high school students feel about this, so we checked in with a few from the Washington, D.C., area.
Ms. LIZ KANE(ph) (Student, Stone Ridge Sacred Heart, Maryland): Because we don't really get mail anymore. I think we're kind of living in an age where mail is just kind of like a special invitation to a Sweet 16 or something like that. But mostly, it's emails that we find out about most stuff in our lives.
Mr. ALEX CANJATANO(ph) (Student, Stone Ridge Sacred Heart, Maryland): Compared to having an envelope, you click it and it's just kind of a blank screen for a little bit. And you're just kind of waiting for something to pop up. And then when it does, there's a kind of crazy adrenaline. So...
Unidentified Female: I do like mail a little better. Like, sometimes, I want to wait instead of like - because they say, like, log on and then you can look at your decision. And sometimes, it's more fun to wait for the mail to come.
Mr. PATRICK WHITESELL(ph) (Student, Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C.): Kids were rushing to the computer labs to go check and everyone was around, so that kind of made for an awkward situation for the other kids that didn't get in right away.
Ms. KANE: When it comes down to it, all we want to know is just where we're in and where we're not.
NORRIS: That's Liz Kane and Alex Canjatano, seniors at the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland, and Patrick Whitesell, a senior at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C.
According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, more than a third of all colleges send their decisions over the Web. That's a 61 percent increase over the past five years.
Northeastern University in Boston is one of those schools that sends electronic announcements. David Hautanen is the director of admissions at Northeastern and he joins me now.
Welcome to the program.
Mr. DAVID HAUTANEN (Director, Admissions and Recruitment, Northeastern University): Thank you very much, Michele.
NORRIS: How long has Northeastern been handling acceptances this way, sending out the notices over the Web?
Mr. HAUTANEN: I think based on the information that you just provided, we must have been one of the first to issue decisions in this method. We've been releasing our online decisions since the fall of 2007.
NORRIS: Why did you decide to move in this direction?
Mr. HAUTANEN: For a couple of reasons. First of all, as you heard from the students, this is how we communicate with our students today, and this is how students communicate among each other. This is how we, in fact, communicate among each other. So we thought this is just a logical next step.
NORRIS: Help me understand what these acceptance or rejection letters look like on the Web as compared to what you might receive in the mail.
Mr. HAUTANEN: Well, actually what they see is the exact same thing - at least in Northeastern's case - that they would see should they receive this information in the mail.
The way our process works is that we email the student, telling them that their admission decision is ready, and that they can then access that decision through our application status check. This is the same tool that they have been using all throughout the application process.
When they go into that status check, it does tell them decision and gives them the documents, which are actually PDFs that they can click on, view, and then print out. They look exactly like what they'd receive in the mail.
NORRIS: Any complaints from students about this?
Mr. HAUTANEN: There are a couple. There are some times that, you know, students access the decision alone and then they brought it to their parents that, you know, students and parents, you know, will want to be as thoughtful about how they choose to view the decision, whether they want to do it together, or in fact, the student would do it alone. So it's just another level of thought that a student needs to put into receiving the decision.
You know, and then another, you know, complaint that, you know, is possible is that the students who are not offered admission. Now, of course, that's the decision that students don't want to see. But, you know, that the student, let's say, if they receive that decision, you know, via email, they may feel that it may be less personal than having the opportunity to look at that envelope and seriously consider what that envelope may or may not say when they finally open it.
NORRIS: Mr. Hautanen, are you at all concerned that if you're in a competitive situation, that if you're sending an email and another university is sending a letter on beautifully embossed stationery, that you might be at a disadvantage?
Mr. HAUTANEN: I think maybe five or six years ago, there may have been the difference. But I think today, as I mentioned before, this is how we communicate. I don't think that we're at a disadvantage. I think the speed by which we're able to deliver the decision, the ease at which students are able to access their decision, really makes up a long way for having that envelop and then tearing it open and looking at that particular decision.
But keep in mind, for those students who are admitted, you know, we, like most other institutions, will follow up with a well-prepared, crafted and developed packet of information that is designed to be informative and impressive to both the student and the family.
NORRIS: Sign of the times, I guess.
Mr. HAUTANEN: Absolutely.
NORRIS: Mr. Hautanen, thank you very much.
Mr. HAUTANEN: Thank you.
NORRIS: That was David Hautanen. He is the director of admissions at Northeastern University.
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