Online admissions a risky venture

Throughout the recent technology revolution, the University has prided itself on its ability to integrate the burgeoning power of the Internet with the increasingly complicated needs of a major research university. Professors have posted their notes on the classes server, the registrar’s office is experimenting with online course registration, and Information Technology Services recently announced a major power upgrade in the University’s e-mail system.

In line with the rest of Yale, the Undergraduate Admissions Office has taken a bold step on this front, devising a plan to harness the power of the Internet as part of its admissions notification process. When the system is launched later this year, newly admitted students will be able to access admissions decisions online, and Yale will become the first Ivy League school to relocate its admissions notifications to cyberspace.

In one way or another, the new online notification system has the potential to change fundamentally the way the admissions process works at Yale and around the Ivy League. The system could improve efficiency by eliminating the often unreliable and recently turned dangerous postal system as a means of presenting admissions decisions. The new process may also present the opportunity for the University to instantly follow up admission notifications with resources like Bulldog Days invitations and links to Yale Web sites to help guide wide-eyed new admittees in their initiation to the University.

Nevertheless, the new proposal carries with it a certain degree of risk. One danger is the possibility of a system malfunction, causing a panic among anxious students and resulting in a deluge of angry calls to the admissions office. Thorny issues like ensuring privacy of transmission and establishing an infallible system of identification for applicants logging onto the site will also need to be resolved.

The admissions office says that the project is only in a formative stage, and its designers have not yet had time to work out all the system’s many kinks. When the project is launched, administrators must ensure that it functions properly, increasing efficiency and providing the valuable resources promised.

But technical issues aside, perhaps the proposal’s most far-reaching effects may be in further depersonalizing the Yale admissions process. The thrill all admittees feel when they rip open a coveted “big envelope” and wrap their fingers around a brochure entitled “Welcome to Yale” will give way to a less tangible rush resulting from the sight of digitally simulated fireworks below a Web browser’s task bar. The new notification system may be the next installment in a series of recent developments that render the admissions process less intimate, including the expansion of the common application and online applications.

Assuming administrators can develop a technically flawless online notification system, the move represents a major step away from personal contact with the University. When admissions decisions go online, the feeling of getting that life-changing letter in the mail will be irrevocably altered, and a memorable part of the Yale experience will be forever lost.

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