Thursday, April 20, 2000

Colleges welcome via e-mail

Acceptance notices provide quick relief

BY Nicole Ziegler Dizon
The Associated Press

        EVANSTON, Ill. — Northwestern University is responding to successful applicants with a message attuned to the information generation: You've got mail.

        Northwestern is one of a few universities around the country sending quick e-mails to prospective students congratulating them on their admission. For some, the messages are welcome relief to weeks of nail-biting over their applications.

        “It's very high-tech,” said Diana Garber, a 17-year-old high school senior from East Hills, N.Y. “It made it easier because people found out early. They weren't stressed out.”

        Ms. Garber gained early acceptance to Northwestern, so her e-mail was a formality. But for many of her friends, she said, the notes ended worries over whether they would receive a thick envelope — with details of acceptance — or a thin denial letter.

        Rebecca Dixon, associate provost for enrollment at Northwestern, said the school sent e-mail congratulations to about 4,000 students. This is the first year that all accepted applicants who had provided e-mail addresses got the notes before their packets of admission information.

        The e-mail messages were meant to follow formal acceptance letters sent through regular mail. But in some cases, the electronic missives beat the Postal Service.

        “We expected that to happen,” Ms. Dixon said. “There are always a few who call and say, "Am I really admitted?'”

        Jerry Sullivan, executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said the use of e-mail acceptance notes seems natural as more and more colleges turn to online applications for new students.

        But both Mr. Sullivan and Ms. Dixon said not to count out the traditional acceptance letter just yet.

        “It's an important point in someone's life, and they like to save something like that,” Mr. Sullivan said. He expects many universities will use a dual system, with an e-mail and a postmarked information package.

        Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, did just that this year, sending congratulatory e-cards to accepted students as a follow-up to traditional letters. American University in Washington, D.C., beat the post office to the punch by letting about 4,200 prospective freshmen know through e-mail that they had been accepted and that their official admission letters would soon come in the mail.

        “Students are just using e-mail like crazy these days, and sometimes the Postal Service isn't as speedy as we'd like it to be,” said Cheryl Storie, American's assistant vice president for enrollment services.

        Students denied admission to the universities were notified only by regular mail. Those letters were sent around the same time as the acceptance packages and e-mails, so students who hadn't been accepted didn't have to fret long over their empty e-mailboxes.

        Ms. Garber was impressed by the bonuses Northwestern put in its e-mail, including an identification number that students can use to log onto the university's Web site. It brings them to a personal congratulations page with additional links, including the home page of the particular college they will enter and directions to the campus.

        But not all students like the change. Kara Demsey, a Northwestern sophomore who found out about her acceptance the old-fashioned way, said she preferred looking in a real mailbox for the letter.

        “It's more special,” she said.


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