Computers Making College Applications Convenient and Fast

APPLYING to college used to mean filling out reams of paper forms at the typewriter. Today, more students are turning on their computers instead.

Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, makes its application available on the Internet. New York-based MacApply will send students a $15.95 diskette for each college they want to apply to. Enrollment Technologies in Concord, Mass., sells its $34.95 CollegeLink diskette so students can apply to as many as eight colleges. (College application fees are extra.)

``It eliminated a lot of time [and] you only have to fill out one essay question,'' says Jed Goldstein, a New Jersey high-school senior who used CollegeLink to apply to three of seven schools.

The computerized applications are also helping admissions offices. ``We're at a spot where a third of our inquiries and applicants are not in our time zone anymore,'' says William Hiss, dean of admissions at Bates College. Many of ``those kids only have an hour or two a day when their guidance office and our admissions office are open at the same time.'' So the school decided to use the Internet to make its application forms and other admissions material available. (Internet address: admissions @bates.edu.) Bates also accepts MacApply applications.

Curiously, colleges still convert the electronic applications back to paper. Willamette University in Salem, Ore., received about three dozen CollegeLink applications this year - all printed out on paper - then rekeyed them into its system. From January to at least mid-February, the university devotes three full-time people plus student workers to key in more than 2,000 applications. Transferring the data electronically would save money, says Sue Rauch, Willamette's associate director of admission.

Next year, Washington University in St. Louis plans to eliminate the diskette and receive CollegeLink applications electronically. Fewer than 1 percent of each year's 1.1 million college applicants use the electronic services. ``This is still a new idea,'' says Jerry Paxton, president of Enrollment Technologies. But he says he expects the number of electronic applicants to at least triple for each of the next six years.

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