Admissions plan gets mixed reviews

Inside the Yale admissions office, administrators are excited about a Web site that will announce admissions decisions online. But outside, not everyone shares their enthusiasm.

Some admissions directors at other elite universities were congratulatory about Yale’s innovative project, but said Monday they have no similar plans for their schools. Many directors, however, are away from their campuses on recruitment trips and have not yet heard about last week’s announcement.

“I’m shaking my head not in disapproval, but in surprise,” said Marlyn McGrath Lewis, Harvard’s director of admissions.

Admissions Web Designer Nathan Gault and YaleStation.org founder Alexander Clark ’04 are in the early stages of building a new Web site that will supplement, not replace, standard decision letters to the Class of 2006.

But online notification would be available days, and possibly weeks, before letters hit mailboxes around the world.

Lewis said despite delays caused by ongoing anthrax scares, she still trusts the postal system to deliver Harvard’s admissions decisions.

“We certainly have no plans to [go online] in the foreseeable future,” she said. “But good for Yale. It’s wonderful.”

But Jeffrey Orleans, the executive director of the Ivy League said any time an institution makes technological improvements, other universities typically follow suit.

Orleans said he did not know whether this particular change will be for the better or worse.

“I’m trying to puzzle through it, and I can’t,” he said.

Orleans said the project, which will allow applicants to be less dependent on physical mail, answers many concerns brought forth by recent anthrax scares. But he added he hopes Yale’s decision was based on long term considerations.

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Richard Shaw said the project was conceived before anthrax concerns arose.

Orleans, like many applicants, said that his main concern is that a computer screen will be less personal than a tangible envelope.

Early decision applicant William Powell said he worries that an online response will be less personal than an “old fashioned letter” and might ruin some of his excitement should he be accepted.

But Powell said having the option to retrieve his decision online is great nevertheless, especially since it might take the letter a while to reach his home in Laurel, Miss.

Meghan Pearl, an early decision applicant from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., also voiced concerns.

“I always pictured myself rushing home every day in mid-December to check the mail for the envelope or package with Yale University in the upper left,” she said. “I just don’t think [the Web site] is going to be the same.”

But Shaw said the online notification will be “very personalized” and “very structured on the individual.” Clark said accepted students will likely be directed to a Web site with personalized links.

But the fear of depersonalization still haunts some universities, which said they will not follow Yale’s initiative.

Richard Nesbitt, the director of admissions at Williams College, said he often writes short notes to accepted students on the bottom of their letters.

“I just think [online decisions] take some of the nice, personal touch of being accepted away,” he said.

Sam Spears, a senior at Andover Academy who has applied to Yale under the early decision option, said he disagrees.

“I think putting all the stuff on the Internet is a form of progress,” he said.

Spears said he could use the extra time to work on applications for other colleges should he be deferred or rejected.

Even Pearl, who expressed concern about less personal admissions decisions, agreed with Spears.

“In all honesty, if [a Web site] is going to let me know the admissions decision faster, then that’s all I really care about,” she said.

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